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Maddalena Island, Sardinia

The island of Maddalena, just off the northern coast of Sardinia, Italy, will witness a huge influx of people when it hosts the G8 summit in July 2009.

The Italian Government already earmarked some €150million of investment to improve the island’s infrastructure ahead of the event, which will draw the attention of the world’s media – and, it is hoped, further fuel its tourist trade.

Yet for decades this tranquil isle – just 20sq miles and famed for its sandy beaches and spectacular rocky terrain – has been something of an undiscovered haven for discerning visitors.

It is the largest of the seven major islands that, along with 40 smaller ones, make up the Maddalena Archipelago and the Maddalena Archipelago National Park.

The island is reachable by a 20-minute ferry ride from Palau, on the northern tip of the Sardinian mainland.

The trip brings you directly to the island’s main town, La Maddalena, a charming port tailor-made for a relaxing stroll on the seafront, broken up only to stop for an ice cream or glass of wine in one of its numerous inviting bars and restaurants.

Until the end of the 17th century, the island’s modest population was predominantly concentrated in the hinterland.

However, one Baron Des Geneys chose it as a military base and the arrival of the navy of the king of Savoia (the ancient kingdom consisting of Sardinia and Piedmont) led to mass migration to the then-fledgling village that is now La Maddalena. La Maddalena remained a key base for Italian sea forces until the end of World War II.

La Maddalena, now home to 12,000 inhabitants, boasts a Diocesan Museum to the rear of the Santa Maria Maddalena church and standing in the square of the same name.

The church in its current guise was built in 1814. The museum is home to a collection of sacred artefacts – statues, paintings and various knick-knacks.

The best way to see the town is by taking a stroll around the port, stopping off in one of the area’s numerous restaurants, bars and cafes.

Apart from a stretch of the north-west coast, the island is pretty much ringed by a near-continuous road, allowing easy access to its various beaches.

An ideal first port of call is Moneta, to the east of the island. A dirt track leads north of here to Giardinelli Island, which has a couple of beautiful stretches of sand and clear, blue waters.

The island’s north and north-west coasts also offer many irresistible sandy beaches such as Cala Spalmatore, Lo Strangolato and Spiaggia Bassa Trinità.

If you've enjoyed reading this article, why not browse through our stunning selection of Sardinian real estate?