The lighthouse of Capo Caccia is located in a stunning location high atop spectacular cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, 25 kilometers from the community of Alghero on the north-west coast of the island of Sardinia, in Italy.
Located directly under the lighthouse are the famous Neptune Caves, a very ancient geological formation, a triumph of stalagmites and stalactites which can be reached by boat or by descending an amazing 656 stairs down to them and then of course, climbing back up. Near the beginning of the stairway there is a green gate with the usual sign: “Military Zone – no trespassing.” These signs are at every Italian lighthouse because they are all managed by the Italian Navy.
The history of the lighthouse dates back to 1864, and over the years its lantern has been lit with a variety of fuels, including acetylene and oil, until 1961 when it was electrified. Since 1951 the lighthouse has been equipped with a rotating optic with a first order Fresnel lens illuminated by the use of a 1000 watt halogen bulb which sends a white flash every 5 seconds and is visible for 34 miles. The lighthouse also serves as a landing light for the nearby Alghero airport.
The three story structure and the tower are wrapped by the “Faraday Cage,” a kind of huge lighting rod, named after its inventor. This wrap of sorts is supposed to protect the structures during lightning storms and gives to the structure a strange looking aspect. Because of its location, the lighthouse is the highest above water in all of Italy.
The architecture of this lighthouse may look similar to that of many other Italian lighthouses of the period. In 1860, when Italy became a united nation, there was the urgent necessity to light the entire coastline of Italy. The Genio Civile and the Ministry of the Public Work did their best to build as many lighthouses all around Italy as fast as they could. Shapes and colors generally depended on the location and the construction material available.
The lighthouse keeper of Capo Caccia is Luigi Critelli who is originally from Genoa, a large city on the Liguria coast, in the north of Italy. Luigi started his job as a lighthouse keeper in 1994. Luigi had a job at the Hydrographic Institute of the Navy in Genoa and was not really very interested in lighthouses; however, he had a great love for fishing and was tired of life in a big city. One day, just by chance, he read a notice that the Navy was searching for people to work in lighthouses. That caused him to seriously consider the unique opportunity and, after a talking with his wife and the rest of the family, he applied for the job and was hired. After a period of training at a Navy school, on December 21, 1994 Luigi Critelli reported for duty at the Capo Caccia Lighthouse.
At first he was alone; his wife, Maria Teresa, a teacher, and their two children, Vincenzo and Fiorenza, who were still very young, had to wait until Luigi settled himself in at the lighthouse and make the station habitable for family living. Getting started, Luigi was very busy; there was the daily maintenance and, most importantly, keeping the windows of the lantern room clean and daily cleaning of the Fresnel lens and polishing the mechanisms.
Although the lighthouse is very high above the sea, it is not safe from the power of the sea and storms. In front of Capo Caccia there is a small island, the Foradada, and when a storm hits, the waves often break on the rocks so strongly that the water actually sprays high to the top of the lantern room, often leaving a residue of salt.
Soon after, his wife and the children arrived and to live together in beautiful isolation that might well be envied by many as a great place to raise a family. Today, Maria Teresa teaches in a school in Alghero; their two sons, now grown up, also go to school in town, leaving Luigi by himself to tend to his daily lighthouse chores. However, when they are all together they live in an amazing place with a lovely home that seemingly overlooks infinity.
I asked Luigi about the stories that have been told about the lighthouse being haunted. Although he doesn’t think the lighthouse is haunted, he did recall with me an event that happened a few days after his initial arrival, when he was alone and before his family had arrived to live with him in the lighthouse. One afternoon he was extremely tired and laid down on the living room sofa to take a nap. He was sure that he was sleeping, but heard a knock on the door, a few steps approaching and a voice saying to other people: “He is sleeping, let him alone, we will be back.” When he woke up, he remembered the incident and over the next few days he went around asking different people if somebody went to the lighthouse looking for him. No one knew anything, so he forgot the incident, but he told me, “Maybe the souls of the ancient keepers came to welcome me.”
Whatever the case, Luigi Critelli and his family live in paradise, in a romantic, as well as historic, lighthouse at the top of the world, something the rest of us can only dream about.
This story appeared in the
May 2010 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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