A few weeks ago I wrote a post about discovering Western Sicily: from Palermo to Trapani, via the ancient Greek cities of Segesta and Selinunte, the salt farms of Marsala and the barren island of Favignana in the Egadi Archipelago. Today I am sharing photos of the second part of my trip which focused on the northern promontory and the stunning beaches of San Vito Lo Capo and Scopello.
After 2 days in Favignana (beach, sun, bicycles, fish, gelato…) we boarded the ferry back to the main island and picked up our car from Trapani. Our next destination wasn’t far: Erice, a spectacular medieval hill town overlooking Trapani at 751m above sea level.
We had planned to drive up to Erice, but the lady at the car park recommended us to leave the car in Trapani instead, and take the cable car to the hilly town. We trusted her, but we later realized that it was more expensive to pay for the car park (4€) + cable car (20€), rather than just drive to Erice and park there.
Anyway, I am glad I didn’t have to brave the steep and winding mountain road with our big rental car. It was probably for the best, given that I am still traumatized from a near-accident I had years ago driving up the Rock of Gibraltar in a rental car with faulty breaks!
As the cable car started rising, a thick fog enveloped our cabin while strong winds made it dangle from left and right. The weather changed dramatically from the hot and sunny summer day we had in Trapani to a chilly, windy, rather Autumnal day in Erice. I was freezing in a sleeveless top, shorts and sandals, while all the other tourists (savvier than us) were wrapped in puffa jackets and scarves!
Apparently that’s entirely normal: Erice is often covered in its own personal cloud. Safe to say that we couldn’t wait to leave the town and go back to the warmth of our car. It’s such a shame because Erice is beautiful and breath-taking, so I hope my experience won’t put you off from visiting it.
The view from the Quartiere Spagnolo in Erice, overlooking the north-western coast of Sicily.
After an hour of walking around the town and a stop at one of Erice’s bakeries to buy marzipan biscuits, we hopped on the cable car down to sea level.
After a couple of hours’ drive we reached our bed & breakfast for the next two nights in Castelluzzo, a tiny village on the hills outside San Vito Lo Capo. We arrived just in time to watch the sunset from our host’s terrace.
The B&B was quiet, nice, with a gorgeous view and lovely breakfast with pistachio croissants, but I regret not staying in the lively town centre of San Vito Lo Capo as our accommodation felt a bit too isolated.
The ancient fishing village of San Vito Lo Capo is situated on the tip of the north-western promontory, surrounded by mountains that are part of two national reserves: Monte Cofano and Zingaro.
Like Favignana, the town’s main source of income for centuries was tuna fishing, now replaced by tourism.
It’s surprising to learn that San Vito Lo Capo was only discovered by Italian sun-seekers about a decade ago. I wonder how the vast expanse of white sand and blue sea – one of the most stunning sandy beached in Italy – managed to remain a secret for so long.
The natural beauty of the area has now turned this area into a popular holiday destination, over-crowded in July and August. To really enjoy this region I would recommend visiting in early June or September.
Like many other Italian beach towns, San Vito is a place to completely relax for a a few days, forget about the car, walk from home to beach to restaurant to bed. Repeat for days and days. This is what summer holiday means to me!
San Vito Lo Capo comes alive in the evening at the aperitivo hour. Many tourists come here for a week or two, rent a holiday home near the beach and spend their evenings sitting at a bar or strolling up and down the pedestrian high street, gelato in hand and kids running behind them.
If you are coming to San Vito Lo Capo, don’t miss the cous cous, the traditional dish here. Every year in September the town holds a Cous Cous Fest dedicated to this simple dish and to Mediterranean cuisine.
The main attraction near San Vito Lo Capo is undoubtedly the Zingaro Nature Reserve, which covers an area of 1,600 hectares of soaring mountains and unspoilt coast.
The reserve can be accessed from two sides, San Vito Lo Capo in the north and Scopello in the south. Between the two gates there are several pebble beaches, connected by a 7km coastal path. You can also reach the coves from the sea: several operators organise half day tours from San Vito, Scopello and Castellammare del Golfo.
We left the car at the north car park (near San Vito Lo Capo), paid the 5€ ticket and walked the entire track in both directions. It took us about two hours to reach the other side of the reserve, with short breaks to take photos and admire the panorama.
It was a tiring hike under the hot midday sun, but we were rewarded by the view of the rocky coastline, with limestone cliffs and amazing beach coves.
After our walk we stopped at Cala Capreria for a few hours to eat (remember to buy food before entering the reserve), swim and sleep.
After two days in San Vito Lo Capo it was time to hit the road again and begin our journey back to Palermo Airport. But before leaving Sicily we had one more place to visit: Scopello.
Scopello is a tiny village of less than 100 residents (though they grow to a few thousands in the summer), located on the coast between the resort town of Castellammare del Golfo and the Zingaro nature reserve.
The town is perched on a plateau above sea level and is no more than an ancient a large courtyard (called baglio) and a few lanes around it. There are restaurants, shops and cafes. A path with steps connects Scopello to the old tuna fishery below, where the old fishermen’s cottages still stand.
We spent our last morning at the Tonnara di Scopello, the best spot to see the famous faraglioni, rock towers in the sea.
There is no beach as such, just tiny patches of rock and a large concrete floor with free sun-loungers and direct access to the sea. The setting is so unique that I wasn’t bothered at all by the lack of sand.
Even though it was a Sunday, we managed to find a spot at the tonnara because we arrived quite early for Italian standards, around 10am. As the space around us began to fill up, we decided to leave and drive up to Scopello to get some lunch.
In Scopello you must try the famous Pane Cunzato (a sandwich with fresh tomatoes, anchovies and cheese) and Sfincione (Sicilian focaccia bread) at Panificio di Stabile e Anselmo.
The very last stop of our holiday was the large pebble beach of Guidaloca, recommended by our B&B host as the only beach in the area with showering facilities (which we needed before the long journey back home in London that night). I actually fell in love with the beautiful stretch of white sand and crystal blue water.
This concludes my travel diary of Sicily. I hope you enjoyed my posts; I loved sharing photos of a region that holds a special place in my heart!