Porto Massimo is a small residential area on the east coast. It houses a private marina, a hotel, two coffee bars and several small apartments for tourist use. Even now it is considered a popular destination for middle and higher class visitors. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was at the core of the summer nightlife thanks to a suggestive discotheque on the sea: the Cormorano. Still today La Maddalena citizens and tourists preserve a delightful memory of it.
Cala Lunga is an inlet with blue and transparent waters, ending with a small, beige sandy beach, suitable for children’s games.
Spalmatore Bay is easily accessible from the scenic road. It is a deep inlet protected from the Mistral wind; it houses two comfortable beaches and a long quay for the private pleasure crafts. Its name derives from the quay, originally used for “spalmaggio”, the pitch spreading operations for boats.
In the city centre, behind the church, there is the Diocesan Museum, where we can find some objects of worship: statues, offerings to the Patron Saint, furniture, a small 18th century Dormitio Virginis with its wardrobe and an interesting collection of prints of Saint Mary Magdalene donated by Giusto Davoli. Two candlesticks and a silver crucifix donated in 1804 by Admiral Nelson are very important from an historical point of view. With his fleet, the Admiral often stationed in the Archipelago waiting for Napoleon’s ships coming out from the port of Toulon. He considered the central position in the Mediterranean of La Maddalena strategic and believed that England might acquire it to safeguard its maritime interests. During the two years of his Mediterranean cruises, Nelson stopped eight times with his ship Victory in our sea, getting supplies and valuable information from a tested system of espionage.
On the panoramic road leading to Spalmatore, we can find the Lamboglia Naval Museum that houses the finds of a Roman ship foundered near Spargi in the second century BC. The museum was designed by architect Vico Mossa and, in the central hall there is the reconstruction of a cross-section of the cargo ship with its cargo of amphorae.
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.
Padule is a peripheral district, placed in the west of the city centre following the coastline. Not so long ago it was a seaside destination for the island’s citizens; over the years it has evolved into a residential area with shops and services.
Moneta is a small district located on the east coast towards Caprera. It was built in the 1920s around the villages of the military Arsenal’s workers and it is a densely populated area even today. There are some shops, services, a small post office and a church, whose buildings date to 1905, dedicated to the Agony of God. The district takes its name from the “Passo della Moneta”, a short and shallow sea crossing which separates La Maddalena from Caprera.
The 18th village was built around the parish church dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene. The houses followed a rudimentary alignment dictated by the difference in height of the rocky terrain, which only rarely could adapt to a levelling. Steps were placed in the alleys in order to overcome these difference in house-levels, as in the area of Castelletto to the north-west of the church. In other areas (for example behind Garibaldi Street), steps are accompanied by narrow and cramped streets, called carrugghi. When declared a maritime fortress and of national interest for the defence of the State in 1887, the city experienced a remarkable development, more attentive to aesthetic values. The palaces with balconies and cast iron railings of a certain value in Garibaldi and Vittorio Emanuele Streets belong to this phase.
Umberto I Square, better known as Comando Square, marked the border of the bourgeois city. The urban development plan established the construction of six buildings disposed on two curved lines to limit the wide esplanade where a music stage was built; the admiral quay, a landscaped promenade and two large bases for flags completed the square. In 1887, the military town developed from here: all the areas on the coast up to the bridge to Caprera were expropriated to house the command headquarters, the Army Corps of Engineers, the clubs for officers and non-commissioned officers, the sailors’ club, the torpedo boats’ station, the non-commissioned officers students’ schools, the hospital, the disciplinary barracks and the arsenal. In 2009, the hospital and the arsenal were transformed into hotels to host the G8 summit, which was then transferred to L’Aquila leaving some buildings unused (such as the hospital) or abandoned because the reclamation of the seabed was never completed (the arsenal).
The Mother island is located at the core of the archipelago with the same name. Its shape looks like a triangle: the southern extremities are Punta Tegge and the bridge linking the island to Caprera; the northern one is Punta Marginetto. There are about 12,000 citizens, mostly living in the south along the coast line and for about two kilometres inland. The old town is placed between Cala Gavetta, the marina, Umberto I square – better known as Comando place – and the dense network of streets behind. A scenic road runs all along the coast: covering the whole perimeter of the island, it makes a lot of bays and beaches accessible.
The island name – whose origin is still obscure today – is linked to the legends on the redeemed sinner told in the Gospels. According to some sources about her miracles, she saved the Princess of Marseille who was dying of childbirth during a voyage to Rome and was then buried on the island. According to others, the origin of the name is linked to the discovery, in Cala Gavetta, of a statue of the Saint brought ashore by the west wind.