The quarry of Francese Bay arose in the second half of the 19th century, in a rocky area of compact granite in the west of the island. A key element added to the excellent quality of the stone to make its success: the installation’s proximity to the sea, which is deep enough to allow the boats’ landing and taking the worked pieces on board. The management of the Company “Graniti Sardi” by the Genoese Brothers Marcenaro and Grondona, fostered a remarkable development of the quarry and the formation of a specialized and skilled working class. Unlike other places, here the stone-masons (originally from Tuscany and Lombardy, then from La Maddalena) didn’t only produce slabs immensely popular in the big cities for road and tramway flooring; they specialized in specific pieces, such as decorations, sculptures and even monuments. The most famous monument is the one ordered by the Universal Company of the Suez Canal to commemorate the victorious war against the Turks for the Channel control (1915-1918), placed on the coast of Ismailia (1930). We can count some remarkable examples in La Maddalena too: the Garibaldi column (1907), Grondona’s grave, the support shelves to the balconies of the military buildings in Comando square.
In the second half of the 20th century, the quarry declined: after a period of abandon, it was restored and today is a small tourist village, where memory is preserved by split walls, finished pieces left in place, the old train which transported worked boulders, winches and tools that seem ready to live again and by a small museum under construction.
It is an inlet sheltered from all winds (except from the north wind), around which the town has arisen. On the west coast, there are some original military settlements: behind the current barracks of the fiscal police (of the early 19th century) was the penal colony (later converted into accommodation); on the south was the quarantine’s little House (for the period of isolation of crews coming from areas at risk of infectious diseases); and, on the southern coast, the Harbour’s Office. On the east coast, at the junction of Vittorio Emanuele Street, there was a slipway for the royal galleys with a large winch suitable for the onshore pulling. On the two sides, there are the houses of Millelire brothers, Agostino and Antonio, both gallant officers of the Royal Navy between the 18th and 19th centuries.
The inlet has been the real economic heart of the community: first, at the end of the 18th century, it was a repair for fishermen from Campania who stayed in our sea “during the season” (from spring to autumn), for Greek sponge fishermen and for military coastguard engaged in the almost always vain attempt to repress the smuggling with Corsica. The coastguards were from La Maddalena and soon their experience led them to engage in commercial traffic as sailors and maritime masters. They bought Ligurian type sailboats (such as gondolas, boves, tartanes) with which they shuttled between Sardinia (which provided cheese, leathers, salted meat, live animals) and the harbours of Bonifacio, Genoa, Livorno, Naples, Marseille and Malta. They took basic-need goods such as wheat, but also textiles and clothes, furniture and furnishings, spices and coffee. Most of the goods were dispatched to La Maddalena, the rest to villages in Gallura. Some “marine invalids” (older sailors who had worked on the royal ships) guaranteed with their gondolas the postal service with Palau, from where couriers left for Tempio. Maritime trade was intense until the middle of the 20th century. Then, the development of road transportation, the introduction of ferry boats and, simultaneously, the new tourism demands, radically changed the function of the old sailing ships: by removing mast and sails and installing the engine, these were adapted to transporting tourists to the beaches on the islands of the archipelago. Some of them like the “Aquilone” (the Kite) were carefully restored and started to navigate again and participate with honour to lateen sail regattas.