Tonnara Beach, pearl of the Vendicari Reserve
This is a natural oasis, a virgin territory bathed in Mediterranean maquis and overlooking a spectacular stretch of coastline. The Vendicari Reserve, a protected area in eastern Sicily, offers visitors a wealth of splendid views.
Paths end in visions of magnificent beaches lapped by crystal-clear waters. First of all, let’s visit the Spiaggia della Tonnara.
The iridescent reflections of the sea
On the reserve's 13 kilometres of coastline, the Spiaggia della Tonnara (Tuna Beach) stands out in the southern part, with its long sandy shoreline and a number of scenic rocks. The seabed is shallow and gently sloping, so you will have to walk a little before you get to the point where you can finally dive in.
The water ranges in hues from green to turquoise, from azure to a blue that rivals the sky in its beauty. The richness of the marine flora will also capture your attention, characterised here by vast prairies of Poseidonia, the aquatic plants found both on the beach and in the very first few metres of the seabed.
The tradition of tuna fishing
Opposite the beach is the islet of Vendicari, along the coast is the Torre Sveva and the remains of the ancient tuna fishery with its artefacts of “fishing archaeology”. This is because Sicily boasts a very ancient tradition of catching and processing tuna, which gave rise to these fascinating buildings. The Tonnara di Vendicari fishery, also known as Bafutu, skims the water and today we can appreciate its recently restored ruins. It is 100 metres in length with a series of columns that once supported the roof, and it has a tall chimney. You will also see the old fishermen's houses here.
The Sveva Tower is a defensive structure built in 1400 to protect the warehouses where foodstuffs were stored in what was once a thriving port. The impressive building still has its original windows.
Amid beaches and footpaths
It is a real pleasure to walk or cycle around the Vendicari Reserve, which covers 1,512 hectares in the province of Syracuse, from the town of Noto to Pachino. You will come across other beaches, such as the magnificent San Lorenzo beach, which is very child-friendly and also close to the Spiaggia della Tonnara, of which it is the natural extension.
In addition to the section dominated by fine, light-coloured sand, you will also find small rocky inlets and a gem of a beach, Calamosche, a delightful sandy cove bordered by two rocky promontories that shelter it from the tides and create an enchanting natural swimming pool.
Along the path leading to San Lorenzo beach, huts have been set up for birdwatching. You will wander among junipers, tamarisks, mastic trees and glasswort, beautiful orchids, thyme and rosemary bushes. Look up to the sky to spot grey herons and large flocks of herring gulls, while a few foxes, hedgehogs, porcupines and wild rabbits may roam among the vegetation.
And even further south...
Towards the extreme southern tip of Sicily, the Isola delle Correnti is where the Ionian and Mediterranean Seas meet. Untamed and unspoilt, it is connected to Portopalo by a thin sliver of stone. Then head to Marzamemi, a charming fishing village built around its majestic tuna fishery. The central Regina Margherita square with its two churches and old fishermen's houses all around is delightful.
Enjoy a leisurely stroll; the entire village is pedestrianised so no cars are allowed to drive through. Sip a coffee while enjoying a view of the sea, in one of the small cafés overlooking the two natural harbours, La Fossa and La Balata. Settle down at an outdoor table in one of the many restaurants and order prawns from Mazara del Vallo, pasta with cherry tomatoes from Pachino and specialities made from ventresca, botargo and bluefin tuna mosciame, which you can also buy in the large emporium in the historic centre.