Capo Carbonara: an oasis of biodiversity in the heart of the Mediterranean
A stone’s throw from the famous tourist resort of Villasimius in the South of Sardinia, there is one of the most beautiful coastal stretches of the island, home to the marine protected area of Capo Carbonara.
Capo Carbonara is one of the unmissable stops of a journey to discover Cagliari and it’s surroundings, where majestic cliffs overlooking the sea and rocky and wild coasts alternate with long sandy beaches, lagoons and large green areas.
The promontory of Capo Carbonara is in the municipality of Villasimius, 6 km south of the village, and is about 3.5 km long and has a maximum width of 1.8 km. On both sides there are some of the most important tourist attractions of the island:
West coast: the small port of Villasimius with a beach, the remains of an ancient fortress, Punta Santo Stefano and the hamlet of Santa Caterina with its cove.
East coast: the bay of Is traias has a characteristic semicircle shape and fine white sand, the splendid tropical beach of Porto Giunco, considered one of the most beautiful in Italy, the watchtower of Porto Giunco, the pond of Notteri, inhabited by the famous pink flamingos, and the small beach of Cava Usai which owes its name to the old granite quarry active until 1950.
In front of Capo Carbonara, about 800 meters to the south-east, there is the island of Cavoli called in Sardinian Isula de is Càvurus which means “crab island” in reference to the presence of numerous crustaceans.
Capo Carbonara is in the list of the ten most beautiful marine areas of Sardinia, it’s a treasure chest of biodiversity and has a wide variety of marine species, grasslands of Posidonia oceanica and a real underwater museum of ship-wrecks of all ages, from Roman galleys to modern cargo ships, which lie on the seabed.
The protected marine natural area, more briefly protected marine area or AMP, goes from Capo Boi to the island of Serpentara and covers a total area of almost 86 square kilometres. The AMP includes the island of Cavoli and Berni, Mezzo, Libeccio, Pescatelli and Santa Caterina, where there is the statue of the Madonna del Naufrago by artist Pinuccio Sciola.
The area is divided into squares indicated by the letters A, B and C, underwater fishing is forbidden and in the area, in A navigation and swimming are not allowed.
Capo Carbonara: the lighthouse between history and legend
Capo Carbonara is famous for being the least rainy area of Italy and on the homonymous promontory jutting out towards the blue and crystalline waters of the Sardinian sea, is the historic lighthouse active since 1917.
Standing 120 metres above sea level and with a range of 23 nautical miles, the lighthouse has a round masonry tower and is equipped with rotating optics that emit flashes of white light lasting 0.3 seconds at intervals of 7.5 seconds. Adjacent to the 5-metre-high lantern tower is the building housing the lighthouse attendants. The lighthouse is equipped with a spare lantern that has a range of 18 miles.
The lighthouse of Capo Carbonara is managed by the Lighthouse Zone Command of the Navy based in La Maddalena, Captaincy of Cagliari.
Numerous stories and legends revolve around the structure, but the best known is the one that has as its protagonist the guardian Giovanni.
It is said that many years ago the guardians of the lighthouse of Capo Carbonara were Guido and Roberto, both married and with children. They were joined by a third: the handsome Giovanni, a Navy man who had asked to serve on land and was sent to guard the lighthouse.
Giovanni had a girlfriend and had almost reached the threshold of the altar but the wedding was never celebrated because the girl he was in love with couldn’t bear the idea of living in the solitude of a lighthouse and refused to marry him. So Giovanni found himself alone and became part of Guido’s and Roberto’s families. The lives of the three guardians changed dramatically with the arrival of electricity. Roberto and his family were transferred and shortly after the same fate fell to Guido. Giovanni remained alone to take care of the lighthouse and every day he went up and down the stairs of the tower to turn on and off the light while waiting for the moment the plant would be automated.
But the news never came and people seemed to have forgotten about the lighthouse keeper. Year after year, John’s hair, once black as coal, began to take on a grey hue that indicated the passage of time. Despite this, he had preserved the physical prowess of his youth and his favourite pastime was to go down to the cliff below the lighthouse to go fishing.
One day, while waiting for some fish to bite, the sudden vision of a fin caught his attention and caught by curiosity he left his post to chase it, jumping from rock to rock, what he thought to be a big fish. Suddenly, the fin disappeared in a small inlet and from behind a rock appeared the face of a beautiful girl who smiled at him.
The man handed her a hand to help her get out of the water but the girl shook her head and told him she was a mermaid. “I thought there were none,” said John, looking with amazement at the young woman who, in the face of the guardian’s unbelief, replied: “Of course we do exist, but not here. Centuries of naval battles, of noises, your hooks, your nets, and also your pollution, everything has driven us back for a long time into the deepest of the sea, and there we live in peace, far from man”.
The mermaid offered John eternal youth and the opportunity to live with her in the depths of the waters if he dived into the sea. After the first moment of hesitation, the last keeper of Capo Carbonara lighthouse decided to take up the invitation and once in the water his legs turned into a long and shiny tail and the thick black hair came back to frame a youthful face again.
“I will not leave you on the stairs of the altar”, promised the mermaid and after taking John’s hand, they disappeared into the depths of the sea.
Shortly after the Navy personnel reached Capo Carbonara to automate the lighthouse, they wondered how Giovanni would react to the idea of retiring and leaving the tower. But when they arrived on site they found only the reed and baits of the old guard abandoned on the rocks, after long searches they concluded that John had drowned and was taken away by the current.
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