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Caprera Island: A Pristine Paradise In Sardinia
Caprera Island, the second largest island in the Maddalena Archipelago, offers a delightful escape to nature lovers, history buffs, and beach enthusiasts. Located in the northern part of Sardinia, this island is a part of the Maddalena National Park. With its stunning natural beaches, rich Mediterranean vegetation, and significant historical sites, Caprera Island is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the region.
In this comprehensive guide, we will share everything you need to know about Caprera Island, from its fascinating history to the best beaches, activities, and practical tips for planning your trip.
A Brief History of Caprera Island
The name Caprera is derived from the Italian word “capra,” which means goat. This is a nod to the wild goats that inhabit the island. However, some researchers believe that the name may also have ancient origins, with connections to the Accadic word “qabru” (meaning cavity or tomb), which is phonetically and semantically similar to the Aramaic, Hebrew, Arabic, and Etruscan words for tomb. This theory is supported by the presence of numerous caves on the island, which were once used as burial sites.
Although the island was inhabited by the Romans, it wasn’t until the 19th century that a group of shepherds settled in Caprera. Today, the island remains mostly uninhabited, with only 77 registered residents according to the last census. Its wild nature has been well preserved, making it an ideal destination for those seeking a tranquil escape.
One of the most notable historical figures associated with Caprera Island is Giuseppe Garibaldi, an important figure in the unification of Italy. He spent his last years on the island, living a simple life as a farmer. After his death, his family donated his home to the Italian state, which has since been transformed into a museum.
Best Time to Visit Caprera Island
The summer months are the most popular time to visit Caprera Island, as visitors flock to enjoy the beautiful beaches and crystal-clear waters. However, the island is also a fantastic destination during the spring and fall months when it is less crowded.
In the spring, the island is in full bloom and the temperatures are pleasant, making it perfect for hiking and exploring. The water may still be too cold for swimming, but the scenery is breathtaking. During the fall, the days are shorter, but the sea temperatures are ideal for swimming. October is an especially lovely month to visit Caprera Island.
Top Attractions and Activities on Caprera Island
Caprera Island is a haven for nature enthusiasts, hikers, bikers, and beach lovers. The island’s rugged landscape, pristine beaches, and historical sites offer a range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy.
Garibaldi House Museum
The former home of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the “Casa Bianca,” is now a museum dedicated to his life and legacy. The simple architecture of the house is reminiscent of Brazilian fazendas, which Garibaldi grew to appreciate during his time in South America. The museum showcases Garibaldi’s personal belongings, including his iconic red shirt and the bed where he died. Visitors can also learn about his humble life as a farmer on the island.
In addition to the Garibaldi Museum, Caprera Island also features a memorial to the Italian hero within Fort Arbuticci. The fort was restored to house the memorial, which traces the history of Italian unification through multimedia exhibits. The memorial includes films, original documents, paintings, and a reconstruction of the Lombardo, the ship Garibaldi and his “Mille” sailed on from Genoa to Sicily.
The Stagnali Museum, also known as the geo-mineralogical nature museum of Caprera, is housed in an old Navy building and features two separate exhibitions. The museum showcases samples of rocks, sands, minerals, and fossils from various locations on the island, making it an interesting stop for nature and sea lovers. The museum also includes a section dedicated to mineral extraction, with displays of work tools, documents, and photographs.
Boat Tours Around the Island
One of the best ways to explore Caprera Island is by boat. Many hotels in La Maddalena offer taxi boat services to Caprera’s beaches or boat tours around the island and the archipelago. These tours typically include stops at several of the island’s most famous beaches, as well as lunch, drinks, and a live guide.
Caprera Island offers several hiking opportunities for those looking to explore its natural beauty. Some hikes are more challenging than others and may not be suitable for families with small children. It is recommended to wear comfortable hiking shoes, bring water and snacks, and protect yourself from the sun when embarking on these hikes. Popular trails on the island include the Cala Coticcio hike, Mount Teialone hike, and the Cala Garibaldi hike.
Snorkeling and Diving
Pack your snorkeling gear when you visit Caprera Island, as the beaches offer fantastic opportunities to observe the vibrant marine life beneath the waves. Cala Coticcio is particularly well-suited for snorkeling, with its surrounding reefs teeming with underwater creatures. For divers, there are several dive sites around Caprera Island, including the marine canyon near Cala Coticcio and the cave of San Francesco.
The Best Beaches on Caprera Island
The pristine beaches of Caprera Island are one of its main attractions, drawing visitors from near and far. Here are some of the most popular and beautiful beaches on the island:
Often referred to as “Tahiti” due to its turquoise waters, Cala Coticcio is a stunning beach with soft, fine sand and surrounding granite rocks and Mediterranean vegetation. Accessible by boat or a guided hike, this beach is a must-visit destination on Caprera Island.
Spiaggia del Relitto
Named after the shipwreck that washed ashore in the 1950s, Spiaggia del Relitto is a popular beach with fine white sand, clear waters, and lush Mediterranean vegetation. The beach is accessible by car, with a large parking area nearby.
Located on the north coast of the island, Cala Napoletana is a small beach with white sand and crystal-clear waters. The beach is surrounded by pink granite rocks and Mediterranean vegetation, creating a unique and picturesque landscape.
This beach, named after Giuseppe Garibaldi, is where the Italian hero used to moor his boats. Cala Garibaldi features soft sand, clear waters, and a shallow seabed, making it an excellent choice for families with children and snorkeling enthusiasts.
Accessible only by sea, Cala Andreani is a secluded beach that offers visitors a peaceful escape from the crowds. The beach is characterized by fine sand, turquoise waters, and a shallow, sandy seabed.
Spiaggia dei Due Mari
Located in the southern part of Caprera Island, Spiaggia dei Due Mari is a white sandy beach with crystal-clear waters and a shallow, sandy seabed. The beach is surrounded by a cliff covered in Mediterranean scrub, adding to its natural beauty.
Cala Brigantina, on the east side of Caprera Island, is made up of two small coves with fine sand and transparent waters. The beach can be reached by taxi boat or via an easy hiking trail.
Practical Guide to Caprera Island
How to Get to Caprera Island
Caprera Island can be reached by car or bus from La Maddalena via the Ponte Moneta bridge. Alternatively, visitors can take a ferry from Palau to La Maddalena, either on foot or with a car, motorbike, or bicycle.
Boat Tours to Caprera Island
There are several boat tours available for exploring Caprera Island and the Maddalena Archipelago. These tours typically depart from La Maddalena, Palau, Baja Sardinia, or Cannigione and include stops at various beaches and coves around the islands.
How to Move Around Caprera Island
Visitors can explore Caprera Island by car, motorbike, or bicycle. However, due to the narrow and winding roads, motorbikes and bicycles are recommended for a more enjoyable experience. There are also minivan and e-bike tours available for those who prefer a guided exploration of the island.
Where to Stay, Eat, and Drink on Caprera Island
There are no accommodation options on Caprera Island, so visitors typically stay in nearby La Maddalena or Palau. In terms of food and drink, there are several kiosks located throughout the island where visitors can enjoy sandwiches, salads, and full meals.
Caprera Island is a true gem in the Maddalena Archipelago, offering visitors a wealth of natural beauty, historical sites, and pristine beaches. Whether you’re looking to explore the island on foot, by bike, or by boat, there’s no shortage of activities and attractions to enjoy during your stay. With this comprehensive guide in hand, you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your visit to Caprera Island, Sardinia.