North-Western Sicily: magical sunsets, delicious food and incredible sea
*For the series: better late than never*
Sicily has always held a special place in my heart. When I was younger, my family and I used to go every summer to our house near Marsala to be together with our dear relatives (whom I greet with a warm hug, in case they are reading this article) and to enjoy the wonderful sea.
This year my friends Roberta and Sabrina and I decided to take a relaxing week in September and visit North-Western Sicily.
For me it was a sort of recharge before the start of my new working adventure!
After having planned all the stops, we put together a list of places we absolutely wanted to visit (you can find the complete map with all the stops at the end of the article):
Being good foodies, we thought it would have been nice to review all the restaurants we went to during our wonderful holiday. You can find the restaurants showdown here - or further down in the article!
MARSALA AND SURROUNDINGS
Marsala was our base for the first four days of exploration. We opted for a very nice Airbnb - Casa Vacanze "ANTICO CASALE" - in a slightly peripheral area of the town, very quiet and cosy and only 1km away from the Saline and the Stagnone.
San Teodoro and Lido Signorino Beach
In the Marsala area there are several beaches worth visiting. San Teodoro Beach (left) and Lido Signorino (right) are two of my favourites. Crystal-clear waters and truly spectacular colours. The first beach is definitely worth visiting on days when there is no wind or a southerly wind (especially Scirocco) - we went on a day when the wind was blowing from the north and it wasn't at its best. While the second, more sheltered, is also suitable on days when the wind is a little stronger.
Saline di Marsala
Probably one of the most photographed and famous places in the area. They are more accurately called Saline della Laguna and are located between Trapani and Marsala, much closer to the latter though. They are part of the Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Stagnone (Stagnone Oriented Nature Reserve) - a nature reserve of Phoenician origin - and are still in operation today, although the production/processing techniques have clearly changed over time, and it is possible to visit the tanks and mill.
Ferries leave from the salt pans (€5 per person return ticket) to the ancient Isola di Mothia (island of Mothia, Mozia today), a small patch of land rich in lush nature and archaeological remains that is well worth a visit.
The area of the salt pans is also very famous for the splendid sunset you can admire. However, the bar right next to the mill - Mamma Caura - is always full and their aperitifs are not the best. If you want to admire the sunset in a much quieter and, perhaps, more characteristic context, keep on reading :)
The Stagnone area is also very famous for being one of the best kitesurfing areas on the island. Slightly "hidden" from tourist eyes, on the way to San Teodoro beach there is a dirt road that leads directly to the kitesurfing area (directions here). In addition to several kite schools, there are also two very nice places where you can have a drink and enjoy the beautiful sunset in peace.
Where to eat in Marsala
If, after a relaxing stroll through the centre of Marsala, you're looking for a place to eat well and not spend an outrageous amount of money (compared to the quality of the food), we highly recommend booking a table at Taverna Quarant8. Their busiate are F-E-N-O-M-E-N-A-L and the service is impeccable. We were really enthusiastic about it!
A few more tips:
Breakfast at Saro: if you are in the Saline / Marsala area, you can't miss the famous breakfast at Saro's - here you can taste all the local delicacies!
Giufà to buy typical products: not far from Saro, there is a small Sicilian shop (run by some of my Sicilian cousins) where you can buy authentic Sicilian products - food, ceramics, jewellery
Of course, once in Sicily, we couldn't miss the Egadi Islands! I have been to Favignana several times in the past but (shame on me, I know!) never to Levanzo, which turned out to be a lovely surprise.
As we didn't have much time, we decided to book a minicrociera (mini-cruise) for €45 per person. We left Marsala at 9am, stopped off in Favignana, then Levanzo, and returned around 5pm (lunch is on board!).
Favignana is always wonderful, even though it was a bit windy that day. As there are lovely coves and places to see all over the island, it is always possible to swim in at least one of the coves (we stopped at Cala Azzurra - which was the most sheltered from the north wind that day).
The tour also included a stop on the island for about two hours before lunch. We took the opportunity to do some sightseeing, go for a swim and relax with a drink at one of the beach kiosks near the harbour.
During our stop in Favignana, we also took the opportunity to take a swim and relax a bit on the Spiaggia Praia, just over 5 minutes walk from the port.
Unfortunately we found a lot of rubbish on the beach and in the water. Probably due to the strong winds of the previous days. The amount of plastic (bags, disposable containers, bottles...) was unbelievable. Plastic has a decomposition time in the environment of 20 to 500 years - a plastic bottle, for example, takes 450 years (source)! This waste dispersed in the sea clearly has a devastating impact on marine flora and fauna. So we decided to take a bag and start collecting it. At first we were the only ones there, but gradually many more people joined in and in just over 15 to 20 minutes the beach was cleared of almost all the rubbish.
Sometimes it takes very little to make a difference. Change comes from many small gestures, and those who tell us that we are completely powerless in the face of global pollution and climate change are sorely mistaken!
*Yes, I have a piece of Trapanese pesto between my teeth. The photo was too good not to be published. The pesto was too good not to be paid tribute to in this article*
In 15 years of holidays in Sicily I had never been to Levanzo (at least not that I can remember). What did I miss! I was really enchanted by this island, which somehow makes me think of a remote islet in the Aegean Sea, full of fishermen and small, not very touristy places. It is certainly less crowded than Favignana but, in some ways, definitely more beautiful and wilder.
About 750 metres above sea level, over the city of Trapani, is the small medieval village of Erice, perched on Mount San Giuliano and recognisable at night by its unmistakable little lights.
Often immersed in a romantic mist, it is a very characteristic village, full of small shops and typical restaurants. The easiest and most suggestive way to get there is by cable car (about 10€ return), parking your car right on the slopes of the mountain; from the cable car you can admire a wonderful landscape that includes the Egadi Islands, the Stagnone, the Saline and Trapani. If you want to eat a good plate of busiate, we recommend La Pentolaccia.
SAN VITO LO CAPO, RISERVA DELLO ZINGARO E SCOPELLO
As a second base for exploring San Vito and the surrounding area we chose this house on booking, excellent value for money and very central location. The owners (Nonna Vincenza and her daughter) are very hospitable.
On the road to San Vito, about 5 km before, there is a series of enchanting bays / coves, which are part of the Gulf of Macari. A quiet area, surrounded by nature and still quite (and fortunately) unspoilt. These include some of the most beautiful beaches on the west coast of Sicily.
We stopped at Baia Santa Margherita, between Macari and Castelluccio, with Mount Cofano in the background. You can easily reach it by car, there is a car park very close by.
Another place definitely worth visiting is Cala del Bue Marino, characterised by small white pebbles and particularly enchanting at sunset.
San Vito Lo Capo
San Vito Lo Capo certainly needs no introduction. This small village overlooks a bay that is quite sheltered from the wind and is dominated by Monte Monaco. Super famous for its almost Caribbean-like sea (although the beaches of Macari have nothing to envy!) and for the many restaurants in the central streets. Two are absolutely worth mentioning Profumi di Cous Cous - perhaps the most famous restaurant in San Vito, awarded a Michelin star, this is the place to have a real culinary experience and taste different types of couscous (from the most traditional to the most refined); Inka Wasi - a really good Peruvian restaurant, at honest prices and with a very friendly staff, recommended if for one evening you feel like trying something different.
Boat tour: Riserva dello Zingaro and Faraglioni di Scopello
From San Vito you can book an excursion to the Riserva dello Zingaro (Zingaro Nature Reserve) and Scopello, which is the quickest way to see all the wonderful things this area has to offer. We booked our tour with Gaetano and were really happy with it! Departures are at around 9am or 2pm, a delicious pane cunzato is included (super yummy!) and there are two or three swimming stops, the last one right next to the Faraglioni of Scopello.
CASTELLAMMARE DEL GOLFO
On the way back to Palermo, we decided to stop at Castellammare del Golfo. Idea that did not turn out to be the best in the world, as we caught an incredible downpour that has stuck us exactly in this (wonderful, for sure but...) view for half an hour. The village is really very nice and would deserve a visit in more "normal" weather conditions.
One downpour and a flat tyre later, before arriving at our destination (Palermo), we decided to make a second stop in Monreale, to admire the beauty of the Duomo di Monreale, or Basilica di Santa Maria La Nuova, and to enjoy the fantastic view of Palermo from above. From October onwards, you can taste "the best fried iris with ricotta in Monreale" (a quote from a Monrealese person, so take it literally) at a little place not far from the Duomo called the Ice Cream Shop.
We decided to spend the last day of our holiday in Palermo between walks and one too many sfincione.
Our base for this last night was a very nice house in an incredibly central location - at the entrance to the Vucciria district and directly overlooking Piazza San Domenico.
Through The Fork we also found a great restaurant not far from our flat at very reasonable prices, called Il Pipino Rosso.
SAN VITO LO CAPO
SushiSoru by Delfino
Profumo di Cous Cous
Il Pipino Rosso
And here is the map with all the stops made!
A huge thank you to my travelling companions, fantastic friends and great complaint bearers - vvb ❤