When it was designed and built, there was almost nothing around it, except for the hope of a more peaceful future. In the years that followed, small white houses began to appear around it, along a network of narrow lanes. Families of settlers from the Tunisian island of Tabarka lived in them, exhausted from years of harassment. Calasetta officially emerged in 1770, occupying the northwestern extremity of Sant'Antioco, but for thirteen years the control and defence of the territory and of the stretch of sea between the main island of the archipelago of Sulcis and that of San Pietro were guaranteed by the mighty tower that still stands in the historic village centre today.
Built from blocks of volcanic stone on a rocky base, the tower has a truncated cone shape and, from the top, at a height of eleven metres, it is possible to see for 20 kilometres. It consists of two superimposed spaces: the lower one was used as a cistern, while - four meters from the base - the entrance opens up to a circular chamber, divided into several rooms. A staircase carved out of the thickness of the wall leads to the parade ground. The garrison was made up of a varying number of soldiers, from three to sixteen, under the command of an Alcaide, or the commander. Today, the ground floor is home to an archaeological museum that focuses, in particular, on finds from the Phoenician-Punic age, while the room on the first floor is used for events and temporary exhibitions.
The fortress inspired the name of one of the most popular beaches on the island, which extends into the bay at the foot of the tower. At Sottotorre you can admire a fascinating landscape, where large sand dunes with junipers on top of them stand out. The sand is soft, fine-grained and light grey in colour. On the lefthand side, a series of flat rocks are perfect for snorkelling enthusiasts: the turquoise sea is crystal clear and rich in fish fauna. The waters are shallow for metres from the shore, making it suitable for children. Facing north-west, it is exposed to the northwesterly wind and, at the same time, it offers a picture postcard setting at sunset, when the sun sets behind the island of San Pietro. There is no shortage of parking, refreshment areas and beach equipment rental services and it is also easy to reach on foot from the village centre.
As well as Sottotorre, it is also worthwhile spending a day of sun and relaxation on the other Calasetta ‘city’ beaches: Spiaggia Grande and Le Saline, with sand dunes covered with greenery separating it from a pond. Following the coast southwards, the enchanting views of Mangiabarche await you, with a picturesque lighthouse, Cala Lunga and the couple of sea stacks of Nido dei Passeri. In the town, after tasting the renowned local cuisine - featuring excellent tuna and Carignano wine -, you can visit the Museum of Contemporary Art (MACC).