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Roccia dell'Orso

Palau – The legend of the Bear Rock

Established in 1994, the first in Sardinia, the Maddalena Archipelago National Park covers over 20,000 hectares of land and sea. It embraces over 60 islands, large and small, shaped by wind and currents. Now, an aura of legend surrounds the cape in front of the park. It takes its name from a spectacular natural sculpture resembling the silhouette of a bear, which seems to point to the sea with its head. This is the Bear Rock, a natural monument visited by thousands of hikers, which stands on a granite plateau over 120 metres high.

Imposing, it watches over the nearby town of Palau, a renowned tourist resort in northern Gallura. It is little more than five kilometres from the town. It can be reached via a panoramic path that starts from the Capo d’Orso fort, one of Palau’s many nineteenth-century military fortifications.

This area has always been a source of ancient legends. According to Victor Berard, a writer and scholar of Homer, Capo d’Orso is the only place in the Mediterranean that can be identified with the ‘land of the Lestrigons’. This is the land where Homer places the landing of Ulysses in search of food and water for his crew. And where the Greek leader himself suffered a serious defeat.

The episode is described in Book X of the Odyssey, where Ulysses disembarked to supply his three ships at a spring called ‘Artacia’ (i.e. ‘of the Bear’). While he was drawing water, he saw a wisp of smoke rising in the distance, indicating the presence of indigenous people. As he approached the place, he met a young girl of considerable stature to whom he tried to speak to communicate. However, the girl was frightened and began to shout to get the men’s attention. These men, of gigantic stature, were led by Antiphates, king of the Lestrygonians. They were a people of cannibals and feasted on the men of Ulysses whom they managed to capture. And with their great physical strength they destroyed two of the ships by throwing boulders on them. So Ulysses himself was forced to hastily retreat with the only boat he had left.

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