Fine, white sand as soft as talcum powder, crystal-clear turquoise water, a little corner of paradise that you can only reach by boat (with limits) to protect and safeguard both the environment and its very survival. This is the spectacular Cavaliere beach, or Cavalieri, in Maddalenean dialect. It is less celebrated but just as marvellous as the ‘prohibited gem’, the adjacent Spiaggia Rosa, or Pink Beach, the setting for the 1964 Michaelangelo Antonioni movie Red Desert, which helped bring fame to Budelli, an enchanting island in the Maddalena Archipelago National Park.
The beach sits on the north-eastern side of the island, has an almost oval shape and faces the Porto della Madonna, a gorgeous stretch of water between Budelli and the nearby twin islands of Razzoli and Santa Maria. Its location between the three islands shields it from strong currents and thus creates a natural pool of an amazingly transparent emerald colour.
A popular spot on guided tours of the archipelago, ‘il Cavaliere’ can be reached by private or rented boats, but only Park-authorised charter boats may anchor here. Passengers of these boats may deboard at the rocky shore of the beach. A path through the Mediterranean scrub then leads them to the narrow 200 metres long stretch of white sand that gives onto the natural pools surrounded by islets and rocks. The soft sand, shallow water and sandy seabed make it ideal for kids too.
It’s a beach that is as beautiful as it is fragile. Since 1998, the beach has lost half of its size to erosion. The cause? Aside from climate change, currents and a reduction of seagrass for anchoring of boats at the Madonna Harbour, far too many visitors over the decades has led to the involuntary removal of large quantities of its sand. It therefore became necessary to stem the erosion of one of the islands most beloved by tourists from all over the world.
In the summer of 2020, two thirds of Cavaliere beach was closed to visitors. The part that remained open was for the exclusive use of, from mid-morning to afternoon, resident boaters, native-born Maddaleneans, and those businesses authorised to transport passengers. Other tourists were welcome early morning and late afternoon so that everyone could take a dip in the beautiful water facing the beach. There were also other rules put in place, similar to those adopted to safeguard La Pelosa at Stintino: no beach towels, umbrellas, tents or bags were allowed, and, upon leaving the beach, everyone has to wipe the sand from their bodies, clothing and footwear.