Municipalities at war over conquest of Emerald Coast islands

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The municipality of Arzachena claims ownership of a handful of smaller islands in the Maddalena Archipelago. And he is requesting the rezoning of the area from the Region of Sardinia.

Do you remember in the 1980s when the Argentines tried to invade the small and remote British islands of the Falklands by claiming their annexation? Well, there is a small (administrative) war going on in Italy between Olbia and Arzachena. The bone of contention is over the annexation of some precious and uninhabited islets in Costa Smeralda in northern Sardinia. The municipality of Arzachena claims ownership of this handful of smaller islands in the Maddalena Archipelago, which are now part of the municipality of La Maddalena. And it is calling for the reapportionment of the area to the Sardinia Region. If there is a fate in islands, it is that they are always objects of contention. Especially if they are beautiful, coveted by tourists, perhaps belonging to some nature reserve and the subject of public funding as well as private income. Such is the case with this handful of small islands, in themselves little more than patches of land, but located at the center of one of the most enchanting places in the world. We are talking about the Maddalena Archipelago in northern Sardinia.

Their names are as suggestive as they are mysterious, linked to who knows what old sea history, Mortorio, Soffi, Li Nibali, Cappuccini and Le Bisce, and they are located in the heart of the Emerald Coast. Those who sail in those areas know them well because on nautical charts people either try to avoid them or go to great lengths to reach them, even if only for a swim. In fact, the islets are part of the Maddalena Park, a protected marine reserve, and are included in the so-called “red zone,” in other words, they are almost armored. Their membership and relative administrative competence has been rather peaceful until now. In fact, they fall within the municipality of La Maddalena, which has administered them since 1767, the year of its formation, long before 1994, therefore, when the Protected Park of the same name was established to encompass them.

Arzachena: “Those islands are ours.”

Now, however, the municipality of Arzachena is waking up and in an equally peaceful but firm form, it is claiming its membership and even calling for the re-perimetering of the entire Archipelago area. But where does this request come from? Basically, in the offices of the Municipality of Arzachena, employees found military maps and charts, excerpts from old building regulations, and excerpts from the Municipal Statute, in which the islands in question are listed as belonging to Arzachena. Even since 1977, the Sardinian Region would recognize administrative functions in Arzachena on some lighting works on the islands themselves. Leading the contention against La Maddalena is the mayor of Arzachena himself, Roberto Ragnedda, who, in spite of administrative practice all these years, wants to see the matter through.

The Sardinia region will decide on the dispute

Fabio Lai, mayor of La Maddalena, with typical Sardinian verve, first deemed this request “extravagant,” after which he dismissed the issue with granitic arguments and light tones: “La Maddalena is 250 years old and it is since 1767 that those islands have been part of our municipality. Arzachena has existed since 1922, when it became independent from Tempio. It celebrates 100 years this year and we wish it well.”

Ragnedda, however, reiterated that he does not want to go back on the re-perimeter request: “It will be the papers that will give us the useful elements, and we will accept in all serenity the results of the research. The value of which is historical, as well as administrative, and they are certainly not intended to fuel controversy or advance rights over what does not belong.”

Whose then are these islands and especially their economic and tourism interests? The word will be up to the region in the coming months.


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