Visiting the marvellous Island of Tavolara
Tavolara is a granite mountain that rises from the blue waters of the sea, more than 500 meters high and 4 km long. Included in the Protected Marine Area of Tavolara and Capo Coda Cavallo, the island is characterized by steep cliffs and typically Mediterranean dense vegetation like juniper and mastic. Its western tip, an isthmus known as Spalmatore di Terra, features some fantastic coves and a beach of about 1 km bathed by a multicoloured crystalline sea and surrounded by thick wild vegetation.
In this strip of sand and rocks, you will also find a flat circular path suggested by the Marine Area management (about 25 minutes on foot) to enjoy the beauty of Tavolara and its Mediterranean vegetation. Along the trail are didactic panels with a lot of information. On Spalmatore di Terra there are 2 bars and 2 restaurants to taste fresh fish and typical dishes. In the centre of the beach, there is a small bathing establishment to rent umbrellas and sunbeds. Near the restaurants, there is the area where the Tavolara Film Festival takes place, attracting many tourists and numerous prominent actors to the island every July. The event, mainly focused on Italian and regional cinema, started in 1991 and has reached its 32nd edition.
Tavolara between history and legend
Tavolara is also known for being the smallest kingdom in the world, although not officially recognized. It might sound funny, but it’s not a joke. According to historical recurrences, Giuseppe Bertoleoni, a member of a Genoese family but residing in Corsica, left the french island in search of new land to live in with his wife. At first, they lived for a while in the Maddalena Archipelago before landing on the uninhabited Tavolara Island. He built his house along the isthmus called Spalmatore di Terra, engaging in breeding local goats of which the island was rich. These goats were characterized by a particular golden colour of the teeth due to the composition of the grass they ate. In 1836, King Carlo Alberto of Savoy landed on this island, introducing himself to Giuseppe Bertoleoni as the King of Sardinia. Giuseppe, probably thinking it was a joke, introduced himself to the stranger as King of Tavolara. They became friends, usually hunting for wild goats on the island and dining together. Thanks to their friendship, King Carlo Alberto took a parchment and appointed Giuseppe Bertoleoni, owner and King of Tavolara Island.
During the year 1900, this charming story arrived in England, and Queen Victoria sent to Tavolara the English ship Vulcan and her envoys to take a pic with the island’s royal family. The pic is kept in Buckingham Palace, and the caption says, “this is the royal family of Tavolara”. A copy is also hung in the Da Tonino restaurant in Tavolara. Unfortunately, during the last 2 centuries, the documents attesting to their sovereignty were all lost. The descendants of the first King still live on Tavolara, whereas the deceased family members are buried in the small royal cemetery on the west side of the island. The kingdom has an official flag: white with a red shield and a six-pointed gold star in the centre. Nowadays, the King of Tavolara is Antonio Bertoleoni, born in 1933 and nicknamed Tonino. If you want to hear this charming story live, visit Tavolara and meet King Tonino!
How to reach Tavolara
You can get to the island by taking one of the ferries that depart from the Porto San Paolo pier with the Tavolara Ferry company. Departures are every half hour from 9 and the last boat to return is at 18.30. Alternatively, it’s possible to rent a dinghy or join one of the many day trips by dinghy boat/boat from Porto San Paolo, Porto Taverna and San Teodoro. If you rent a dinghy boat, you can also dock along the Spalmatore di Terra jetty by paying a fee depending on the time you want to spend on the island. For a complete tour, you can contact the excellent Oltremare Escursioni, which arranges beautiful tours of the Marine Area by boat departing from Golfo Aranci and including the Island of Figarolo, Tavolara, Molara and the fantastic coves of Cala Girgolu.
In addition to spending a beautiful day at the beach, you will find some diving centres in San Teodoro and Porto San Paolo that arrange dives around the Tavolara to discover the many fish species that populate the protected area. Also, if you like to try a different experience, you can join a guided trek to the top of the island to enjoy one of the most beautiful views of Sardinia. There are 3 different types of trekking, from a normal hike to climbing trails. You can contact Tavolara Trekking.com for more information and reservation.
Dinner in Tavolara
The island has two restaurants by the sea – La Corona restaurant and Da Tonino restaurant – where, in addition to the spectacular location, you can taste typical Sardinian dishes and delicious fresh fish. Contact the restaurants for reservations and information about the private boat transfer service from Porto San Paolo to the Spalmatore di Terra pier and vice versa.