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Asinara Island and its national park


Asinara Island is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, located on the north-western edge of Sardinia and falls within the municipality of Porto Torres, in the province of Sassari. With its 50 km2 of surface area spread over almost 18 km from the Fornelli Strait in the south to Punta Caprara or Punta dello Scorno in the north, the island is very close to Sardinia as if it were a continuation of the Stintino peninsula. The environment has remained intact in both flora and fauna and includes rare and endangered species such as the mouflon, a rich avifauna, such as the Corsican seagull and the peregrine falcon, and a native species: the Asinara white donkey.

Already known to the Romans, who called it Herculis insula, and later over the centuries Sinuaria, due to the sinuosity of its coastline, and then Asinara, a toponym that endures to this day. A good number of historians agree that the toponym Asinara may derive from the successive transformation over the centuries of different forms of similar toponyms, Pliny, for instance, is said to have remembered it as the Insula Herculis, but even later, in the Middle Ages, maps were found with references to the island: Sinuaria, Sinnara, Axinara, Azanara, Linagra, Sinarea, Sinarca. However, apart from the various toponyms of the past, it seems that the current name Asinara almost certainly derives from the famous albino donkeys that have always populated the island.

Albino donkeys of Asinara Island

The island was a point of reference for all sailors going from Spain to Rome or coming out of the stormy Straits of Bonifacio and was inhabited from the end of the Middle Ages onwards by a few families of Sardinian shepherds and Ligurian fishermen: the former in charge of guarding the flocks and the latter the tuna nets along the coast. In the second half of the 16th century, watchtowers were erected and fortified to protect the coastline. On 16 June 1885, the Italian state decided to install an international maritime quarantine station and an open-air penal colony on Asinara. Following this decision, the island was banned from its inhabitants, expropriated and consequently the 500 inhabitants were forced to leave and were 'deported' to the nearest mainland, where they founded the village of Stintino.

Since the 1970s, prisoners for terrorism and organised crime were locked up in the maximum security penitentiary. In 1976, the government established the island's landscape constraint and later, in 1995, a major reforestation project began. In 1997, the Asinara National Park was established, followed in 2002 by the creation of the Marine Protected Area.

On the island of Asinara, and therefore in the National Park, you cannot disembark freely, let alone bring any motor vehicle, but you will have to get there and move around the island by taking advantage of the services offered by the various operators authorised by the Park, both for transport and excursions within the island. You can reach the Park from Porto Torres by public transport, the Sara D ferry, or from Stintino by passenger boats or various transport services. From Porto Torres, the Sara D ferry of the Delcomar company (public service of territorial continuity) departs from the Segni Dogana quay to the small port of Cala Reale. Instead, from Stintino you leave in the morning at around 9.00 am from the port of Tanca Manna (tourist harbour), docking at one of the three landing places (Fornelli, Cala Reale, Cala d'Oliva), returning from Asinara at around 5.00 pm. Through each of the authorised operators you can choose between guided tours by jeep, train or bus and bicycles; to book and make the ticket, you will have to contact one of the operators of these vehicles directly, who will organise the entire excursion for you.

The excursion includes a route along the island's roads, packed lunch, a visit to the prisons (excluding the one at Fornelli, closed until 2021), beaches, fauna and sea observatories (Fauna Observatory - Tumbarino and Marine Animal Recovery Centre - Cala Reale). The cost includes the boat, the vehicle and the Park guide.

In the event that you do not wish to take advantage of the guided tours, you can move around on foot or by bicycle (your own or rented) to the Park's island by sea transport in both Fornelli and Cala Reale.

Ricordatevi che anche per la stagione 2022, è vietato portare con sé cani, gatti e altri animali da compagnia sull’isola.

You can also visit the Asinara Island National Park in other ways, obviously by contacting the operators authorised by the Park, namely: with sailing boat excursions, fishing excursions, and diving excursions. The excursions made in the summer by boat, departing from Stintino, include lunch on board and a circumnavigation of the island with frequent stops in the various coves and a refreshing dip.

Both private sailing and motor boats must apply for a mooring permit.

On the island you will find both sleeping and eating places. In fact, in Cala d'Oliva, there is a Hostel with about 70 places, an Inn with 6 rooms and a Restaurant/Bar. Instead, in the Fornelli locality, you will find food at a kiosk near the pier.

The park is enriched by almost untouched natural beauty and clear sea beaches, not all of which are, however, accessible for bathing. Bathing is permitted at Cala Sabina, at the eastern end of the island, and at the small beach of Cala Oliva. A half-hour walk from Cala Reale you can reach Cala Trabuccato, where an Aragonese tower stands. In the northernmost part of the island, Cala Sant'Andrea is an integral reserve.

On the island of Asinara, there is a seasonal medical centre, currently operating at Cala Reale.

For information on the Park and the operators currently authorised by it, please visit the website: parcoasinara.org.


Sardinia, Green Guides of Italy, Touring Edition (2017)



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