Sailing among the Aegadian Islands, San Vito and the Zingaro Reserve
The northeastern part of Sicily, including the Aegadian Islands, the port city of Trapani, the splendid bay of San Vito Lo Capo, and the unspoiled nature of the Zingaro Reserve, is one of the most charming and welcoming sailing destinations in the Mediterranean.
With their hidden corners, enchanted emerald-colored bays, and an atmosphere far from the chaos of the city, the Aegadian (also known as Egadi) Islands in northeastern Sicily are a privileged destination for a sailing cruise. Easily accessible from the ports of Trapani or Marsala, they are immersed in a splendid natural reserve rich in rocky coasts, white houses, old tuna fisheries and water mirrors under which hides one of the largest Posidonia meadows in the Mediterranean. Each one is more beautiful than the other, with Favignana being the largest, Levanzo small and chic and Marettimo reminiscent of the Greek Cyclades.
These alone are worth the vacation. But then, not far from here, there is San Vito lo Capo, one of the most popular destinations in Sicilian tourism, and further on, the majestic Zingaro Nature Reserve with its sheltered bays, each different from the other, and pristine nature.
The starting point for our itinerary to the Egadi Islands is Trapani, easily accessible and served by two airports: the international airport of Palermo and Trapani Birgi airport, just a 15-minute drive away. Once you’ve checked in, you can explore this beautiful city surrounded by the sea. Its historic center, rich in cafes, restaurants and historic buildings, is just a few minutes’ walk from the port. If you appreciate art, the Agostino Pepoli Museum is worth a visit, with collections of sculpture, painting, and archaeology, where you can admire true masterpieces like “San Francesco receives the stigmata,” painted by Titian around 1525.
Also interesting is the Natural Reserve of the Saline di Trapani e Paceco, a wonderful protected area embellished by windmills by the sea and flocks of pink flamingos. After touring the city, you can dine in one of the typical restaurants and try, for example, one of the typical dishes like “busiate al pesto trapanese.”
Dat 2, Trapani – Favignana, 9,5 miles
Having cast off from Trapani, we reach the first stop of the cruise: Favignana, the largest island in the Aegadian archipelago, where time flows slowly, and some of the most beautiful bays in the Mediterranean await you. One such example is the stunning Cala Rossa beach, surrounded by tuff quarries and characterized by crystal-clear water and seabeds that attract diving enthusiasts. It takes its name from the harsh battle between the Romans and Carthaginians in 241 B.C. It’s worth anchoring here if there’s no northwesterly wind. Equally enchanting are the Bue Marino Beach, perfect for cliff diving enthusiasts, Cala Rotonda, a famous natural harbor with a stone arch known as Ulysses’ Arch, and Cala San Nicola, one of the most important archaeological sites in the area, where you can find the Women’s Bath, a pool carved into the rocks at water level with mosaics from the 2nd century B.C.
If you moor in the small city port, don’t miss the former Florio establishment, a tuna processing and preservation industry, one of the island’s symbolic places. It’s also interesting to wander through the alleys of this town and admire Villa Florio, with its pink roofs and architectural lace, or the Mother Church in the central square, or even the Sant’Anna district, the first nucleus of the town. Worth a visit are the Punta Sottile Lighthouse and the Santa Caterina Castle, which at 314 meters above sea level is the highest point, offering a breathtaking view. Here, you’ll also find the Grotta delle Uccerie, an underground cave reachable through a narrow tunnel.
Day 3, Favignana – Marettimo, 13 miles
Our journey continues towards Marettimo, the wildest among the Egadi Islands, with its mountainous ridges plunging down to serene or turbulent coves, depending on the strength and direction of the wind. The small port with fishermen, overturned boats, and nets left to dry in the sun is right in the center of the village, all white houses with blue fixtures.
The boat is the privileged means to explore the rugged coastline of the island, offering a unique route of bays and caves: from the clear lagoon of Cala Cretazzo to the Camel Cave and Cala Bianca; or Punta Bassano, with a wall of red gorgonians, or even the Cave in the Cathedral; or Cala Spalmatore, where you can admire the wreckage of a ship. Until you reach the famous Barranche, dolomite towers sheer above the sea. The castle of Punta Troia is visible from the boat. Perched on the top of the small promontory of the same name, it houses a small Norman church, and from there, you can see the entire east coast of the island. Inside and on the mountains, Marettimo hides ancient Roman houses dating back to the 4th century AD, medieval baptismal fonts, dense vegetation and a community of free-roaming donkeys.
Day 4, Marettimo – Levanzo, 12 miles
A little miniature pearl, on the other hand, is Levanzo, an ideal island for those who want to unwind and characterized by an intimate and relaxed atmosphere. Life essentially revolves around Cala Dogana, the island’s only village, which also hosts the charming fishing port with water that resembles a swimming pool. It also offers a small gravel beach perfect for snorkeling and close to the services of the town center. However, the strength of the island lies in the coves and small beaches scattered along the coasts, framed by the Mediterranean vegetation that touches the water and reachable only by boat, such as Cala Minnola.
Also interesting are the numerous caves. The most important is the Grotta del Genovese, one of the world’s most significant caves for archaeological rock paintings and engravings dating back to the Neolithic and Paleolithic eras. The cave was discovered by chance in 1949 by a fisherman and can be reached both by boat and on foot. But also beautiful are the Grotta dei Porci, the Grotta di Punta Cappero, the Grotta di Cala Tramontana, the Grotta del Palammo, and the Grotta delle Pecore. On the northernmost tip of the island is the lighthouse of Capo Grosso.
On the fifth day of our cruise, we leave the Egadi Islands and set course for San Vito Lo Capo, a highly coveted and beloved destination known for its white sand and crystal-clear sea along the coast. Along the route, you can make a stop at Pizzo Cofano or the Caletta del Bue Marino, voted the most beautiful in Italy in 2015. San Vito Lo Capo welcomes you with the wonderful beach of the town dotted with the 43-meter lighthouse commissioned by the Bourbons and erected in 1859, and the extreme point of the Gulf of Castellammare. The view from the Piana dell’Egitarso, a splendid panoramic balcony, is nothing short of breathtaking.
For the rest, it is recommended to wander through the flower-filled streets, rich in cafes and lively restaurants in the town. A visit is also worth the Sanctuary of San Vito Martire, which stands majestic among the low white houses, with its golden tuff bulk. It is the only church, actually an ancient fortress built at the end of the 1400s around the original chapel dedicated to the saint with the aim of protecting it from pirate raids. There are also many cliffs overlooking the sea in San Vito, famous among climbing enthusiasts who come here from all over the world. Finally, San Vito has ancient Arab traditions, and the dominant feature in local gastronomic tradition is couscous, which you can taste in the typical local restaurants and is dedicated to the famous international festival in summer.
Day 6, San Vito Lo Capo – Zingaro Nature Reserve, 6 miles
Last stop of our sailing cruise, not far from San Vito Lo Capo, is the Zingaro Reserve, a unique landscape in the world with sheer limestone cliffs overlooking a clear and turquoise sea, small coves and beaches of white pebbles, ravines, and caves inhabited since the Paleolithic era. An ideal place for swimtrekking, snorkeling, and birdwatching. The Zingaro Reserve is about 4 miles long and, for those who land in this paradise with incredible colors, there is a succession of 7 coves, each more beautiful than the other. From the North entrance, the first to appear is Cala Tonnarella dell’Uzzo, which absolutely deserves a first swim in the celestial and transparent water.
In the Mediterranean scrub and among prickly pears, Cala Marinella, Cala Beretta, Cala della Disa, Cala del Varo unfold in splendid succession; and lastly, Cala Capreria. Here, the environment is truly untouched, so one must be absolutely respectful of nature. But for sailors, in this ambient, it becomes a natural thing to do.
Having cast off the moorings on our last day of the cruise, we set sail to return to the port of Trapani. Once the boat is docked, you can relax, or you can visit a magical place just 20 minutes from the port: Erice. A small medieval village and an extraordinary film set for countless movies, whose roots delve into myth.