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In addition to the picturesque coasts, Italy is also known for its islands. From the crystal clear waters of the Tremiti Islands to the rocky cliffs of Capri, there are many Italian islands to visit. They offer a wide range of special landscapes and vistas, with unique histories and cultures to be discovered.

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Art & Culture
San Vito Lo Capo

San Vito Lo Capo: the Sicilian Tropic

On the north-western tip of Sicily, San Vito Lo Capo, with its three-kilometre beach of very light-coloured sand, ends where the Monte Monaco massif rises. Here, one of the island's most beautiful, protected areas, the Zingaro Nature Reserve, begins. Nature could not have been more generous to a place that retains important signs of its past where Arab and European cultures met and merged, continuing to do so today. Among ancient sanctuaries, wrecks and the remains of old tuna nets Almost an island within an island, San Vito Lo Capo lies on the green promontory enclosed by the imposing Mount Monaco to the east and Mount Cofano to the west. Visible in the middle of the countryside thanks to the small temple of Santa Crescenza, a place linked to the devotion of St Vitus. The Fortress Sanctuary, which dates back to the 5th century, is located closer to the sea: it is a fortified church that looks more like a bastion because the threat of the Saracens lasted for quite a while. Also worth a visit is the Tonnara del Secco, active until 1969, located along the path leading to the Zingaro Nature Reserve, behind Mount Monaco, 3 km from the centre: on the seabed in front of the tuna fishery, the wreck of the freighter Kent that sank in 1978, called the ship of the Korans because it is said to have carried holy books. On the west coast, towards Macari and Mount Cofano, dotted with numerous towers (Scieri, Mpisu and Isulidda), for swimming in the afternoon, then enjoy the sunset in the sea. There are no sandy beaches, but the descent to the sea between the rocks is quite easy. In the countryside, you can walk a long way towards Castelluzzo, among cultivated fields and olive groves. The Cous Cous Fest One of the most popular events in San Vito lo Capo is the Cous Cous Fest, celebrating the dish of Maghreb origin made from durum wheat semolina, also popular on the Trapani coast. A festival that went from being a culinary event to a moment of cultural integration celebrating the coexistence and diversity of peoples. Held in the last week of September since the late 1990s, it is a challenge for chefs from all over the world to prepare the best couscous. The side dish is a rich calendar of shows, cultural events, concerts alternating with tastings and visits to the area. Don’t miss the Couscuola, the couscous school, a thirty-minute lesson to return home with the rudiments to prepare this tasty dish that brings the two shores of the Mediterranean together. Mount Cofano reserve Unmistakable is the silhouette of Mount Cofano, in the territory of Custonaci, an area protected since 1997 by the nature reserve of the same name. The mountain is a steep-sided dolomite massif that was formed by the uplift of marine limestone deposits during the Triassic period. The ascent to the mountain is quite challenging, as its morphology suggests, but there is a very nice and easy path that goes all around the mountain, overlooking the sea. The Reserve's caves are interesting, with traces of prehistoric settlements, such as the Mangiapane cave in the Scurati locality, an 80-metre-high cavern, at the entrance of which are dwellings that were used until a few decades ago: one of Sicily's most evocative living nativity scenes is set here at Christmas. Also of interest are the 16th-century towers commissioned by the Spanish kings: from the San Giovanni tower you can see the panorama of the Egadi Islands, and the star-shaped one at the Tonnara di Cofano. Find out more www.ilovesanvitolocapo.it
Nature
Filicudi - Isole Eolie, Sicilia

Alicudi and Filicudi

Alicudi and Filicudi: slow tourism in the wildest of the Aeolian Islands Alicudi and Filicudi offer the chance to lose yourself somewhere new, go off the beaten track, switch off and recharge – the wildest and most authentic islands of the Aeolian archipelago in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea, electricity only arrived here 20 years ago. Sharing proximity with each other and elective affinities, these remote islands, are the perfect destination for slow and sustainable tourism, for holidays that allow you to detox as you indulge in pristine nature. Being in tune with nature is so important for the locals that you can only arrive and depart when sea and wind conditions allow. So set aside your planner and get used to sniffing the air and using the sun as a clock and compass, because the weather here has its own rules. The only device you need to carry is a small torch, even an LED one, which you’ll find very useful after sunset, because there is no street lighting on these islands. Alicudi, no taxis but plenty of donkeys Formerly called Ericusa (named after the presence on the island of heather, which you will see everywhere as soon as you step foot on the land), it is the smallest, westernmost and most remote of the Aeolian archipelago. There are no tarmacked roads or cars here, the only means of transport are donkeys, the scecchi, as the locals call them; otherwise, people generally walk, on volcanic stone stairs and alleyways, paths and mule tracks. Be sure to pack comfortable shoes and no heels! In Filicudi, you will see no sight of ATMs or banks, nightclubs or discos, just a small post office, a hotel and one cosy little restaurant, which closes in mid-September. All nestled in a village with five hamlets, dotted around the port. All around is blissful silence, or rather, the great symphony of nature. The sea: a treasure to discover Alicudi's coastline is high and rugged, often interrupted by volcanic coves and caves. There are two beaches, but only one, a pebble beach, is accessible by land. Here, you will have to take on the sea, climbing like crabs over rocks and coves, or we recommend renting a boat or setting sail on one of the tours around the island. Or if you like snorkelling and diving, the rocks, reefs and seabed, home to dozens of species of fish, are an enchanting setting. The best way to explore Alicudi’s rugged, wild soul is to hike to the centre of the island, to its highest point, Filo dell'Arpa, home to an extinct volcanic crater, at an altitude of 675 metres. This itinerary takes a couple of hours, along a series of rather steep stone stairs, past the church of San Bartolo. Just before you reach the summit, you will come across the so-called Timpone delle femmine, a fortification of natural caves, where the women of the island apparently once sought shelter during pirate raids. Filicudi and the 7 extinct volcanoes Filicudi, which has a slightly larger surface area than Alicudi, about 9.5 square kilometres, is the archipelago's geologically oldest island. It hosts no fewer than seven volcanoes that have been extinct for years and owes its name to what the ancient Greeks called phoinicussa, the dwarf palm, still prevalent on the island's headlands. Its almost 200 inhabitants live in the southern part, in several hamlets connected by a paved road. In Filicudi, only residents are allowed to travel by car, but you can easily explore the island on foot or by scooter. An ancient history, guarded from the depths Once in Filicudi, you will feel the irresistible call of the sea, the main attraction of the island, which has three beaches: in addition to those at the port and Capo Graziano, the most beautiful is the black pebble beach of Pecorini A Mare, a picturesque village on the southern side of the island, where you can relax among the colourful boats and low-lying fishermen's houses. Just above the beach of Cape Graziano – a beach scattered with grey volcanic pebbles, perhaps the easiest spot to take a dip in the sea – you should definitely visit the prehistoric village, which stands in one of the most scenic spots on the island and is home to what remains of 27 huts dating back to the Bronze Age. If you are experienced in diving, with at least a level 2 diving licence and accompanied by an authorised diving instructor, then your visit can continue below the sea level: the seabed at Capo Graziano cradles the most beautiful underwater archaeological site in the Aeolian Islands, where you can discover the wrecks of nine Greek and Roman ships. Exploring the coast, amid the secrets and magic of the sea The best way to experience the sea at Filicudi is by boat: it is the only way to explore secret coves and caves. Among the most spectacular is the Grotta del Bue Marino, the largest cave in the Aeolian Islands, once home to a thriving colony of monk seals, now a magical place of reflections and surprising plays of light. Continuing along the same stretch of sea, you will come across the Scoglio della Fortuna (Rock of Fortune)—with its concave shape that encompasses a natural pool of crystal-clear water—and the La Canna rock, a giant, 70-metre-high sea stack vaguely resembling the figure of the Madonna and child. Many consider this the guardian of Filicudi and recognise its magical aura: legend has it that if you touch it, all your wishes will come true.
Point of interest
Marsala

Marsala

Marsala, the town of wine and salt Marsala is the name of a town, and also a wine. Both are elegant and rich in history. The town is enclosed within the ramparts of the 16th century, when it experienced its own Renaissance that enriched it with palaces, churches and monasteries. Wine is the product that made it world-famous, thanks partly to the vision of an English merchant who adapted it to British tastes. In the beautiful old town you can visit the vestiges of its past, as well as the historic wine cellars that uphold the prestige of its finest product, while on the coast salt is produced in the spectacular salt pans. Amid Baroque and nature Those who approach from Porta Nuova are greeted by a string of beautiful Renaissance and Baroque buildings, such as the Monastery of San Pietro, which houses the Civic Museum, with an archaeological section and an area dedicated to the Risorgimento. Garibaldi and the Thousand landed at Marsala to accomplish the feat of the Unification of Italy. A little further on you come to Piazza della Repubblica, Marsala's gathering place, with the beautiful Palazzo VII Aprile with its clock tower and Baroque cathedral - although the façade was not actually completed until 1956. Next door is the Tapestry Museum, where eight Flemish tapestries, a gift from a Spanish king, are on display. A few steps away is the Convento del Carmine, now the Museum of Contemporary Painting, with works by various Italian artists including Cassinari, Maccari, Marchegiani, Pomodoro, Sassu, Sironi, as well as temporary exhibitions. To immerse yourself in Marsala's more ancient past, visit the Baglio Anselmi Archaeological Museum, in the building of a former winery on the seafront. Several artefacts are on display, recounting the foundation of the city (then called Lilybaeum) by exiles from the Phoenician colony on the island of Mothia. Don't miss the wreck of a Punic ship that was probably shipwrecked during the battle of the Egadi Islands in the First Punic War; it is located off the Isola Lunga near Punta Scario. There are also Roman mosaics and an extraordinary collection of amphorae documenting trade in antiquity. The museum visit is completed in the Archaeological Park with the Roman Insula, the site of a large Roman villa from the 3rd century AD with baths, cisterns and the remains of an early Christian necropolis. The bustling hub of Marsala is its central Fish Market, which has recently been renovated. By day, it is the place where the catch from the Stagnone and the Strait of Sicily comes in, and by night, it is the centre of nightlife where you can dine and stay up late. The Marsala wine that pleased the English Wine has always been produced in Marsala, since Phoenician times, but it was towards the end of the 18th century that an English merchant, John Woodhouse, sent a few barrels of local wine to England to be tasted by his customers, adding, however, a dose of brandy so that the wine would not spoil during the voyage. This is how the Marsala we know today was born, a liqueur wine much appreciated by the English who imported it in great quantities from then on, making the fortune of local producers: Florio, Rallo, Donnafugata, Pellegrino, whose historic cellars are still located in the centre of Marsala. The Stagnone Reserve and Mozia The Stagnone Reserve is a lagoon to the north of Marsala, 2,000 hectares of shallow and very salty waters with four islands: the Big Island, which acts as a barrier to the lagoon, the island of Santa Maria, a strip of land, the Schola (meaning “school”), because in Roman times it housed a school of rhetoric, where Cicero is said to have taught when he was quaestor of the city of Lilybaetano, and Mothia (Mozia), an island on which a Phoenician city stood from the 8th century BC, which ancient sources describe as rich in beautiful palaces, one of the most important trading bases in the Mediterranean antiquity. Conquered by Dionysius of Syracuse, Mothia was destroyed in 397 B.C. and never rebuilt, so its ruins are “intact”, with no overlays - a true paradise for archaeologists. The survivors in fact founded Lilybaeum, present-day Marsala. The island of Mozia now belongs to the Whitaker Foundation, an English wine producer which bought it and started excavations in the early 20th century, and it is open for visits. The salt pans of Marsala and the windmills On the coast to the north of the city, overlooking the Stagnone, are the Salt Pans of the Marsala Ettore and Infersa Lagoon, one of the most spectacular places on the west coast of Sicily, with stretches of water that take on different colours depending on the season, against which you can see the outlines of windmills surrounded by mounds of white salt. It is a place that is not only very poetic and picturesque, but also of great historical and environmental interest, structured to give visitors the all-round salt experience: here one can take walks along the salt pans, visit mills that are still in operation, enjoy tastings, manually harvest salt with the salt workers and dive into pools that are not in production, but still fed by the hydraulic circuit, where one can float in salt solutions with different concentrations and lie on the salt crust. For more information: www.turismocomunemarsala.com
Spiaggia della Tonnara

Scopello

Scopello and the Zingaro Nature Reserve, Sicily as it once was Scopello is a beautiful coastal village with an ancient history. It stands in front of a handful of stacks that emerge from the water and form a natural amphitheatre of reddish rocks that intensify the blue of the sea. Since at least the 13th century, there has been a tonnara (tuna fishery) concealed in the rock here, which was in operation until the 1980s. Today it is one of the most fascinating places in Sicily, the gateway to a protected area of great naturalistic value, the Zingaro Nature Reserve. The mythical city of Cetaria Like all places of great beauty, Scopello is associated with a myth: the city of Cetaria is said to have sprung up here, so called because of the abundance of fish in its waters (from the Greek word cetos, meaning sea animals such as cetaceans). What is certain is that the place has been inhabited since ancient times, when a population from Asia Minor settled on these shores after the Trojan War; the same people who probably also founded the city of Erice. The Scopello we see today dates back to the 17th century, when the Bourbon kings used the area as a hunting reserve. For centuries dedicated to heavy tuna fishing, in the last 40 years Scopello has now become a paradise for those who love the sea, thanks to its seabed rich in anemones, madrepores and gorgonians where you can dive and swim among amberjacks and tuna, shipwrecks and submerged archaeological finds. The Scopello tuna fishery Nestled between scenic stacks and a rock face, the Tonnara di Scopello is a truly enchanting place. Its construction dates back to the 13th century, when it was just a small, well-concealed building set against the rock. It was expanded in the second half of the 15th century, first by the San Clemente family from Trapani, then by the Society of Jesus, which also built the small church, and finally by the Florio family at the end of the 19th century. Tuna caught along the coast were processed and stored in the complex. Operations ceased with the last slaughter in 1984, and since then the tuna fishery has only been used for marine biology research work. Today, the Tonnara complex is accessible for a fee for visits, including guided tours, which allow visitors to retrace the history of tuna fishing and enjoy the Faraglioni beach. There is a diving centre in the complex, which also offers dinghy excursions along the coast. Scopello's beaches In addition to the Faraglioni beach, there are several beaches and coves on the Scopello coast where you can spend a day by the sea. Guidaloca beach is a large sandy inlet with easy access to the sea, well sheltered from the wind, where the sea is always calm. Here you will find a parking area and a bar, and part of the beach is equipped with deckchairs and parasols. Those who prefer deeper waters where they can snorkel may opt for Cala Bianca, a rocky and wild stretch of coastline, without beach facilities, that can only be reached on foot along a 700-metre path, or by boat from Castellammare. Close to the Zingaro Nature Reserve is Cala Mazzo di Sciacca, with very clear waters rich in sea life, ideal for snorkelling and diving. It can be reached by car and there is only a small bar. The Zingaro Nature Reserve, an environmental victory The Zingaro Nature Reserve stretches along the coast between Scopello and San Vito lo Capo in a series of sheer cliffs interspersed with coves that make it possible to reach the sea. It is one of the rare stretches of Sicilian coastline without a seafront: a road construction site was laid in 1976, but blocked due to protests by environmentalist committees that led to a full-scale march against the work, and in favour of safeguarding the territory, in 1980. The following year, the protected area was established. Today, the Reserve can be explored along three paths, formerly mule tracks, which are about 7 kilometres in total. There is a coastal one, which provides access to charming pebble beaches and the prehistoric Uzzo cave; a mid-coast path to visit Borgo Cusenza, a nucleus of farmers' houses, and the petrified forest; and a high path, which is more challenging and very scenic. Inland, there are three museums (one naturalistic, one dedicated to the sea, one to the peasant civilisation) and an environmental education centre, two equipped areas and some rural buildings in contrada Sughero used for bivouacs, which are only allowed from October to May by making a request to the Reserve management. In the highest part, there are woods of Aleppo pines and holm oaks alternating with Mediterranean maquis that is regaining possession of an area that was cultivated for centuries, and that today, thanks to conservation, is once again a treasure trove of biodiversity.
Nature
Stromboli - Isole Eolie, Sicilia

Stromboli

Stromboli: a trip to the foot of the volcano for complete relaxation The island of Stromboli is the most northerly island of the Aeolian archipelago and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, between Panarea and the Calabrian coast. If you’re planning a holiday to this enchanting destination, you will not miss the imposing volcano Mount Stromboli, one of the most active and perhaps unique volcanoes in the world with its three perpetually erupting craters. Walking on the giant's “skin” The locals have nicknamed the volcano Iddu, Sicilian for “he”, because of its small explosive flashes, repeated at intervals of about 15-20 minutes, and because of its perpetual grumbling and the periodic minor eruptions. Mount Stromboli is a volcano that commands a respectful awe from all who visit: with two-thirds submerged under the surface of the sea, over time humans have built settlements and communities on its back, for millennia we have continued to tread on its sensitive skin, almost teasing it a little. Disconnecting by reconnecting with nature The island is divided into towns, almost all clustered on the north-eastern side, where you will also find the main beaches: Scari, Piscità, San Vincenzo, Ficogrande and the town of Stromboli. On the opposite side, isolated and reachable only by sea, is Ginostra, a picturesque amphitheatre of huts perched on the rock: once a humble fishing village, it is now a unique and rather spartan tourist destination. Before planning a holiday in Stromboli, the first thing to remember is that only residents can drive motorised vehicles and there is no public transport. However, not to worry – it only takes twenty minutes to walk from one end of the town to the other! What’s more, there are several electric taxis that, at modest prices, will take you to your destination along the only kilometre of paved road. Rather than being an inconvenience, the scarcity of vehicles on the road will give you the pleasant feeling of truly being away from it all on holiday. A pitch black night, to count the stars The other thing to note is that there is no public lighting on the island, so we recommend always carrying a torch when you go out at night. The almost total darkness of the night gives an extraordinary brilliance to the canopy of stars twinkling above Stromboli, sure to delight stargazers everywhere and certainly the most romantic visitors. The island also lacks its own source of drinking water, which is transported there by tanker once a week in winter and three times a week in summer. The evening is the best part of the day! At sunset, while visitors in all the seaside resorts enjoy an aperitif, it is the ideal time to experience some of the main excursions. If you are properly equipped, in good health and accompanied by an authorised guide, you can trek up the back of the volcano to the summit, at an altitude of 900 metres, and admire the explosive activity of the craters – from a safe distance! Remember that things can change very quickly at Stromboli: sometimes, due to the conditions of the volcano, groups cannot depart or are forced to stop halfway. Also at dusk, you can head by boat from Scari to Sciara del Fuoco, the steep slope formed by lava, incandescent volcanic slag and lapilli that descends from the crater of Stromboli down into the sea. From the water, you can enjoy spectacular views of this river of fire flowing down the mountain. The black beaches of the Stromboli coastline Summer days should undoubtedly be devoted to enjoying the sea. Much of Stromboli's coastline is marked by high cliffs. The main beaches, almost all with shimmering black sand, are located along the stretch of coast from Ficogrande to La Petrazza. We recommend avoiding light-coloured swimwear. Pleased to meet you, Strombolicchio! A ten-minute walk from the hydrofoil landing takes you to Ficogrande beach, a cove bathed in sand and volcanic rock. Forgia Vecchia, however, wins the award for the most beautiful beach on the island. This rather wild expanse of black pebbles, smoothed by the water and wind, can be reached by land via a path from the nearby beach of Scari, below San Vincenzo, a town overlooking the iconic Strombolicchio. Legend has it that this volcanic sea stack, Iddu's younger brother, is the top of a volcano that was thrown into the sea during an eruption. A few years ago, it was designated a protected nature park: the lighthouse that towers above it, once gas-powered, is now 100% self-sufficient thanks to renewable energy.
Nature

Isola di Budelli

Budelli pink beach, a wonder in Sardinia Unique in the world for the unlikely colour of its sand, located in the far North of Sardinia, near the Strait of Bonifacio. The pink beach of the Island of Budelli alongside Razzoli, Santa Maria and the nearby Spargi, are the most unspoiled, wild areas of the Archipelago della Maddalena National Park. A hidden gem Situated in Cala di Roto, which is on the south-eastern side of Budelli Island, the beach glows its special rosy hue. To protect it, the park authorities decided to prohibit tourists from docking their boats on the shore. All around there is an archipelago full of islets, coves, inlets and beaches - all accessible - and sea beds to be discovered. Populated by fish and colonies of soft corals gifting their typical red reflections to the crystalline waters. Heritage to be safeguarded The island was owned privately for the last century. The last individual a New Zealand billionaire who bought it at auction in 2013 for almost 3 million euros. The state however snatched it back and it became public property in 2016. It was assigned to the care of the Archipelago della Maddalena National Park who declared the beach Zone A. This high level of protection prohibits tourists from accessing, passing through, resting and bathing in the water of the island. Stepping on the pink beach is therefore, a now forbidden pleasure, navigation is possible up to the border of buoys, which close access to the bay from about 70 metres from the shore. Having recently evicted the very popular 80 something year old caretaker, who shared the wonders of Budelli with the whole world through social media, the Park council decided to install, in collaboration with the WWF, a surveillance camera system that allows constant monitoring of the beach. Alchemy en rose Sheltered from the wind thanks to a jagged rocky headland and a high juniper hedge, the beach owes its particular colour to a fragile yet powerful alchemy from mixing fragments of coral, granite, shells and molluscs in its fine sand. The rare pink hue is particularly influenced by a microorganism that lives inside the shells, decorating the seabed in the Posidonia meadows. When this microorganism dies, its shells get swept to shore pulverized by the currents and atmospheric qualities. In the last century, frequent anchoring and the irregular motion of the sea compromised the Posidonia seagrass beds and modified the sandy composition. Since the rules for safeguarding the beach were put in place, the beach has finally taken back its original coral colour. A myth immortalized by the cinema “There was a little girl who lived on an island”: is how Monica Vitti began her long monologue. Legendary protagonist of Deserto Rosso, the first colour film shot by Michelangelo Antonioni. Vitti’s unforgettable voice evokes a dreamlike enchantment, in the 1964’s film which the director from Ferrara decided to set on the pink beach of Budelli. A step from beauty Even if the authorities have prohibited access to the shoreline, in order to preserve its integrity. From a distance, you can still enjoy its unique panorama, thanks to the many boat services departing from Palau or Maddalena that offer the Archipelago tour. You can indeed limit yourself to admiring its beauty from the sea, at about 70 metres. However the Park Authority have also made wooden pathways surrounding the perimeter of the beach, to give tourists the opportunity of visiting this natural paradise, without trampling or altering it. Once your boat or raft is anchored, from the nearby beaches of Cavaliere and Cala di Roto, which also offer spectacular views, you can set off accompanied by park guides along the pathways that run alongside the area.
Nature
182062953

La Maddalena National Park

La Maddalena National Park, with Mediterranean charm With its 180 km of coastline, the La Maddalena National Park in northern Sardinia boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean Sea. Those who love the idyllic sea cannot fail to put places such as the Pink Beach on the island of Budelli, Cala Corsara and Cala Granara in Spargi, Cala Napoletana and Del Relitto in Caprera on their list of places to visit. In the park of La Maddalena, nature's own architect has really indulged in shapes and colours here: the pink granite rocks and the blue sea make this slice of paradise on the Bocche di Bonifacio truly irresistible. La Maddalena and Caprera There are 62 islands and islets that make up the Maddalena archipelago park. The largest island is the landing point due to the frequent ferry service from Palau, on the nearby Sardinian coast. The historic centre is a delightful maze of narrow streets sloping down to the sea, always lively both during the day and at night. From the port by bus, one can circle the island and stop at its many beaches: Spalmatore is a deep inlet that is well protected when the mistral wind blows; the beaches of Bassa Trinita and Monti d'Arena preserve sand dunes, and walkways have been built to protect them from being trampled on, allowing even the disabled easy access to the sea. The most beautiful sunsets can be enjoyed from Punta Tegge, opposite the island of Spargi. The island of Caprera, connected by a bridge to La Maddalena, is the true enchantment of the Archipelago Park. The dense pine forest that covers it is owed to Giuseppe Garibaldi, who wanted to spend the last years of his life from 1856 to 1882 in one of the most beautiful places on the island. His home and burial place is definitely worth a visit, not just for historical curiosity, but for the pleasant atmosphere that emanates from a place that was certainly much loved: 4 km from the house in Forte Arbuticci is the Garibaldi memorial, which recounts his adventurous life, to say the least. The rest of the island is a succession of bays and beaches, one more beautiful than the other; in one of which you will find the Centro Velico, one of Italy's best-known sailing schools. The islets of the archipelago The island of Budelli is famous for an inlet that faces south-east, known as the Spiaggia Rosa or Pink Beach, because of the colour of its sand. This colouring is due to the skeletal debris of aquatic animals (Miriapora truncata, Miniacina miniacea) that are concentrated here due to a number of factors: the presence of a Posidonia prairie, the shape of the seabed, because there are low-energy currents, and because it is protected from the westerly winds by a thick juniper hedge. Changing just one of these factors, for example with the wave motion of boats that would intensify the energy of the currents, could alter the delicate balance and set off an irreversible degradation process. This is why the Pink beach is not accessible and can only be seen from a distance from walkways set up by the park. Equally beautiful and fragile is Budelli's white Cavaliere beach in the north-eastern part, a natural swimming pool facing the so-called Porto della Madonna, the stretch of water bordered by Budelli and the islands of Razzoli and Santa Maria, one of the most sought-after spots by yachtsmen. Due to sand erosion, the beach has only been open partially since summer 2020. The beaches of Spargi, the largest and greenest of the smaller islands, are also beautiful. Many protected birds nest here thanks to the presence of fresh water: as far as beaches are concerned, with cala Corsara and cala Granara, we are in the top 10.
Nature
Salina - Isole Eolie, Sicilia

Salina

Salina, the greenest of the Aeolian Islands Thanks to its protected central position, Salina, the second largest of the Aeolian islands, is also the richest in vegetation and water of the entire Sicilian archipelago, and certainly the one where volcanic activity is at its quietest. Known as the Green Island, the ancient volcanic origins of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, testified by the extinct craters of Monte Fossa delle Felci and Monte Porri, two of the six volcanoes that once set it ablaze, are today nestled in a lush Nature Reserve that covers a large part of the territory and hosts several high-altitude routes for trekking enthusiasts. A scenic tour of the villages In another fascinating anomaly, Salina is the only Aeolian Island not administratively dependent on Lipari. It has three autonomous municipalities: Malfa, Leni and Santa Marina – well connected centres accessible by car, scooter or an excellent bus service that runs late into the night in summer. On the slopes of Monte Fossa delle Felci, lively and bustling especially in the evenings, Santa Marina is the place to be, criss-crossed by narrow streets full of bars and boutiques, with its iconic 18th-century church with twin bell towers. Perched on what remains of an ancient volcanic crater, the hamlet of Pollara is also a picture-perfect destination. It is guarded from the sea by an immense sea stack, probably a slab of its own rock that once fell off. Valdichiesa, an enchanted mountain village If you prefer the mountains to the sea, you will find cool respite from all the seaside shenanigans in the village of Valdichiesa, a small hamlet in the municipality of Leni, definitely the most “mountainous” on the island: it looks like an enchanted village, framed by mountains and vineyards. Here you will find the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Terzito, a pilgrimage destination, especially during the traditional celebrations on 23rd July: it is said that the Madonna has appeared in this area three times. A journey through the island's history Along Salina's historical-artistic itinerary it is worth visiting the Saracen caves, a series of interconnecting tunnels dug into the tuff and used as a refuge during the Saracen invasion in 650 AD. You can also reach them at the end of a rather long and demanding trekking route that starts in Santa Marina, among olive and fruit trees. Or why not take a journey back in time, visiting the beautiful, well-preserved archaeological site of Portella, between Santa Marina and Capo Faro? The ruins of the village here date back to the Bronze Age, and the Roman baths sit on the promenade from Santa Marina, now partially eroded by sea storms. An arch with a view If panoramic views are more your thing, keep an eye out for the “Castello” on the road between Pollara and Malfa, which will lead you to a small World War I fort. The square in front of it is a panoramic terrace overlooking the volcanic crater that houses Pollara, its beach and its private stretch of sea. Punta Perciato in Salina is undoubtedly the best place to admire the sunset, one of the most beautiful in the world, they say! This spectacular natural volcanic rock arch lets you watch the sun plunge into the sea next to Filicudi and Alicudi against a bright red sky. Stairway to the beach The best way to explore the sea of Salina is on board one of the many fishing boats that tour the island daily, though there are at least a couple of beaches accessible by land that are well worth a visit. The first is the beach at Pollara, the setting for many of the scenes in Il Postino, the last film starring Massimo Troisi: a gravel cove, dominated by an imposing cliff, creates a natural amphitheatre of tuff overlooking the sea. The nearby Punta Scario cove is also a wonderful place to spend a day in the sun. Immersed in the Mediterranean scrubland, at the bottom of another long flight of steps, it is a true paradise, though the pebbles can be a little uncomfortable under a towel after a while. Not to fear, the little cafe at the bottom of the slope is there to come to your rescue with airbeds for hire!
Nature

Marettimo

Marettimo, hiking and the sea in an unspoilt oasis The westernmost of the Egadi Islands, Marettimo is a wild, mountainous island covered in thick scrub, where human impact has been minimal. It has archaeological sites, a Spanish fort, plenty of sea caves, hiking trails and a few beaches that can be reached by land, where the colour of the sea is astonishing. There are no hotels in Marettimo, only rooms in residents' homes where hospitality is strictly island style. History, archaeology and emigration Marettimo welcomes you into a small port with turquoise waters and white houses. The name has nothing to do with the sea or seafaring; rather, the etymology refers to the thyme plant that grows wild here (with “timo” meaning “thyme”). To get to know the island and the locals, it’s worth visiting the Museo del mare, delle attività e tradizioni marinare e dell'emigrazione (Museum of the Sea, Maritime Activities and Traditions and Emigration), run by a local association, located in the centre of the village. In its display cases, amidst the seafaring tools and old photos of migrants with cardboard suitcases, is the historical memory of a community that had to leave the island to go and work in various countries around the world, and which is trying to protect its identity. Above the village, along the path leading up the mountain, you will find a small archaeological site, known as the Roman houses, with the remains of a building from the late Republican period. After defeating the Carthaginians in the First Punic War with the Battle of the Egadi Islands (241 B.C.), Rome made Marettimo a military stronghold and installed a garrison on the island, so it is not surprising to find Roman artefacts on this strip of land, however remote. Next to the Roman houses is a tiny Byzantine chapel dating back to the 11th century. The 400 caves of Marettimo From the harbour, you can board a boat to tour the caves of Marettimo, which are one of the highlights of the island. There are about 400 of them in total, all different in shape, colour, size and characteristics. In the Camel Cave there is a small pebble beach, the Nativity Cave has stalactites and stalagmites, the Bombard Cave is so called because of the hissing sound created inside it during sea storms, etc. Depending on where the wind is blowing, Marettimo always has a sheltered slope where one can enjoy the sea and the air that is scented with thyme. On the hiking trails overlooking the sea Bring your hiking boots if you are going to Marettimo: there are several paths on the island that are well-marked by the forestry service, that allow you to discover the unspoilt nature of the area. There are at least six routes, some very easy, others a little more challenging, which, from the port, allow you to reach the most extreme points of the island. Punta Troia, on the peninsula that can be seen from the port, can be reached in an hour and a half via a path that has stretches overhanging the sea. There, you can visit the Spanish fort, which was later used as a hard prison, and was recently restored and opened for visits. The next day you may wish to go to Cala Bianca, on the western side: on the way back you can pass by Pizzo Falcone, at 686 metres, the highest point on the island. Amidst forests of Aleppo pines, the typical types of Mediterranean scrub and many endemic species, you will see how many birds, even birds of prey, have chosen to make their nests in Marettimo.
Nature

Ischia

Ischia: a paradise of dream beaches, nature and spas Remember Suddenly Paradise, Leonardo Pieraccioni's film shot almost exclusively in Ischia? Mind you, the title is by no means coincidental, and as soon as you set foot on this island of otherworldly beauty you’ll understand why. This is well known by the more than six million visitors who visit this island in the Tyrrhenian Sea every year. As the largest in Campania, they are attracted by this vast and morphologically varied territory: Ischia Ponte, a charming historic centre of narrow streets, alleys and old shops, and Ischia Porto, a small fishing village. Located at the northern end of the Gulf of Naples, and not far from the islands of Procida and Vivara, Ischia is the largest of the Phlegraean Islands. Fine sand and crystal-clear water If you’re looking for a large, comfortable beach, head for Chiaia in Forio di Ischia. If you’re looking for a dream beach with fine golden sand and crystal-clear green water, you should definitely choose San Montano Bay, a mecca for Instagrammers! The Bay of Sorgeto is also worth a visit, where you can bathe in a real hot thermal water spring that mixes with sea water. You’ll have to go down (and then up) 234 steps to reach it, but we assure you that it’s worth it. Thermal waters for care and pampering Ischia has been famous since Greek and Roman times for the therapeutic properties of its thermal springs. Try the Nitrodi spring, whose water is potable and has certified healing powers to treat gastritis and ulcers, as well as to facilitate urination. Applied to the body, it cures skin impurities and also has a healing effect. This is not the only place to pamper and treat yourself: you can choose from the many thermal parks, from Poseidon to the Gardens of Aphrodite, from Terme di Castiglione to Bagnitiello via the unmissable Casamicciola Terme. Plunge into history If you want to immerse yourself in the island's history, you should definitely visit the Aragonese Castle, built in 474 BC by the Greeks and connected to the island by the striking ancient bridge. The Torrione di Forio is also worth seeing, a strategic point from which sightings were made to anticipate invasions in times of war. Next door is the white, cliff-top Church of Soccorso, also known as Santa Maria della Neve. From this point at sunset, you can witness a very rare phenomenon: the green ray. It is an optical effect due to the refraction of light at sunset. Legend has it that whoever sees it will have good luck for life. If you also have time to pass through Borgo di Sant'Angelo, you’ll be enchanted by its colourful houses and enjoy dining at restaurants with outdoor tables and shopping in the many souvenir shops. Paradise for those who love trekking There are dozens of trails, from the simplest to those for experts to explore the wonders of the island, but three are absolutely unmissable: the Pietra dell'Acqua Trail, which passes by Monte Epomeo; Piano Liguori, which reaches the vantage point of La Scarrupata; and Pizzi Bianchi, along a canyon of white tuff pinnacles.
Nature

Favignana island

Favignana, the paradise island with a turquoise sea Favignana, the largest of the Egadi Islands, is a cluster of shallow bays with a turquoise sea, listed as a marine protected area. Its flat coastline makes it easy to get around on foot or by bicycle, so that you can discover a different beach every day. In what used to be one of the largest tuna fisheries in the Mediterranean, a museum has been opened in the harbour bay to retrace the history of tuna fishing. Beaches for all tastes Favignana's beaches can cater for all tastes and needs: that of Praia, near the harbour, Cala Azzurra, Lido Burrone, the Calamoni, in the south-east, are all mainly sandy. The coast of Punta Lunga, the Preveto and Faraglioni beaches, on the other hand, have sand mixed with pebbles. Cala Rossa, on the north-eastern coast, offers both rocks and sand, while Grotta Perciata, Punta Fanfalo and Cavallo are completely rocky. A Marine Protected Area The sea that laps Favignana is included in the Marine Protected Area (MPA) of the Egadi Islands, a marine park that is particularly important not only for its size (54,000 hectares, the largest in Europe), but also for its geographical position: the park is in fact the first point of arrival for algae and oceanic fauna that move with the Atlantic currents, a flow of water that rises to the surface just near the Egadi Islands with its important biological richness. The MPA aims to preserve the fauna, which is particularly rich in protected or vulnerable species, including the monk seal, bluefin tuna, sea turtle, dolphin, sperm whale, sharks, manta rays and various species of fish and molluscs. To enjoy the sea, take a boat with the local fishermen who organise excursions to the caves and fishing-tourism activities: many of them are former tuna fishermen who can tell you how the tuna fishing took place. The stone quarries of Favignana For centuries, calcarenite, improperly called tuff, a very compact, light-coloured building stone, was quarried on Favignana. The quarrying has left deep traces everywhere, particularly in the north-eastern area, of open quarries that, now abandoned, are used by the inhabitants to make vegetable patches and gardens protected from the wind where fruit trees such as figs, almonds and citrus fruits grow. Some quarries near the coast have become convenient descents to the sea or have created extravagantly shaped pools: where they are slowly being re-naturalised, they create striking environments. Go and see Cala Rossa, where quarrymen have left tall tuff columns that resemble those of a cathedral. What to do in Favignana On the island you can take long, easy walks both along the coast to explore the beaches, and in the hilly part towards the Fort of Santa Caterina, an ancient watchtower rebuilt by Roger II the Norman and later used by the Bourbons as a prison. Today it is an extraordinary observation point for the entire archipelago and the western coast of Sicily. Visit the museum built in the former Florio factory, one of the largest ancient tuna fisheries in the Mediterranean, which houses an exhibition with videos and evidence of tuna slaughter, as well as a room with archaeological finds. From the port of Favignana you can set off on an excursion to the island of Levanzo, where the sea is possibly even more transparent and inviting. On this island, of particular interest is the Grotta del Genovese, where a number of paintings and engravings dating back to the Neolithic period can be seen, including the silhouette of a tuna, an animal that has always been important to the communities that have lived on these islands. The cave can be reached on foot, but you must first contact the attendant at the harbour, or by boat. Fishballs, steaks or tartare: tuna is served The main ingredient of Favignana cuisine is tuna, which is fished between May and June and eaten as tartare, tasty fishballs or grilled steaks. There are also specialities such as spaghetti alla bottarga (tuna roe) and tuna carbonara. In the restaurants you will also find pasta with sea urchins, Egadi lobster and plenty of other fish, and there is no shortage of cous-cous, as is the case throughout eastern Sicily. For dessert, try the granitas in various flavours, also accompanied by brioches, cannoli and cassatas that go well with a glass of Marsala.
Nature

Gallinara Island

In Liguria, the wonder of the Gallinara Island Nature Reserve Ladies and Gentlemen, the Gallinara Island Nature Reserve. A protected marine area that on maps is just a dot: yet, on what is Liguria's only true island, wonder is in every corner. One only has to look around to see a still unspoilt environment of incredible historical, environmental and cultural value. For diving enthusiasts, then, this is a true paradise where they can look for the wrecks of ancient shipwrecks and caves guarding an incredible biodiversity. A boat trip to see it up close Located opposite Albenga, this jewel of the Riviera di Ponente is private and, therefore, tourist visits are not possible. However, it can be admired from close range by taking a boat trip, during which you can perhaps explore the seabed by snorkelling: you will come face to face with the rich and varied marine fauna. The reserve is one and a half kilometres away from the coast, from which it is separated by a channel of about 12 metres. A legend that may be history Legend has it that St Martin, Bishop of Tours, found refuge on the island of Gallinara. He settled in a cave facing the open sea, which for this reason still bears his name. This was a thesis that the Authority for Archaeological Heritage of Liguria advocated in the 1990s, conducting excavations along the south-eastern slopes of the island and in the San Martino cave that yielded important answers. This area was certainly used both as a burial ground and as a place of worship from the 4th century AD onwards, and hermits stayed on the island for a long time. History suggests that a Benedictine monastery existed here in 500 AD and during the 8th century, the monks made it the seat of a powerful abbey. After a period of prosperity between the 10th and 12th centuries, decline began in 1473 and from the mid-1800s it became a private area. It has been part of the Protected Areas system of the Liguria Region since 1989. Herring gulls and land tortoises On theIsland of Gallinara, herring gulls nest, especially on the high southern cliffs, and there are colonies of land tortoises. Among the seabed, however, it is possible to see yellow sponges, sea daisies and, among the rocky cliffs, formations of the Coralligeno. The northern part of the island is rich in Posidonia oceanica. Where to experience the most spectacular dives There are two diving spots on the island. The first is Punta Falconara or Christ the Redeemer: a second name that has existed since 1998, when a statue depicting a Christ was placed on these seabeds. Amidst sea daisies and benthic fauna, it is an easy dive to a maximum depth of 18 metres. The second dive site is Punta Sciusciau: more exposed to currents, this dive will allow you to admire groupers, moray eels, octopus and scorpion fish. If you go deeper, around 30 metres, you will instead find numerous sea sponges.
Nature

Capri

Capri, island of dreams The island of Capri is a rare concentration of scenic beauty, wonders of archaeology, architecture and nature, and where the air smells like orange blossoms. Exploring Capri is easy on foot, walking along between the remains of the Roman emperor's villas, and the residences left by those who fell in love with the island between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is not only for those looking for glamour: Capri offers an extraordinary history, a spectacular sea, an unrivaled panorama and refined hospitality. What to see in Capri You’ll understand at first glance: the fame given to Capri is well deserved. The shape of the island offers infinite vistas: cliffs overlooking the sea, impassable cliffs flanked by sloping terraced terrains. A more than generous amount of nature, an ideal climate and a variety of rare botanic plants: 850 species, some of these thanks to the many travelers who lived there, bringing with them seeds and plants from the five contents. The sea is splendid, with caves and sea stacks. Capri’s history is full of events, stories and characters, including that of the Roman emperors and European aristocracy who rediscovered it in the nineteenth century. It would be a real shame to go there for a rushed day and not stay long enough to capture its genius loci (spirit). Arriving from the port, you go up to the famous Piazzetta by cable car, a delightful open space dominated by the clock tower with coffee terraces and a balcony overlooking the sea. This is the crossroads of all the paths for exploring the island. Half an hour from the Piazzetta, following the blue and green earthenware arrows, a nice path between the gardens of beautiful houses leads you to Villa Jovis. The magnificent archaeological site overlooking the sea in front of Punta della Campanella on the Sorrento peninsula. This was one of the palaces in which Emperor Tiberius made Capri the caput mundi, for a decade from 27 to 37 AD. A little further on you’ll find villa Lysis, commissioned by an eccentric French man Jacques Fersen, as a romantic getaway in the depths of a park, which you can visit. Another noteworthy twentieth century villa is the one that writer Curzio Malaparte had built on the cliff. It is an example of rationalist architecture, it is private, but can be seen from above from via del Pizzolungo. From the Piazzetta, if you head South, you reach Certosa di San Giacomo, which documents the monastic Middle Ages of Capri. From there you can take via Krupp,built by the German king of steel in 1902, and considered by many as the most beautiful street in the world, however it is often closed due to landslides. Go down to Giardini di Augusto, a botanical garden with sea views, to reach the inlet of Marina Piccola, a rocky beach on turquoise sea. From here head back up to the Acattolico monumental cemetery, from there you’ll find the road forAnacapri. What to see at Anacapri In Anacapri, from the highest part of Capri, it is easy to understand how this snail shaped island may have captivated Roman emperors, captains of industry, writers and poets: Norman Douglas, Maksim Gorkij, Alberto Moravia, Curzio Malaparte, Compton Mackenzie, Ada Negri, to name but a few! In the historic centre you must see the Casa Rossa, red house, an eclectic styled construction from 1876 built by an American colonel. It now exhibits a permanent collection of paintings with views of the island, and 4 Roman statues found in the Grotta Azzurra, blue cave. The San Michele church is not to be missed, also noteworthy the splendid Neopolitan majolica paving stones from the eighteenth century, the ruins of the Barbarossa castle, the excavation remains of villa imperiale di Damecuta, the chairlift vistas up to Mount Solaro (589 m) and of course the San Michele Villa. The San Michele Villa of whitewashed walls, was built at the end of the 19th century by the Swedish doctor and writer, Axel Munthe. He contributed a lot to making Capri famous worldwide with his bestseller The Story of San Michele, which is the autobiography of his life, his truly extraordinary life. As a museum, the villa preserves statues and relics from the Roman era found by Munthe while excavating archaeological sites. It would be worth visiting just to enjoy the legendary panorama along the row of columns, on the corner of the garden. Munthe (who followed several archaeological campaigns even in Egypt) placed a pink granite Sphinx here dated from the 11th century BC. Commenting on his house he wrote “I want it to be open to the sun, the wind and the voice of the sea, because the soul needs more space than the body”. Under Villa San Michele, you can go down to the Marina Grande port. Taking the so-called Scala Fenicia, (Phoenician staircase of 970 steps), although built in stone by Greek colonists in the sixth century BC. You’ll see lemon groves that look like gardens and the sea always on the horizon. One thing left to do, have a little boat tour of the island: the Grotta Azzurra, blue cave is a truly stunning shade of blue with an awe inspiring view of the sea stacks. Quite evident by now, Capri’s fame is more than well deserved.
Art & Culture
Arcades of the church San Pietro, Porto Venere - Liguria

Portovenere

Porto Venere, in the park where nature is poetry The name of a goddess is fitting: Porto Venere rises from the waters in a splendid position at the southern end of the peninsula in the Gulf of Poets. For lovers of the sea, this is a true paradise, among the UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Porto Venere Regional Natural Park includes the ancient village, the Protected Marine Area to protect the purity of the waters, and the three nearby islands: Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto. The joys of the sea Regular ferries departing from Porto Venere land on the island in front of Palmaria, a splendid marine oasis. You could be content with just a panoramic sea tour, admiring the other two islets in the archipelago, Tino and Tinetto, but it is worth stopping on Palmaria to enjoy an amazing day at sea. The beaches here are among the most beautiful in Liguria. Once on Palmaria, the ferry stops at Cala Pozzale and Cala Fornace, beaches that cannot be reached in any other way. In the first, the tongue of pebbles and small rocks is framed by pine and myrtle trees and the water is emerald, as it is also in the second, a bay with a cliff behind it. Larger is the Spiaggia del Secco, on the tip of the same name, equipped to provide every comfort. For divers, the wonder continues in the seabed, a diverse world of sheer cliffs that continue into the depths and submerged caves. Seahorses, starfish and the Poseidonia prairie of aquatic plants are just some of the surprises you will encounter while diving. And all it takes is a simple mask to get lost among the fish. By boat, you can visit the Blue Grotto, so called because the reflections of light paint a palette in all shades of blue. If you wish to explore the interior of the island, you can set off along the well-maintained paths organised in loops for a total walking time of about 3.5 hours, with dry stretches alternating with patches of Mediterranean scrub. Nature and architecture, allies in a magical setting Porto Venere boasts a prestigious history, dating back to the 6th century BC, in Roman times. Here, nature meets architecture, because among the alleys and houses with their typical pastel colours are ancient testimonies of the many peoples who have passed through this strategic military and commercial port. At St Peter's Church you will appreciate the two buildings, one more recent in Gothic style, the other Romanesque, and you will be amazed by the location. The complex is perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the sea, the Promontorio delle Bocche: a place surrounded by an atmosphere of spirituality enhanced by its natural setting. Look out from the loggia outside for a view of the coastline framed by the arches. The Sanctuary of the Madonna Bianca, in the old town, is an imposing Romanesque masterpiece, and after visiting it, go up again to the highest point of Porto Venere with the Doria Castle, the fortification that watches over the sea. An inspiring place: Byron's Cave Without moving too far from the old town, Porto Venere offers small beaches to cool off with a dip. The place not to be missed, however, is Byron's Grotto, near St Peter's Church, so named because the British poet found inspiration for his writing there. You can get there on foot via a footpath or by private boat. Jump in equipped with a mask and let yourself be captivated by this deep cavern carved out of an impressive cliff. Also observe the cave walls, rich in fascinating concretions. In the evening, shopping and the pleasures of the table A walk through the village is also an invitation to go shopping. You will be attracted by the hand-painted silks and shawls of ancient tradition, the precious “mezzari” once used by local women to cover their heads and now reinvented in fashion. Also interesting are the vibrantly coloured majolica tiles on sale in the many ateliers. Then choose a restaurant, either with an intimate and romantic atmosphere in the old town or in movida style on the promenade characterised by the Palazzata: the row of tower-houses built on several floors clinging to each other against the rock. When ordering, remember that Porto Venere is famous for its mussels, oysters, sea bass and sea bream, plus a species of shellfish named after the place. The mussels of Porto Venere, similar to mussels, are delicious fried or as a condiment for a dish of spaghetti.
Nature

The island of Asinara

The island of Asinara: the long history of a magical place The Romans called it the Island of Hercules before it became a land of contention between the Maritime Republics of Pisa and Genoa, then domain of the Savoy, a place of confinement, leper house and prison. The island of Asinara has had a long and troubled history, but almost a century of isolation has made it a still unspoilt natural paradise. Today, a protected marine area to be explored on foot, by bicycle or boat, discovering the wilder and rockier west coast and shallow shores and sandy seabed of the east. Donkey Island According to legend, Hercules grasped the end of Sardinia with his mighty hand, tearing it from the mainland, hence the name, Herculis Insula. Later called Sinuaria for the wealth of gulfs and inlets on its 110 km of coast. Asinara is perhaps a mispronunciation of the Latin or perhaps it refers to the white donkeys that have lived there since time immemorial and still live free on the island. A story that begins in the Neolithic In the Campu Perdu area, in the north of the island is a domus de janas, evidence that these places were inhabited since the Neolithic period. A few wrecks found in the sea remain from Roman times. One is still visible a few metres from the jetty in Cala Reale. Over time, the island had to deal with Arab raids, later skirmishes between Pisa and Genoa for supremacy in the Mediterranean. It was the Ligurian Malaspina who built the Castellaccio here, which dominates the entire gulf from above. The pirate Barbarossa landed nearby to hide between robberies. In 1885, Asinara became a penal colony and the island's inhabitants had to leave. Many of them founded Stintino, then called Cala Savoia. Since then, the island remained inaccessible for over a century. Only since 1998, when the maximum security prison was closed, has it reopened to visitors. Asinara's most beautiful beaches Being a protected reserve, not all beaches on the island are accessible. These can only be admired from afar, Cala Sant'Andrea and Cala d'Arena. Caretta caretta turtles lay their eggs here. Cala Sabina can be reached via ancient mule track. It is 30 minutes from Cala d’Oliva. Near Cala d’Oliva are Cala Murichessa and Cala Giardino. Don't miss Cala di Sgombro at the narrowest point on the island: steep cliff with rough sea on one side, sandy seabed with a calm sea on the other. On foot, by bike, off-road... or swimming! Thebest way to immerse yourself in the Asinara National Park wilderness is to walk around it. But watch out for the sun: there is hardly any shade. Also bring sufficient water because there are only two cafes on the island. In Cala Reale you can hire electric bikes and cars, sailboats and canoes. Or book an off-road tour accompanied by Geomarine Environmental Guides. This is the only way to visit certain areas of the island like Cala Trabuccato and Punta Scorno. A visit to Asinara cannot be complete without a dip in its crystal-clear waters. Not only for a refreshing swim in the water in shades of blue to green, but also to observe the wonderful seabed populated by countless creatures: a snorkelling paradise. During a boat trip it is easy to spot dolphins, even sea turtles. Not only nature: what else to visit Although nature is the dominant feature, there are many human traces to be discovered around the island. In addition to the Neolithic Campu Perdu domus de janas and the Castellaccio ruins, several watchtowers built in the 16th century can be found along the coast. The Ossuary, built to house the remains of thousands of Austro-Hungarian prisoners during the WWI, dates back to 1936. In Cala Reale, there is the Royal Palace, former summer residence of the Savoy family. In Fornelli, you can visit the old prison.
Nature
Lipari - Isole Eolie, Sicilia

Lipari

Lipari the sweet, the most placid of the Aeolian Islands At 37 square kilometres, Lipari is the largest of the Aeolian Islands, a World Heritage Site for anyone who has passed through here and, since 2000, for UNESCO as well. The administrative and economic centre of the entire Sicilian archipelago, it is the least “volcanic” of its 7 islands, as evidenced by the weak hydrothermal and fumarole activity in its western part. Take note, however, it is the one that best harmonises the wild Aeolian charm with the convenience of connections and services. The evening nightlife and the flow authenticity of the quarters The urban area stretches between the bars and restaurants overlooking the beautiful Piazza di Sant'Onofrio, also known as Marina Corta, and Via Francesco Crispi, known as Marina Lunga: in between, from May to October, the local nightlife and movida is focused in the evenings. The rest of the island is well-connected to the centre by a network of paved roads, but if you really want to get into its flow of scents, sounds and sights and savour some of that placid sweetness alluded to by its Greek name, Meligunis, we recommend that you go around Lipari by bike or walk around the island, loitering among the dry stone walls of its districts: Canneto, Acquacalda, Quattropani. Like on a film set As well as beach life, if you are planning to delve into the culture and history of Lipari, the advice is to visit sights and monuments by sunset, when the air is cooler and the streets come alive. A must-see is the Chiostro de normanni, part of the first Benedictine monastery built in Sicily at the behest of King Roger II, so well preserved and evocative that you will feel as if you are on the set of a costume film. Equally scenic is the imposing structure of the castle, a veritable acropolis, which stands on a promontory inhabited since the Neolithic period. The city walls ideally enclose the historic centre: in the fortified citadel, an archaeologist's paradise, every nook and cranny in which you stand tells a page of history: it will be like retracing the long list of dominations that have taken place here, leaving an indelible imprint. To explore further, venture through the fifty rooms of the Regional Archaeological Museum, one of the most prestigious in the Mediterranean. Bartholomew's thumb On the other hand, if you are a fan of relics, make a stop inside the Castle at the Cathedral, dedicated to St Bartholomew, the patron saint of the entire archipelago: the church still houses the saint's “sacred thumb”, the only fragment that mysteriously escaped the 833 abduction of the apostle's body by the Beneventois. Now the finger “rests” in a silver reliquary in the shape of a blessing arm, displayed during festivities in honour of the saint. Belvedere hunting For collectors of views, we recommend feasting your eyes on Lipari's most scenic spots, starting from the Acropolis promontory. Worth a souvenir photo, and perhaps even a romantic selfie between sky and sea, the horizon contemplated from Belvedere Quattrocchi, against the backdrop of the Pietra Lunga and Pietra Menalda stacks. Instead, the view from the church of Madonna della Catena in the hamlet of Quattropani, a small, white-plastered Doric-style sanctuary overhanging the sea, is reminiscent of the Cyclades. Finally, the so-called “Semaforo”, the geophysical observatory housed inside a disused Royal Navy traffic light, is worth a hike, from which you will feel as if you are touching both the stacks and the island of Vulcano with your finger. In the mood for trekking... or rather scekking On the other hand, if you pursue the wild soul of the island, one of the most interesting trekking trails is the rather demanding one that leads from the kaolin quarries to the San Calogero thermal baths, along the sulphur fumaroles, a geo-mineral park, up to the 19th-century thermal baths converted into a museum, built on one of the oldest known thermal springs: next to its pools, dating from the Hellenistic period, is a funeral monument of Mycenaean origin. But the most typical experience you can have along these paths is that of scekking, or trekking on the back of a donkey, scecco in Sicilian, proposed by the environmental guides of Lipari: an original way of redeveloping the island's former tenants for tourism, now promoted as guides for slow itineraries, divided into appetising stages where local products can be tasted. Beaches: to each his own stone White and sandy or volcanic and rocky: the coasts and beaches of Lipari satisfy the needs of every bather. You just have to decide which stone to lie on. The entire north-eastern coastline is covered with the dazzling white sand from the pumice and obsidian quarries that descend to the sea: from White Beach, reached by a steep flight of majolica steps, to White Beach, the most fashionable and exclusive establishment, which can only be reached by sea. If you prefer empty and secluded shores, head to the beaches at Pietraliscia or Porticello, or to the Secca della Forbice, in the Cappero area, much loved by the locals.
Nature
Vulcano - Isole Eolie, Sicilia

Vulcano

Vulcano: the Aeolian island with a relaxing open-air spa If you want to make peace with nature, de-stress and detox from sedentary habits, Vulcano, with its full-of-life, primordial and, above all, healthy elements, is the island for you: its irrepressible volcanic temperament and spectacular, untamed landscape will help you relax and regain your inner balance. Welcoming and friendly Vulcano, a UNESCO World Heritage site less than a kilometre from Lipari, is the closest to the coast among the seven islands of the Aeolian archipelago. On this strip of Sicilian land, under the benevolent gaze of the ancient dormant “Vulcano” volcano, you can delight in the benefits of the thermal and sulphurous waters and an unspoilt seascape, for a holiday far from the masses. The island is very compact, so the best way to travel is by scooter or bicycle. A healthy volcanic vigour According to Greek mythology, Vulcano once housed the forges of Hephaestus, the god of fire and blacksmiths, who was served by none other than the Cyclops. Even though the last eruption on the island, composed of four original craters, was recorded around 1890, the ancient volcano continues to make its presence known through fumaroles, the jets of steam on the crest and on the seabed, and the sulphurous muds renowned for their therapeutic properties. Despite the overwhelming smell of sulphur, if you’re passing by Vulcano, you cannot miss out on the exciting experience of diving into the thermal mud baths, natural volcanic pools with curative properties. It was first made accessible to the public in the 1960s, when the superficial crust covering the pool was removed, without altering the natural habitat. This open-air spa offers remarkable benefits: it can sooth inflammation and pain, heal the skin and is a real pick-me-up for the respiratory system. A hike to the summit with breathtaking views Why not follow your mud bath with a dip in the island's crystal-clear waters? Or this might be your final stop for a well-deserved refreshment after a challenging hike to Vulcano’s Great Fossa Crater, at 391 metres above sea level. It is a somewhat strenuous seven-kilometre route, but is suitable for everyone. We recommend hiking during the cooler hours of the day: it is a three-hour round trip, but it is well worth it for the breathtaking 360-degree views of the archipelago at the summit. Jurassic park in lava stone Starting from Porto Levante, in the northern part of the island, you can head along a paved road to the Vulcanello peninsula: one of the three original eruptive craters of Vulcano, whose activity has shaped a surreal landscape known by the locals as the 'Valley of the Monsters'. Here, on a carpet of fine black sand, nature has fashioned a bizarre kind of Jurassic Park out of lava rock. When you let your imagination run wild, in these sculptures eroded by water and wind you will begin to see fantastical prehistoric monsters, crouching beasts and menacing creatures: in reality, nothing but bubbling lava formations solidified by a sudden cooling of the air. Black beaches with reflective natural pools After tackling monster valleys and volcanic treks, you deserve to treat yourself to some seaside relaxation. The shores of Vulcano are famous for their dark beaches and seabeds, where the lava stone plays with the sunlight’s reflections as it filters through the water, creating striking effects, especially at sunset. You can get a great picture of this at the Sabbie nere (Black Sands) beach, in the bay of Ponente, perhaps the most famous beach on Vulcano. From here, you can hire a boat and visit the enchanting Cavallo cave. Then there is the nearby Pool of Venus, which can only be reached by sea but is well worth the effort: also known as Bagno delle Vergini, it is an immense natural pool of tuff and basalt with inviting turquoise waters. Relaxation and nightlife: all in one beach If, on the other hand, you want to pamper yourself with a dip in bubbling water heated by sulphur vapours, you should stop by Fumarole beach, protected by a wall of rocks and Mediterranean scrubland, nestled in the bay of Ponente. Easily accessible by taxi boat or by taking a downhill path from the main road, Asino beach, private and secluded during the day, becomes a popular destination at night: this well-furnished cove hosts a fantastic bar where you can spend unforgettable evenings amid music and cocktails, the sea and starlit skies.
Nature
Panarea - Isole Eolie, Sicilia

Panarea

Panarea, the smallest island of the Aeolian Islands Panarea is the smallest and lowest of the 7 Aeolian islands, but also the oldest, geologically speaking. With its rocks and islets, it forms a kind of “archipelago within an archipelago” in the stretch of sea between Lipari and Stromboli. An unspoilt paradise in the Sicilian sunlight, at sunset becoming the queen of nightlife, epicentre of Aeolian social life. Exclusive destination with an ancient heart Discovered in the 1960s by a large community of artists and intellectuals in search of a lost Eden, a set celebrated by legendary films, over the decades the island has become a popular destination for tourism and the international jet set, attracted by its black beaches, thermal mud baths, whitewashed houses overlooking the sea, amidst patches of bougainvillea, capers and prickly pears. In the small town of San Pietro, the centre of the archipelago's summer nightlife, among clubs and discos to dance until dawn, among boutiques and restaurants, you can also visit a small branch of the Lipari Archaeological Museum: it preserves artefacts that testify to the island's ancient history, from the Neolithic period to the Bronze Age, almost all from the prehistoric village of Capo Milazzese. The fumaroles, the breath of the ancient volcano Traces of the ancient volcanic activity can still be found in the vapours of a series of fumaroles, which emanate from the cracks between the rocks of the Calcara beach and from the sea, where the gas escaping from the seabed forms columns of bubbles visible on the surface. In contrada San Pietro, a thermal spring also gushes out at a temperature of 50°C, used by the island's inhabitants for therapeutic purposes. A single concrete strip crosses the island: no cars are allowed here, but scooters, bicycles and Piaggio Ape cars can be hired to get around. Everything is so cosy that you can reach the other two hamlets on the island, Drautto and Ditella, directly on foot or, if you are tired or laden, aboard the Aeolian taxis, charming little gigs on wheels designed to transport people and luggage. The beaches: beautiful and all to conquer Most of Panarea's coastline consists of high, jagged cliffs, from which it is difficult to access the sea. The beaches here are few and not all within walking distance; however, they are among the most beautiful in the entire archipelago. Only a couple are accessible by land: Cala Junco, along the southern coast of the island, an enchanting natural pool with crystal-clear turquoise waters, protected by high cliffs, also famous for the prehistoric village of Punta Milazzese behind it, consisting of the remains of 23 oval huts. Along the same path, you will also come across Cala degli Zimmari, in a bay backed by a cliff and Mediterranean scrub, the only sandy beach on the entire island, known for its characteristic red colour that, by contrast, gives the sea that washes it a unique cobalt blue hue. Sea excursions and romantic traditions In Panarea, the most popular sport is to rent a boat and head out to sea, to discover the many little-visited coves nestled between its cliffs, islets and seascapes. If you reach Panarea in sweet company, one destination is a must: just 3 kilometres from the east coast is the islet of Lisca Bianca. Formerly exploited as an alum quarry, it houses among its ravines the famous Lovers' Cave: according to legend, lovers who kiss under its rocky vault will remain united for life.
Nature

Erice

Erice, city of the goddess Venus One of Sicily's most enchanting locations, Erice is like an eagle's nest from which you can enjoy magnificent views over vast areas of the island as far as the Egadi archipelago and the Tunisian coast. Perched on a cliff 750 metres above sea level, its curious triangular perimeter preserves not only monuments and mediaeval churches of great worth, but also a contemporary art centre and a prestigious scientific institution. Erice is a jewel of art and culture with a thousand-year history, that deserves to be visited at least once in a lifetime. A treasure chest of artistic and archaeological treasures The origins of Erice are very ancient and can be traced back to the Elymian people; it was founded by the union of the local population with Trojan exiles. Beyond the myth of its foundation, Erice was also known to the Romans due to a sanctuary built on a steep cliff, dedicated to the worship of the Greek goddess Aphrodite and the Roman goddess of fertility and love, Venus Ericina, where sacred prostitution was practised. To erase that pagan symbol, a thousand years later, the Norman princes of Altavilla had a manor built, which is still called the Castle of Venus: inside, you can visit an exhibition of archaeological finds from the Archaic to the Norman age. From the castle, through the Balio garden, one enters the elegant mediaeval old town with its carpet-like stone pavement and narrow alleyways, because space within the walls has always been scarce. Here, you must see the church of San Giovanni Battista with its round dome and Norman Gothic portal, the Antonino Cordici museum in the former convent of San Francesco where, among the finds from the Erice necropolis, a head of Aphrodite from the 4th century BC is on display; and the museum of contemporary art La Salerniana in the former convent of San Carlo. Continuing towards Piazza Umberto you will find the Centro per la Cultura Scientifica Majorana (Majorana Centre for Scientific Culture) in the former monastery of San Pietro, which hosts symposia and conferences on various scientific disciplines every year. Towards Porta Trapani is the elegant Piazza Matrice with the 14th-century Cathedral of Erice, with a Gothic pronaos and portal and, inside, majestic naves with pointed arches. The nine Greek marble crosses on the south wall were hung in 1685 and also come from the temple of Venus, whose cult is believed to have been still practised at that time. Beyond the Porta del Carmine along Via dell'Addolorata you come to the so-called Quartiere Spagnolo, which is not a real quarter but a building, that was supposed to house Spanish troops but remained unfinished. Today it is home to permanent exhibitions on Erice and the territory. The view from its terrace will leave you breathless. Trekking on Mount Erice The amenity of the place is such that you will yearn to explore the territory of Mount Erice. To do so, there are the Agro Ericino trails, various trekking routes that start mostly from the arrival of the funicular railway from Trapani to cross the state forest, or to discover the three rock churches scattered around the mountain. Above Erice, there is also a CAI (Club Alpino Italiano - Italian Alpine Club) hut, to explore the area and also go to Mount Cofano and San Vito Lo Capo. Genovesi and martorana fruit: discovering traditional sweets If you have worked up an appetite on your walk, there is no shortage of patisseries in Erice. The town has a strong tradition of sweets whose recipes are said to have been handed down by the nuns of the cloistered monasteries of Erice. The most typical are the genovese, a shortcrust pastry morsel filled with cream that is eaten while still warm; mustazzoli, aromatic biscuits made of hard, crunchy pastry; ripostetti, filled with citron conserve and decorated with pastel-coloured icing; almond morsels, quaresimali and martorana fruit. The most renowned pastry shops are those of Maria Grammatico, which also organise cooking classes, and San Carlo, both in the old city centre. The desserts are well matched with a glass of sweet Marsala from the vineyards grown just below Mount Erice. For more information www.fondazioneericearte.org