TAVOLARA | The smallest kingdom in the world

Tavolara, the island within the island, kingdom of myths and legends, particularly dear to the inhabitants of Olbia, San Teodoro and Loiri Porto San Paolo, to which it makes an unmistakable background.

Located on the North-East side of Sardinia, it belongs to the municipality of Olbia, taking also place on the historic city’s coat of arms.

Undoubtedly the oldest legends, that has echoed on the island for millennia, concerns its unique shape. A boulder of limestone and granite, about 6km long and 1km wide which, according to classical mythology, takes its unmistakable shape from the ship given as a gift to Ulysses by the Phaeacians for his repatriation, with the rudder facing the eastern tip (called, in fact, “Punta Timone”) and petrified by Poseidon as a punishment, thus giving rise to this island, as small as it is full of secrets and legends.

Today the east side hosts a military base N.A.T.O., for this reason not accessible to visitors.

The western tip, on the other hand, facing Loiri Porto San Paolo, is called Spalmatore di Terra, where the boats dock and where enjoy all the attractions of the island.

The human presence on Tavolara, formerly known as the Hermea island in honor of the God of merchants and travelers, is testified since the Neolithic age, thanks to archaeological finds and paintings of stylized human figures discovered on the walls of the Pope’s cave (Grotta del Papa).

The presence of human settlements was recorded only from the 18th century, with the arrival of Genoese settlers and Ponza fishermen in search of lobsters, until the 1960s.

Towards the end of the eighteenth-century Giuseppe Bertoleoni settled with his family on the island, where he dedicated himself to the breeding of the typical goats with gold teeth, due to the type of diet that the goats kept on the island (especially from consumption of helichrysum).

When in 1836 the King of Sardinia, Carlo Alberto di Savoia, arrived on the island in search of hunting lands, he was welcomed and hosted for about a week by Bertoleoni who, at the presentation of the King of Sardinia, introduced himself as “King of Tavolara “.

At the end of his stay, Carlo Alberto recognized the independence of the island, giving the Bertoleonis a fief, but without recognizing their sovereignty.

The Bertoleonis however handed down the noble title from father to son. In fact, it seems that at the time of Charles I of Tavolara, Queen Victoria of England visited the island, recognizing their reign. It seems that a photo with the monarchs of the smallest kingdom in the world is still kept in a room of Buckingham Palace, with the caption “The royal family of Tavolara, the smallest kingdom in the world”.

The ancestors and members of the royal family who lived on the island are now buried in the Tavolara cemetery, located in Spalmatore di Terra.

This enchanting, wild, mysterious and unspoiled island is part of the Protected Marine Area of ​​Tavolara and Capo Coda Cavallo, which includes numerous protected species, such as the bottle-nosed dolphin, sea turtles, the famous oceanic Posidonia and many others.

In many areas of the marine protected area, to preserve the island’s unique ecosystem, bathing is prohibited, only allowed at diving centers, from where it is possible to visit very suggestive places with rich and populated seabeds.

Other activities not to be missed are undoubtedly the trekking along dedicated paths, with different levels of difficulty, which reach the top of the island from where you can enjoy a unique panorama, or the exploration of fauna and flora, especially for bird watching, very lively and peculiar on the island.

But this island of a thousand souls is known not only for its many legends and beaches with crystal clear and pristine waters, but also for the famous film festival “Una notte in Italia”, established in 1991, which annually attracts numerous national and international actors and directors and an audience of fans.

An extraordinarily evocative film event not to be missed, to be enjoyed under the stars, surrounded by a unique atmosphere, in one of the most evocative places in the Mediterranean.

These are just some of the innumerable peculiarities of this island that offers activities for all tastes, whether you are adventurers, fans of relaxing in the sun and good food, or families looking for unspoiled beaches to explore.

M. Carta