Italy's National Parks

La Maddalena Archipelago/ L'Asinara
  |  Gorp.com
Just the Facts
Location: Sardinia
Nearest town: La Maddalena, Porto Tsrres
Favorite activities:
Boating, swimming, scuba diving, cycling, birdwatching
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Nestled off the northeastern coast of Sardinia, La Maddelena Archipelago harbors Italy's first "geomarine" national park, which preserves more than 110 miles of limestone coastline carved by small beaches and deep grottos. With its clear, warm waters, the archipelago is a scuba diver's paradise, a fact well known to sun-starved visitors from other parts of Europe. The main island of La Maddalena, and the sole inhabited one, has plenty of good restaurants and a promenade once frequented by the likes of Napoleon Bonaparte and Ernest Hemingway. From there, you can hop a water taxi or rent a sailboat to get to smaller islands like Caprera and Budelli, the last of which is renowned for the pink sand beach of Cala Santa Maria, a frequent setting for films and television commercials. L'Asinara, the second largest of the Sardinian islands, isn't far from the heavily visited La Maddalena Archipelago, but so far it has managed to avoid the crowds that have overrun the latter; only 300 visitors are permitted to enter the park daily, but even so, there's usually no need to reserve a spot. Once a penal colony (and once called Isola del Diavolo, Devil's Island), it preserves great stretches of coastal macchia (in French, maquis), the characteristic scrub forest of the central Mediterranean, and the island's lagoons shelter huge populations of migratory ducks and other waterfowl. (For reasons lost to time, the island is also host to a population of snow-white donkeys.) There are plenty of free campsites near the park's headquarters at Sassari.

Nestled off the northeastern coast of Sardinia, La Maddelena Archipelago harbors Italy's first "geomarine" national park, which preserves more than 110 miles of limestone coastline carved by small beaches and deep grottos. With its clear, warm waters, the archipelago is a scuba diver's paradise, a fact well known to sun-starved visitors from other parts of Europe. The main island of La Maddalena, and the sole inhabited one, has plenty of good restaurants and a promenade once frequented by the likes of Napoleon Bonaparte and Ernest Hemingway. From there, you can hop a water taxi or rent a sailboat to get to smaller islands like Caprera and Budelli, the last of which is renowned for the pink sand beach of Cala Santa Maria, a frequent setting for films and television commercials.


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