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Seen from the sea, Liguria offers spectacular views. However, from a sailor’s point of view, things are not that simple. From La Spezia to Ventimiglia almost no natural shelters are available to protect from southerly winds or coves deep enough for a boat to safely moor for the night (except for Sestri Levante roadstead, which is always overcrowded in summer). The only island in this sea area is Gallinara, just over a green cliff on Riviera di Ponente, off the coast of Albenga.

The island covers an area of 21 hectares (no more than 500 meters in length and width) its maximum altitude is 90 meters while the seabed depth varies from 10 meters on the North side to 50 meters on the South side of the island. The sailing area in front of the island is unique and a usual destination of day trips due to proximity to the mainland (less than 1 mile). The more than 10m-deep channel between the island and the coast is navigated also by large-draft pleasure boats.

Gallinara island is a natural reserve which houses the nesting colonies of royal seagulls. However, it owes its name to the presence of wild hens in the past centuries. The first historical records date back to IV century AD when Saint Martin of Tours decided to seek shelter in the wild bushes of the island. The monks built a monastery in the Lombard period, which was sold to private owners in mid-nineteen century. In the waters surrounding the island several finds of the Roman age have been recovered over the years, as well as wrecks and handicrafts from ancient times. During World War II the island was occupied by a German garrison. They made prisoners build two tunnels designed to guard the sea. Also two 15m areas equipped with rails for positioning the cannons through the tunnels were arranged. The underground passages served also as a munition depot and can still be seen today.

A small harbour with two 60m-long piers has been built on the West coast side of the island. The basin max. depth is 3m. However, as the island is privately owned by a company based in Turin headed by a group of families from Liguria and Piedmont, access is allowed only in case of emergency. Villa Diana, on the contrary, has been declared state asset. The villa is named after the Genoese industrialist who owned Gallinara in the ‘50s and provided the island with a dock as well as mains electrical and drinking water connections. On the island there is also a round watch tower built in the XVI century. Remains of a church dating back to the late Middle Age have been found.

Of course, access to the island is prohibited, as well as diving within 500 m from the island and mooring (and fishing) within 50 m from the two cliffs. Diving is allowed only if accompanied by the local guides of the affiliated diving centres. On the seabed you can admire sea daisies, yellow sponges, groupers, morays, octopuses. At the end of the ‘90s a statue of Christ was placed in the depths of the island, about 20m deep.

If you are going to sail in this area, it is advisable always to consult the local ordinances of the harbour’s master office to make sure there are no temporary restrictions to navigation.

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