Asinara is an island in the north of Sardinia, in the territory of Porto Torres. Unique for its uncontaminated vegetation and characteristic fauna, it is one of the favorite destinations for nature lovers.
In the past, the island was home to fishers, lazaret, and prison for Austro-Hungarian soldiers of the First World War. The island’s isolation was also exploited for the construction of a maximum-security prison for mobsters and brigadistas such as Raffaele Cutolo and Totò Riina, who here have served the 41bis. Thanks to this, it has been possible to maintain the places uncontaminated, making possible the birth of the Natural Park of Asinara.
How to reach Asinara by ferry
To preserve the Natural Park avoiding mass tourism, access to the island is not free. To visit Asinara it is necessary to contact the accredited operators, who will provide the most suitable way and means to the needs of each tourist. The boats that connect Asinara to the Sardinian coast depart either from Porto Torres or from Stintino. It is useful to know that disembarking is forbidden to cars and on the island one travels only on foot, at most one can embark a bicycle.
From Porto Torres to Asinara
From Porto Torres the ferries of the Delmar company arrive in Cala Reale, taking about an hour and a half. The ferry “Sara D” leaves from the ex-Customs dock in Porto Torres and the ticket costs 15 euros per person round trip. From May to September, the service operates every day with two departures from Porto Torres, one at 8.30 am and the other at 4.30 pm. In low season, from October to April, the traffic from Porto Torres to Asinara is lower: ferries leave on Tuesdays, Fridays or Sundays at 8.30 am and 4.00 pm.
From Stintino to Asinara
Ferries departing from Stintino are a private transport service that takes you to the island of Asinara in about an hour. The companies that provide the service are Mizar, S.B. Service, Blu Mare Service, Stintino Dream and Windsurfing Center Stintino. Unlike the ferry from Porto Torres, from Stintino the departures cover almost all the time slots, but vary depending on the companies and the season.
From Stintino you can also choose the transfer by cab boat. This service is very convenient because it leaves at any time you want, but it is definitely the least economical. The cab boat works on call, like a real cab on wheels: call one of the many companies that make the transfers and you will be reached in a few minutes.
Getting to Asinara with your own boat
If you want to get to the island of Asinara with your own boat, you can access the marine protected area only by sailing, mooring at the buoy fields after communicating to the marine guard. From here you can disembark on the island with a tender, keeping however out of the marine reserve, marked by yellow buoys. It is absolutely forbidden to drop anchor in the marine reserve and the navigation of motorboats is allowed only in two access corridors.
Places to visit on the island of Asinara
We start from the assumption that it is the crystal clear sea and enchanting nature that we are looking for, every corner of the island of Asinara is for us. However, given the past and the natural wealth of this corner of paradise, there is also much to see. The island is also home to the unique specimens of white donkeys, to which it owes its name.
It is the main port of the island. Some buildings date back to the 1600s when the island was a lazaret, and the Royal Palace – once of the Savoy family – now houses the headquarters of the Asinara National Park. Here there are bike and car rentals and a bar. A few steps away from Cala Reale you can visit the Center for the Recovery of Sea Turtles of Asinara and the FarmAsinara, which produces natural cosmetics with wild plants of the island and with donkey milk.
Cala d’Oliva is the only inhabited center of Asinara, with a bar-restaurant and a hostel. Also worth a visits are the buildings of the former penal colony and the bunker of Totò Riina managed by Libera against mafias. Still, it is difficult to find it open. Around here there are some wonderful caves such as Cala de Detenuti, Sa Murighessa, Cala Giordano and Punta Sabina.
In the area of Fornelli, there is the former maximum-security prison. If until 2016 was visitable, now verte in a state of abandonment. However, the ruins of a fortress, the Castellaccio, reachable on foot with the Sentiero del Castellaccio. On the road from Cala Reale to Fornelli are visible the ancient ossuary and other prison sections.
The Romans called it the island of Hercules. In the Middle Ages, when they established a convent of Camaldolese monks and then a fortress, it was called Azenara or Sinuria. From the seventeenth century onwards, Asinara was inhabited by farmers, shepherds, and fishers, as evidenced by the remains found on the site. As for the penitentiary, installed here in 1885, it still exists. But today, its gray walls house an educational center for information on environmental protection.