In the district of Nebrodi, on the northern coast of Sicily and strategically connected to the main towns of the island, Capo d’Orlando is a pearl far from the spotlight, but able to immerse visitors in an atmosphere full of history, art and marine landscapes among the most peaceful and enchanting on the island. For those who have time before embarking, the city hosts among the most famous monuments Castello Bastione, a legacy of the Spanish occupation dating back to 1500, together with the Antiquarium museum “Agartinide”, archaeological narrator of the different cultures settling in the area over the centuries. Nature and hiking lovers can take advantage of the wait to cross the Sentiero Goletta, an ancient mule track of a kilometer that, connecting the two main points of the town, offers breathtaking views accompanied by the sound of the sea in the background. The Caves of Mercadante, located between the extremities of the marina near the picturesque San Gregorio Beach, are easily identifiable with the low tides and represent the main seaside resort, also due to the mystery aroused by a bizarre rock sculpture, surely wanted by man but still for unknown purposes. Rich in folklore, markets and popular traditions, the city expresses the essence of its soul on the 15th of August, with the suggestive “marine Way of the Cross” of the painting of the Madonna di Porto Salvo, and the continuation of boats that escort it at water’s edge, towards the lighthouse and the coastal beaches.
Sailing eastwards, Cefalù is an obligatory stop: only 35 nautical miles away from Palermo, it is a concentrate of history and natural beauties. Inhabited since prehistoric times, the area contains the beauty of a thousand-year-old charm: the foundation and the first cultural influences date back to the Greek people, who then gave way to the Arab flows, then Normans. Millennia of history still imprinted between the medieval streets of the city center and its Cathedral, counted among the World Heritage monuments, to which is added the charm of the mountainous part that houses the Madonie Park, which stands on one among the most emblematic and original landscapes of Sicily. Listed among the most beautiful villages in Italy, Cefalù was built overhanging a cliff, at the time for tactical reasons: in addition to the imposing lighthouse of Capo Cefalù, reference point to locate the enchanting Presidiana Bay, the coast is dotted with enchanting places to stop for a swim: Sant’Ambrogio Beach, Marina Beach, Settefrati Bay and Cala Mazzoforno spoil for choice for a relaxing moment while sailing to Palermo.
The largest of the Sicilian cities, ancient and full of history, architecture and breathtaking landscapes: founded by the Phoenicians more than 2500 years ago, the city has developed over the years around its main port, “La Cala”. Among the main destinations in the city perimeter, Palermo boasts an authentic historical heritage: the magnificent Cathedral, the Norman Palace, Piazza Pretoria and the Church of Santa Caterina, with its imposing Renaissance façade and the sumptuous Baroque interiors, an authentic mixture of history, architecture and tradition that make Palermo a city with a unique identity. A few steps from the historic center, just go through the typical local markets to capture all the essence of Palermo: the streets of Capo and Ballarò, two of the main markets, are a jubilation of perfumes, flavors and unmissable delicacies fruit of the the most original Palermo’s gastronomic tradition, a visual and sensory spectacle not to be missed during a stop in the city.
There are also natural routes, such as excursions to Monte Pellegrino and Parco della Favorita. A coastal city par excellence, Palermo stands out for its extensive beaches, rocky walls and small seaside paradises such as Mondello, with its long white sandy beach, Sferracavallo, and San Nicola, the ancient port of the city, in addiction to the others natural moorings: Mongerbino, with the suggestive Arco Azzurro, and Sant’Elia.
The Isola delle Femmine, a few miles from the coast of the city, is the last, great attractions of this area: protected natural reserve for its birdlife and submarine variety, on the inside it is full of restaurants and typical places that pass down the millenary gastronomic tradition of the island, heritage of the peoples who succeeded in time, while along the coast it hosts beaches of fine white sand and crystalline sea, a real attraction for scuba-diving enthusiasts, who can swim among the many varieties of fishes, submerged archaeological relics, underwater wrecks and the enchanting red coral.
The western side continues to represent a Sicily of many faces, where historic architecture, coastal beauty, nature and folklore envelop and enchant visitors at every step. It is the case of the millenary Trapani and the magnificent area that frames it: the city center is easy to visit on foot or by bicycle, and boasts numerous Baroque palaces, ancient churches and historical legacies, such as the Cathedral of Sant’Agostino, the promenade that goes along the Walls of Tramontana to Torre Ligny, the symbol of the city close to the sea, and the Castello della Colombaia, with the enchanting Egadi Islands on the horizon. Among the main salt exporters of the past, Trapani still preserves several salt pans along the coast, to be visited in the late afternoon to enjoy the reflections on the water and admire the flocks of flamingos posing in front of tourists.
Trekking enthusiasts can embark on a tortuous route to the medieval city of Erice, a village where time has stopped, at the foot of a promontory surmounted by the fascinating Castle of Venus, which offers an unrepeatable view of the Mediterranean Sea and the Tunisian coasts on the horizon. However, the less sporty can visit Erice by reaching it through a convenient cableway.
The surroundings of Trapani are scattered with wild and pristine beaches, first of all the Macari Beach, inside the Zingaro Nature Reserve in San Vito lo Capo, with its jagged coastline framed by a paradisiacal spontaneous vegetation and crystalline water. Scopello and its hidden bay Cala Mazzo, Marinella and its archaeological remains, Cala dei Turchi and its beaches of sand and rock are the main spots where to stop for a bath during the coastal exploration of this magnificent area.
During coastal navigation, we will have the opportunity to aim for a solitary island and authentic natural hermitage floating north of the Sicilian coasts. Visible to the naked eye in the days of clear light, Ustica is only 30 nautical miles from the port of Palermo, showing to the sailors in the distance only the emerged part of its true nature. Island of volcanic origins of such dimensions to include a submarine mount – Anchises – the surface of Ustica is characterized by black, sharp and irregular coasts, and the cliffs overlooking the sea that give life to a series of enchanting underwater bays and caves : the true treasure of the island, nestled below sea level. Grotta Azzurra, Grotta della Pastizza, the Grotta delle Barche, Grotta del Tuono and Grotta Verde are the best known among the myriad caves and ravines that over time have made this solitary and discreet island a renowned submarine temple for the immersionists arriving from every part of Europe. Because of its unique geological nature in the world, together with the underwater fauna that accompanies it, Ustica and its depths are in fact recognized as Protected Natural Reserves and World Heritage Site.