The pearl of the far north of Sardinia, the closest to the Strait of Bonifacio, on the border with Corsica. Together with the two other splendid islets of Razzoli and Budelli, Santa Maria represents the northernmost part of the La Maddalena Archipelago Park, one of the destinations not to be missed on your tour of about 60 islands. The surface area of the islet is two square kilometres, while it has a ten-kilometre perimeter of jagged coastline. The characteristic that makes it stand out from the other minor islands of the Maddalena Archipelago, is that it is the only one that is permanently inhabited, obviously apart from the big ‘sister’ La Maddalena. You can reach it in about twenty minutes by boat from the port of La Maddalena or that of Palau.
The morphology of Santa Maria also distinguishes it from the nearby islands: it has no elevations and the highest point is Guardia del Turco, just 49 metres high. So you can walk through nature, crossing paths surrounded by low Mediterranean scrub. Along the ‘internal’ paths, you will come across the ruins of a Benedictine monastery built in the first half of the 11th century and a place of seclusion and prayer for the monks. It was abandoned in the 16th century and at the end of the 18th it passed to the Bertoleoni family, who later also took possession of the beautiful Spargi. In the 19th century, the renovated building became a shepherd’s dwelling. Today, other homes are present on Santa Maria and are also used as summer residences by artists and show business celebrities.
Along another scenic path, you will reach the lighthouse of Punta Filetto, where you can enjoy the view that extends across the open sea to some smaller islets. From the lighthouse, you will catch sight of some coastal pearls, particularly the coves of Cala Santa Maria and Cala di Fosso. The first, which can be reached by sea, has very fine white sand, washed by the uncontaminated sea and with an abundance of marine animals. It is 200 metres long, making it the biggest beach of the entire archipelago. Its shallow waters and sandy seabed sloping down towards the open sea form a splendid natural pool. The cove is surrounded by pink-coloured rocks covered in Mediterranean greenery. Behind the bay, there is a small saltwater lake, the Palude, habitat of numerous species of aquatic birds: woodcocks, moorhens and mallards.
From Santa Maria, you can easily get to the adjacent Razzoli, ‘walking on the sea’ along the Passo degli Asinelli (Passage of the Donkeys), a strip of sand submerged by just half a metre of water. Further north, you will come across the narrower Passo dello Strangolato (Passage of the Strangled one) that separates Santa Maria from the islet of La Presa, which represents the northernmost point of Sardinia. On the island, you will find bathing facilities, hotels and restaurants where you can taste seafood cuisine, as well as authorised charter services for visiting the entire park, including the brightest jewel, the Spiaggia Rosa (Pink Beach), or for doing some fishing tourism or using the services for open sea diving.