BEACHES AND SEA RESORTS
Sicily, the largest of the Mediterranean Islands, comprises a number of satellite minor archipelagoes; along its triangular perimeter is an endless number of splendid sea resorts and spots, some of which, as Taormina and Cefalù, renowned across the world. Mondello, San Vito lo Capo are but other few names. Along a roughly 1,000 km-long coastline combine tremendous and varied sea landscapes and colours, archaeological and historical sites, a precious geographical diversity, unspoilt sea-beds, all of what have contributed to make Sicily a cradle of tourism. Most of the resorts are today well-provided with accommodation and tourism facilities.
PROVINCE OF AGRIGENTO
Agrigento, fairly famous for the awesome Temples Valley, also boasts a noted shoreline running from Sciacca to Licata and bathed by the African Sea – what has enriched the natural and cultural heritage of this area. The Pelagians Islands, standing among tourists’ most favorite destinations, are also part of this province.
Sciacca is a major resort, with both historical and naturalistic resources: its sand beaches and the thermal baths have made it well-known. Tourists can also enjoy sites of historical and artistic interest such as the Porta San Salvatore, the old gate to the city, the fourteenth century Chiesa di Santa Margherita, the Norman Cathedral and others. Sea has played a decisive role in the growth of the city, its shore being a major stopping point in the Mediterranean trade routes. The discovery of corals reefs in its waters around the late 1800s even increased its economic importance. The sea has not lost its importance today, Sciacca economy still largely relying on fishing, summer tourism and the shipbuilding. Numerous bathing sites and beaches are most renowned, notably Stazzone, the Tonnara, Foggia and San Marco.
The Pelagian archipelago, above mentioned, composed of Lampedusa, Linosa and Lampione islands, is a major destination of summer tourists who may enjoy a range of attractions and opportunities spanning uncontaminated environments and beaches, breathtaking landscapes and views, crystal-like waters, boating and scuba diving tours. Lampedusa is by far the most famous island in the Archipelago and one of the best summer resorts in all Italy. Closer to the African coast than Sicily’s, it represents a fascinating bridge between diverse cultures and environments.
Still on Agrigento’s coastline, stand Porto Empedocle and Licata, two cities of oldest traditions. The former has been an outstanding port since ancient times, while the latter is especially noted for its agricultural outputs.
Menfi, near the ancient city of Selinunte, is a site of historical importance. Remnants of ancient Roman vessels wrecked sometime between the second and the first centuries BC were recovered offshore. A 16th century tower overlooking the African sea is also worth-seeing.
PROVINCE OF SIRACUSA
Syracuse, with its splendid natural bay, the small and charming island of Ortygia, its historical and artistic heritage – the Greek Theatre and Dionisius’ Ear being but a few names – is one of the most beautiful Italian cities. Its shoreline is enclosed by the Augusta’s small peninsula at north and Capo Passero, the southernmost of Sicily’s headlands. Bathed by the Ionian Sea, the area saw many foreign dominations.
The small island of Ortygia, connected to the mainland by two bridges, is the heart of the old city. There stand three of the city’s most attractive monuments, namely the Duomo – a former Greek temple that Christians turned into a cathedral – the Palazzo Beneventano and the Fonte Aretusea. The city’s main coastal resorts, Lido Arenella, Ognina and Fontane Bianche, and the neighbouring Brucoli, are most crowded in summer.
The Noto bay covers the southern stretch of the coast, from the Maddalena peninsula to Capo Passero. With its characteristic high cliffs and caves – eroded by the sea waters –, uncontaminated sea-beds and stone quarries, this is also very attractive. Particularly worth-seeing are the lovely fishing villages of Marzamemi, founded by the Arabs and grown around a grand tuna fishery, and the neighboring Portopalo di Capo Passero, its smallest island lying few hundreds meters off the headland. The tuna fishery – of Greek-Roman origin –, some ancient catacombs, a number of finest sand beaches and bathing spots, a praised local cuisine, the picturesque Capo Passero island with a massive fortress rising at its centre, make this coastal strip absolutely amazing.
Pachino, few kilometres inland, has renowned environmental resources. The town was built on the site of an extinct undeground volcano. Its coast alternates high cliffs and fine sand beaches. The area has been settled since Antiquity, its promontory being a major stopping point for the Mediterranean routes.
PROVINCE OF CATANIA
Catania’s shoreline, bathed by the Ionian Sea, is as much impressive as other Sicilian provinces’. The city shore stretches out along nine kilometres of sandy beaches with such environmental riches as the Simeto river’s mouth, a noted protected area for several species of birds. The site known as Le Ciminiere facing the sea, once a sulphur refinery, has been now converted to venue for most cultural and social events.
North of the city are other lovely sea towns and villages. Aci Castello is especially renowned for an enchanting Norman castle, sitting atop a cliff dominating the sea. Built in 1076, it belonged to Roger of Loria, and, later, Fredrick II of Aragon. Today, the castle houses the Town Museum. Acitrezza – now a protected area –, few kilometres north, is another much picturesque fishing village with dramatic sea views. Well-known are its faraglioni, huge rocks rising out of the sea, that legend claims to have been hurled by the cyclop Polyphemus against Ulysses’ vessels. Acitrezza is also noted for providing the setting for Giovanni Verga’s celebrated novel I Malavoglia. Other fishing and tourism resorts along the Catanian shore are worth a mention, namely Santa Maria la Scala, Santa Tecla, Stazzo and Pozzillo.
PROVINCE OF TRAPANI
From a tourist point of view, Trapani is certainly one of the richest and better endowed provinces in Sicily. Along its coastline are numerous well-known summer attractions. Bathed by two seas, it boasts both sea and historical wonders with remnants from past ages and dominations. Tourism – along with the salt industry – is today a major resource also thanks to the many accommodation and entertainment facilities grown across the entire province.
San Vito Lo Capo is the province’s main sea resort; with its beautiful sea, beaches and warm climate, it draws thousands of tourists every year. The ancient city of Mazara del Vallo, thanks to its strategic location in the middle of the Mediterranean trade routes, a fishing fleet among the largest in the Mediterranean and fertile hinterland has long been one of the most powerful and prosperous cities in Sicily. The archaeological and naturalistic sites of Segesta, Erice, the Zingaro Nature Reserve – combining unique sea, flora and fauna – the Monte Cofano, and many others make Trapani a most demanded tourism destination.
The gulf of Castellammare bathed by crystal-like waters, alternates rocky (to the west) and sandy tracts (to the east). Its mountainside is also very appreciated by tourists. Scopello, an ancient fishing village, is one of its most frequented spots thanks to unspoilt beaches and sea-floors. Worth-noting is a tuna-fishery restored by the Arabs. This construction is no longer active today, this fishing technique having largely declined. Calabianca, Punta del Grottaro and the so-called Guidaloca, all with a fine shore and crystal blue sea, are some other interesting names in the bay.
Castellammare del Golfo was the former port of Erice and Segesta, two important cities founded by the mysterious Elymians. Its harbour was fundamental for the agriculture exports. Its lovely fortress, overlooking the sea, was originally built by the Arabs and since enlarged by Normans and Swabians.
Marsala is the second city in the province after the capital. It derives its name from the Arab occupation when it was an outstanding port. The city, worldwide famous for its omonymous wine, has fine monuments, such as the Duomo, dedicated to Saint Thomas of Canterbury and housing the Tapestry and the Archaeologic museums, and incredible sea environments. Following one of the city main streets visitors are enraptured by unique vistas spanning the Capo Boeo, the off shore Egadi Islands, the Stagnone Lagoon with its tiny islands.
The province comprises the well-known island of Pantelleria and the Egadi archipelago.
Pantelleria, a volcanic island with jagged coasts, caves, cliffs and crystal blue sea is crowded in summer. It alternates a variety of colours: the black typical of volcanic lands, the green of the mediterranean bush and the blue of the sea. Tourists can enjoy some archaeological sites like the acropolises of S. Marco and Santa Teresa, byzantine tombs, a sanctuary and several other monuments. Numerous beaches or sea spots are available like those known as Bue Marino, Campobello, and the rocky Cala Cinque Denti.
The Egadi archipelago, with the three major islands of Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo – this, at one time linked to Sicilian mainland – combines wonderful, uncontaminated environments and spectacular colours. Like Pantelleria, these also boast an historical importance, their waters and sea-beds conserving remains from the Punic and Roman ages.
PROVINCE OF PALERMO
Palermo’s coastline, stretching in the northwestern tip of Sicily has so much to offer to tourists in historical, cultural and naturalistic riches. A countless number of sea and tourism resorts can be found there, each one retaining its own distinctive traits, scents and colours.
Mondello is the most known of Palermo’s summer resorts. At one time the retreat of King Ferdinand of Bourbon, the village is protected by the Pellegrino and the Gallo Mounts that rise behind the bay. The beautiful sandy beach bordered by rocky cliffs and caves is crowded with tourists in the summer. Nearby lie the remains of an ancient tuna-fishery, while those of a mysterious town stand in the oldest side of the town.
The neighboring Cinisi grew up on a feudal estate situated at the eastern end of the Castellammare Bay, in the valley of the Furi river. Liked by both locals and tourists this area has old origins that date back to the 15th century, when a number of towers were erected serving to protect the local tuna-fisheries. These are named Torre dell’Orsa, Torre Pozzillo and Torre Molinazzo. The town Chiesa Madre dedicated to Santa Fara and a shrine dedicated to the Madonna del Furi are the most attractive buildings in town.
Termini Imerese, on the Tyrrhenian coast, was named after the thermal baths there located. According to tradition their springs were created by the nymphs who needed water to refresh Hercules after one of his celebrated labours. The town harbour has been very important for the city’s economy.
Terrasini, dating from the 18th century, is among Palermo’s finest sea resorts. All the area, rich in caves and bathing spots, is now protected by enviromental laws. A number of ancient military outposts and monuments, like the 18th century Mother Church and the Town Museum are worth a visit. Boating, diving and biking tours of the coast are highly recommended. Near the harbour is the wonderful beach of Magaggiari.
Between Punta Raisi and Capo Gallo, in front of the Island of Women is the lovely Capaci, rich in naturalistic as well as architectural – such as the 18th century baroque Mother Church – archaeological, scientific and historical attractions – various necropolises were discovered at the area. The place is well provided with restaurants and tourism facilities.
The Isola delle Femmine (Island of Women), nearly a kilometre offshore, is a lovely place of oldest origins. It is easily reachable from Sferracavallo, a small fishing village nearby. On the small islet are nice beaches and two interesting watch towers dating from the 16th century. Ancient relics have been recovered from the sea-beds around it, now home to richest flora and fauna.
Cefalù is one of Sicily’s most notorious resorts, second only to Taormina. Well-known is its Norman Cathedral built at the behest of Count Roger II and housing some splendid mosaic works. The town has a unique position, nestled down the slopes of a limestone promontory and dotted with enviable coastal strips. Archaeological evidence for the city’s remotest origins is provided by the so-called Rocca or Diana Temple. The oldest part of Cefalù offers a particularly attractive scenery consisting of a maze of narrow streets lined with picturesque stone-houses overlooking the sea.
Ustica, a volcanic island off Palermo shore, is another renowned summer resort. Its uncontaminated coast, waters and sea-beds make it a paradise for tourists and ideal for boating and snorkeling tours.
PROVINCE OF RAGUSA
The province of Ragusa has plenty of finest spots. Most renowned are its finest sand beaches, bays, jagged coastal strips and the calm sea. Tourism has been constantly growing here thanks to new and comfortable facilities.
Marina di Ragusa – the former Mazzarelli – is one of the most frequented and developed resorts. It has developed around a 16th century watch-tower built by the Counts Cabreras; it is provided with hotels, restaurants, recreational facilities and a well-equipped beach.
Pozzallo, one of the leading ports in Sicily, boasts oldest fishing and sailing traditions. It grew around a watch-tower – this also built by the Counts of Modica – and an important Caricatore (a small harbour). It is endowed with beautiful endless sandy beaches.
A few kilometres away is Santa Maria del Focallo, a nice sea spot in Ispica territory. The western stretch of Ragusa shoreline, stretching out to Capo Passero, is run by an endless tract of finest sandy beach here and there interrupted by some low rocky cliffs. On the eastern side are some lovely fishing – now also tourism – villages, namely Donnalucata, Cava d’Aliga and Sampieri, all belonging to Scicli. A special mention goes to Sampieri’s impressive beach, facing south-west towards an amazing ruined building, a former tiles factory destroyed by fire, situated in the Pisciotto district, known as ‘u stabilimientu abbruciatu (that is the “burnt factory”).
Scoglitti, in the proximity of Vittoria, has a wide beach and such naturalistic sites as the mouth of the Ippari River. Fishing and tourism are the main livelyhood. The village’s picturesque fish market and several restaurants specialized in fish and seafood are worth-visiting there.
Marina di Modica, the sea extension of Modica, is an attractive resort boasting an old tourism tradition, being a favorite destination since the 1960s. It has a fine beach bordered on its two sides by amazing rocky strips and is well endowed with all kinds of tourism facilities, remarkably developed in the last years. Its fine promenade is ideal for relaxing walks.
PROVINCE OF MESSINA
Messina shoreline features unique spots and landscapes. Particularly interesting is the coastal area known as Costa Saracena spanning Tindari, the Capo Calavà, the San Giorgio Bay, the beaches of Piraino, Brolo and Capo d’Orlando. This stretch stands in an enviable position, closest to Messina and overlooking the close Aeolian Islands, and has a profusion of naturalistic and artistic riches.
Piraino is a very interesting town, rich in monuments and naturalistic beauties. Its coast is characterized by the alternation of sandy and rocky strips.
Besides its historical and artistic attractions, the city of Messina also provides with sea and naturalistic sites scattered all around the famous Strait connecting Sicily to the Italian mainland and standing as one of the most important strategical zones in the whole Mediterranean Sea, that has much contributed to the city growth. Theatre of wars and natural cataclysms, Messina has been reconstructed several times. The harbour also played a decisive role in the city evolution.
The province’s Ionian shore is spread with charming fishing villages where tourism has significantly developed of late. One of these, Ganzirri, is noted for a 16th century circular tower situated nearby and for the Torre Faro, the lighthouse by the Strait.
Capo d’Orlando is a favorite destination of tourists. Its enviable location, not far from Taormina, the Etna volcano, the Aeolian Islands and the Nebrodi Natural Park, has much contributed to its growth and development. According to legend, the city was founded in ancient times by one of Aeolus’sons. A Roman thermal bath and a necropolis near the Monte della Madonna, dating from the same epoch, are much interesting. The city is well-endowed with tourism facilities and restaurants, and has fine beaches and a calm sea. San Gregorio and the Trazzera Marina stand among Capo d’Orlando’s most attractive sites, noted for their crystal-clear waters.
Taormina is by far the most famous and demanded destination in Sicily, the ideal place for anyone who wants to spend either a relaxing or active holiday. Its diverse elements ensure an incredible stream of tourists all the year round. Founded by refugees from the neighbouring Naxos in 384 BC, the town was since governed by Byzantines, Arabs and Normans. It is well-dotted with facilities and attractions and hosts such famous cultural events as the Art Festival. Its coast offers numerous impressive bathing spots like Isola Bella, Baia delle Sirene, Mazzarò and many others.
S. Agata di Militello is a lovely resort on the Tyrrhenian side of Messina coastline with a nice sea promenade, recreational facilities, picturesque fishermen homes and a beautiful countryside. It is also dotted with artistic and historical sites like the Castle of Princes Lanza di Scalea Trabia and the Torre della Marina overlooking the sea.
The splendid Giardini Naxos was founded in 753 BC. Crystal blue waters and beautiful environments are the main features of its shore. Along with the neighbouring Taormina, this stands among Sicily’s most demanded resorts, thanks to its splendid naturalistic and bathing sites – such as Capo Schisò and the mouth of the Alcantara river – as well as archaeological-historical ones.
Milazzo, one of Greeks’ earliest colonies, is a beautiful city on Messina’s Thyrrenian coast with a beautiful mountainside and such artistic and historical attractions as the ancient Cathedral, the Spanish walls, the circular towers, the Medieval town and several lovely churches. The Aeolian Islands, easily reachable from the town’s harbour, are close-to-hand. Milazzo, known as “the Sea Queen”, has a profusion of hotels, restaurants and other facilities. Tourists are enraptured by the beauty of its coast so rich in caves and bays, and the amazing fishermen’s quarters.
Continuing along the Thyrrenian coast, stand Naso – a charming village protected by the Nebrodi mountains, with a 2km shoreline –, Patti – built by the Count Roger of Hautville in 1094, grown around a Benedictin Monastery and with an intresting Roman villa –, and the impressive Tindari – one of Sicily’s main resorts, located nearby and dominating a tremendous sea landscape. This last is dotted with amazing historical-archaeological and naturalistic sites.
The Aeolian Islands complete the rich list of Messina’s summer resorts. A favorite destination of tourists from across the world who remain enraptured by their amazing uncontaminated environment, these Islands also boast important and most ancient traditions. Precious archaeological remains provide evidence for the presence, here, of Sicily’s successive dominators: Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, and so on. The seven Aeolian islands offer a variety of sites and attractions. A fine climate, beautiful and varied colours, a richest vegetation and wildlife, purest sea waters, a renowned cuisine have contributed to make them among the most demanded and appreciated places in Sicily. Stromboli, Filicudi, Panarea, Vulcano, Alicudi, Salina and Lipari, each one shows its own distinctive features and attractions.
PROVINCE OF CALTANISSETTA
Standing almost at the centre of Sicily, the province of Caltanissetta comprises few, although lovely, sea resorts. However, the district is endowed with many impressive naturalistic resources such as lakes, hills, caves, woods, natural parks and other protected areas. Sites of historical and archaeological interest and many remnants from the past civilizations testify to the area’s ancient origins. Gela, on the southern coast, is the province’s main city. Founded by Doric colonists in 689 BC, it is home to several interesting archaeological-historical sites, as well as some fine beaches and a harbour.