Discovering the islands of Tavolare and Molara, two gems of Sardinia
A short distance from Olbia and the tiny San Teodoro, a coastal town known for its wonderful beaches, lies the Protected Marine Area of Tavolara. The Park covers a stretch of coast of about 30 km and over 14 thousand hectares of the sea to protect the naturalistic value of the marine and island environments. It also includes two uncontaminated islands with wild nature and a marvellous clear sea: Tavolara and Molara.
Tavolara is known for being the smallest kingdom in the world although not officially recognized. It might sound funny, but it’s not a joke. Legend told that in 1836, King Carlo Alberto of Savoy landed on this island, naming its only inhabitant – Giuseppe Bertoleoni – King of Tavolara. They became friends, usually going 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. Nowadays, the King of Tavolara is Tonino Bertoleoni (born in 1933).
Tavolara is a granite mountain that rises from the blue waters of the sea, more than 500 meters high and 4 km long. It is characterized by steep and impervious cliffs and has a typically Mediterranean dense vegetation that includes juniper and mastic. Its western part, known as Spalmatore di Terra, features some fantastic coves and a beach of about 1 km with white sand 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 (about 25 minutes on foot) that will allow you to enjoy the beauty of Tavolara and its vegetation. Along the path are didactic panels with a lot of information. In Spalmatore di Terra are 2 bars and 2 restaurants where you can 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 is located the area where the Tavolara Film Festival takes place, attracting many tourists and numerous prominent actors to the island every July.
How to reach Tavolara: you can reach 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, 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.
Other activities: 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.
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.
Molara is a small wild island covered with dense Mediterranean vegetation. It is famous for its wonderful stretch of the crystalline sea – known as the natural pools of Molara – surrounded by an intense blue colour that makes this body of water one of the most beautiful in the Mediterranean. The granite island is about 350 hectares, and its maximum height reaches only 158 meters. Immersed in the vegetation are the ruins of a Romanesque church and a monastery dedicated to Pope Pontian, the ruins of a castle built in the Middle Ages and a farm built in the nineteenth century to breed goats and cattle. Numerous seabirds nest on the island, including the peregrine falcon, the Corsican gull and the shearwater.
How to reach Molara: the only way to reach the island is to rent a dinghy boat or join a boat tour.
Other Activities: the island is private, and you can only moor near the coast. The only way to disembark in Molara is to contact the Molara Cultural Association and arrange a guided hike to discover its beauty and wild nature.