Of all the islands of the archipelago, the largest, about 22 square kilometers, is La Maddalena with a resident population of about 12,000 inhabitants; the road system (the panoramic road) guarantees the approach by car to most of the beaches of the island, among which we limit ourselves to mentioning Bassa Trinità, Monti da Rena and Lo Spalmatore.
The existence of numerous paths allows for beautiful walks during which it is possible to visit some ancient disused military fortifications. The island of Santo Stefano rises exactly in front of the city of La Maddalena.
Already frequented in the Neolithic era by the populations dedicated to the obsidian trade, it hosts two of the oldest fortifications in the entire archipelago: the Napoleonic tower and the San Giorgio fort. an artificial bridge.
THE HISTORY OF THE ARCHIPELAGO OF LA MADDALENA
The first inhabitants of the Maddalena archipelago in modern times come from nearby Corsica, a small number of shepherds who cross the Strait of Bonifacio several times, in search of new pastures and probably a refuge, from the burdensome subjection to the government Genoese from Corsica. The traces of their settlements, dating back to 600, are still clearly visible on the island of La Maddalena near the Church of the Trinity, in 1767 the Sardinian-Piedmontese kingdom militarily occupied the archipelago. After the arrival of the military contingent of the kingdom, the small Corsican community which until then had lived far from the coasts, gradually moved towards the sea, in an area called Spiniccio near Cala gavetta.
In 1793 when France attempted to invade Sardinia, the inhabitants of La Maddalena, although of Corsican origins, lined up alongside the Sardinian Piedmontese kingdom and forced the French ships to flee. On this occasion, Napoleon Bonaparte was Lieutenant of the French artillery.
In 1799, Admiral Des Geneys, commander of the Sardinian Navy, chose Cala Gavetta as the maritime base of the Sardinian Piedmontese kingdom.Thanks to the presence of the Maritime base, La Maddalena underwent rapid growth: the population reached 2000 units in the early nineteenth century, the level of literacy increases rapidly and the inhabited center, surrounded by eight fortifications, branches off to the east and west of Cala gavetta. In this period the construction of the current parish church was completed, larger than the previous one and certainly easier to reach.
From 1803 to 1805, Admiral Horatio Nelson and the English fleet stopped in the archipelago before facing the French in the Battle of Trafalgar. From the correspondence of Napoleon and Nelson we learn that the archipelago was considered the most strategically important position in the Mediterranean in the nineteenth century.
After the fall of Napoleon, the fleet of the Sardinian Piedmontese kingdom was transferred to Genoa and a long period of crisis began for La Maddalena in which the main activities became fishing and the extraction of granite.
In 1855 General Giuseppe Garibaldi bought a part of the island of Caprera and began to build his own home there; after the tumultuous years of the unification of Italy, the hero of the Two Worlds retreats to the archipelago and here he spends the last years of his adventurous existence dealing mainly with agriculture, he will die in 1882 and is still buried in Caprera.