Island hopping from Marsala: favignana, Levanzo, San Pantaleo and Isola Grande
Island hopping from Marsala is a good way to discover the fascinating nature of the Mediterranean Sea.
I’ve already written about Marsala, a lovely town located on the western coast of Sicily, the biggest Italian island. The town is still out of the most touristy routes and this is good, especially if you’re looking for places that are authentic.
Marsala is famous above all for its fortified wine, called Marsala. The town has historical sites, gorgeous beaches, high quality restaurants and bars and of course a bunch of islands that are close to the coast.
Let’s discover them.
The first destination of your island hopping from Marsala is definitely Favignana.
It is the largest of the Aegadian Islands and is also called La Farfalla, the butterfly, because of its shape. It is 15km off the coast of Trapani.
Favignana is mainly known for the crystal clear water, the relaxing atmosphere, the various caves and scenic rock formations and the beautiful beaches, such as Cala Rossa.
The main town on the island in also called Favignana. The Fort of Santa Caterina, built by the Arabs, is one of the main attractions along with Palazzo Florio.
The best way to enjoy Favignana is surely by boat. If you love snorkeling or scuba diving, the island has plenty of great spots.
Isle of Levanzo
Island hopping from Marsala should include Levanzo.
Levanzo is north of Favignana and it is the smallest of the Aegadian Islands. Less than 500 people live there!
As you can immagine, Levanzo is a heap of beauty. The main village, the beaches and every corner of this island is able to make you feel like you’re on another planet, where life is still simple and slow.
Levanzo is famous for the Genovese Caves, decorated with prehistoric paintings, and the Capo Grosso Lighthouse.
Island of San Pantaleo
The island of Pantaleo is quite small, but in ancient time it was inhabited by a powerful Phoenician community, called Mozia or Motya, and was joined to Sicily by a man-made causeway.
Nowadays the causeway is completely submerged but on the island are still visible many ruins of those times.
The island belongs to the Whitaker Foundation, and it is open to the public only during specific hours. The only two access to the island are two private jetties and disembarkation must always be authorized.
The name means Big Island, in fact Isola Grande is the largest island in the Stagnone channel.
The most fascinating feature of this island is the complex of lagoons that formed during time.
These lagoons are filled with salt giving to water a unique reddish color that leaves breathless.
The lagoon can be visited and you can also walk on walkways that cross the water, giving you the chance to take wonderful pictures of the strange colored water.
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There’s so much to see in Sicily!
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Even if Levanzo is the smallest island of the Aegadian islands, it is a beautiful place that I suggest you to visit during your holidays in Sicily.
Only a few people live on this island so, in my opinion, it is the perfect destination for those who would like to spend some time in quiet and in contact with nature.
Its coastlines are very jagged and some points can be reached only by boat. And one of the most beautiful things to visit in Levanzo are the beaches.
The Beaches of Levanzo
At the beaches of Levanzo you wont’ find fancy clubs, loud music and cocktails; there will be only you and the sea. Isn’t it great?
If you are passionate of snorkeling and scuba diving, I’m sure you will adore these places.
Here are some gorgeous beaches.
Cala Fredda is located on the south-east coast of Levanzo. It has gravel, white sand and a light blue sea. The water is so clear that it is possible to see the rocks underwater and the multicolor seabed. All around there are bare plain hills.
Also Cala Minnola is located on the south-east coast of Levanzo and the water here is clear too.
Unlike Cala Fredda, this beach is surrounded by a dense pine grove where it is possible to get covered by the sun and rest during the hottest hours of the day. It is equipped with wooden tables and benches.
The most interesting thing of Cala Minola is the Roman relict with ancient amphorae and fragments of vases dating back to the 1st century AD. It is at about at 27/30 metres under the sea level.
Cala Tramontana is located on the northern coast. It is the largest beach of Levanzo and it is surrounded by high red rock walls. In this area caves are quite common.
Cara Faraglione is located on the south-west coast of Levanzo and it is considered one of the most beautiful beaches of Italy.
As its name suggests, its main characteristic is the ‘faraglione’ a cliff that rises from the sea just in front of the beach. Beyond the cliff, at the horizon, it is possible to see the Favignana and Marettimo islands.
I suggest you to visit Cala Faraglione at sunset time. The light is perfect for your Instagram photos.
The Genovese Cave
The Genovese Cave is the main tourist attraction of Levanzo.
This cave has engravings and paintings that date back to two different and very distant historical periods. The engravings date back to the Paleolithic (about 10000 years ago), most of them depict animals. The paintings date back to the Neolithic (about 6000/7000 years ago) and they depict dancing figures.
You may think that this cave hasn’t been used between these two periods, and you are right. The reason is simple: Levanzo was isolated.
Around the 5000 BC the stripe of land that connected Levanzo to Sicily started to disappear and the residents had to move to survive. Only later, during the Neolithic, people were able to go back to Levanzo.
A visit to the Genovese Cave is a very suggestive experience because it takes you back in time and let you understand something more about the life of ancient inhabitants and their rituals, for which the cave was particularly used.
The cave consists of 2 different spaces.
The entrance is a 12 meters long aisle for initiations and rites. A second larger space is where the engravings and the paintings are,
The Genovese Cave is located on the north-east coast of the island and has been accidentally discovered in 1949 by a painter. She immediately understood the archaeological importance of this place.
If you want to visit the cave, you have to talk with the guardian. You can find him at the little harbor of Levanzo Town.
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If you are going to spend your Easter in Sicily, you are probably looking for some advices about where to go and what to do.
As in other Italian regions, in Sicily it is possible to participate in many religious processions and events that depict the Las Supper or the Passion of Christ. These events are held in almost every town. Each of them has its own peculiarities, however they usually follow a standard schedule.
I’m more interested about telling you something on 3 events that are, in my opinion, very unique since they mix religious and pagan traditions.
Easter in Terrasini: La festa di li Schietti
In Terrasini, a town near Palermo, people celebrate Easter in a special way.
They organize la Festa delli Schietti, dedicated to all the bachelors in town. In fact, ‘schietti’ is a local word that refer to those men who aren’t married.
During the celebration the bachelors compete for the attention of unmarried women. To be noticed they try to hold up a tree with one arm as long as they can! I’m not joking, they hold up a real orange o grapefruit tree.
The tree is felled and decorated on the previous day and usually weights around 50, 55 kilos.
The man who holds the tree for the longest time wins the contest.
Some people say that this tradition dates back to the 19th century, others to the Saracen domination.
It has nothing to do with religion, it’s more a tradition for celebrating the rebirth of nature after winter. After all, Easter in Sicily is a moment of the year in which spring has completely blossom!
Terrassini is a lovely place to spend the Easter Monday.
The town face a crystal clear sea and is protected by hills. The coast is irregular and offers a wide variety of landscapes. One of the most popular attractions are the sea stacks at Praiola beach.
If you have enough time, take a trip to the natural reserve of Capo Rama. There’s a a massive 15th century lookout tower from which you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Gulf of Castellammare.
Easter in Prizzi: The Devils’ Dance
More or less at half way between Palermo and Trapani is Prizzi.
If you are going to spend Easter in Sicily this little town is worth a visit.
It is surrounded by mountain and hills, connected to other villages by wild twisting roads, quite isolated. And that’s part of his charm! Everything in Prizzi is quiet and relaxed. While walking through the streets you won’t probably see many cars or even people. Unless it’s Easter.
For Easter people of Prizzi organize one of the most popular celebrations in Sicily, called il ballo dei Diavoli, the Devils’Dance.
A man dressed up in a yellow costume with long tusks represents the Death and is followed by two men dressed up in red costumes with long tongues representing the devils. The three figures dance through the town bothering whoever they meet until they are offered money or food. However, they are on a mission. They want to prevent the meeting between two procession, one carrying the statue of Virgin Mary, the other carrying the statue of Jesus Christ. To do so, they have to follow a complex ritual in which the dance is fundamental and other figures dressed up as angels are involved.
Prizzi can be a nice destination also for a day trip during Easter Monday.
You can visit the ruins of an ancient Castle and its recently restored tower. If you love nature, just outside the town is the artificial lake of Prizzi where you can take great photos.
Easter in Adrano: La Diavolata
Apparently, Easter in Sicily is connected to the figure of the Devil.
In the town of Adrano, near Catania, is held an event similar to that of Prizzi, called La Diavolata.
This celebration dates back to the Middle Ages and is similar to a theatrical show.
A stage is built in the main town square. Five men dressed up as red devils come out of a trap door on the stage. Their exit is underlined with flames and smoke and is followed by the appearance of other figures: Lucifer, the Death dressed as a skeleton, and an angel performed by a child.
During the show the figures discuss about the Good and the Evil, until the Angel forces the devils to pronounce the phrase “Viva Maria” in honor to the Holy Virgin.
Adrano is close to Mount Etna and its main attractions are the Castle and the Saracen Bridge.
The Castle dates back to the 11th century but is perfectly preserved. It is easy to reach since it is right in the main town square where the Easter Show is held. Since 1958 is an Archaeological Museum.
The Saracen Bridge, Ponte dei Saraceni, is outside Adrano, about 4 kilometers from the town.
It’s a stone bridge which origins are really ancient, probably it was already there at the time of the Romans. This bridge is particularly enchanting thanks to the surroundings, with volcanic rocks, lawns and a small creek that flows under it.
As you can see, Easter in Sicily is more than just religious processions.
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The Carnival of Acireale is considered one the most fascinating celebrations in Sicilyand in Italy.
The tradition of Carnival is widespread throughout my country. It’s a period of the year between Christmas and Lent and is full of events and shows.
The main feature of Carnival is that people participating these events usually wear masks and costumes. It’s a joyful time!
The Carnival of Acireale has a long history behind, started at east during the 16th century. Over time the Carnival has been enriched with many details and customs, but the parade of the floats is definitively the main event.
In Acireale, skilled artisans build huge carnival floats satirically depicting situations and characters linked to politics and showbiz.
All the characters and scenes are made of papier-mâché, are decorated with an infinite number of lights and have hydraulic mechanismsthat allow the different parts to move and change. It’s said that the carnival floats of Acireale are among the most complex ones in the world. It takes months to build them! Watching them parading along the streets of the city, surrounded by music and happy people, it’s always an amazing experience!
The Carnival of Acireale includes two other parades. One is dedicated to smaller floats, many of which are miniature of the big ones.
The other is the so-called Carnevale Infiorato, the Floral Carnival, a sort of spin-off held in April during which the allegorical floats are replaced by floral ones.
The concept is the same, the huge size is the same, but the artisans use flower instead of the papier-mâché.
This floral parade was introduced in 1931 and initially was just about some cars decorated with flowers. Something similar takes place in another Italian city, Sanremo.
In 2019 the Carnival of Acireale will take place from February 27th to March 5th.
Exhibitions, markets and other eventsenrich the agenda. One is the medieval parade of Motta Sant’Anastasia. The Carnival ends on the evening of Shrove Tuesday with a fireworks show.
A visit to Acireale
Besides its Carnival, Acireale is lovely.
It’s located on the slopes of Mount Etna, a few kilometers from Catania, on a hill overlooking the sea.
The historic center has buildings in Baroque styleand Piazza Duomo is certainly one of the most amazing spots in the city. You can sit in a café, enjoy the scenario and taste a good gelato.
The proximity to Etna gave to the area around Acireale some volcanic springsthat has been transformed into spa.
These spas and the ski facilities on the nearby volcano make this city a good base for winter holidays. Of course, the crystal clear sea and the spectacular beaches with black rocks are perfect for the summer time.
In other words, Acireale is ready to welcome you throughout the year!
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Although manyof the accommodation of My Rental Homes in Sicily are located in the westernpart of the island, I think that the possibility of skiing on the volcano,located in the eastern part, is worth a few hours’ drive. It’s a thrillingexperience! Especially because Sicily, with its mediterranean climateand the Middle Eastern and Norman influences, looks like the mostunlikely destination for skiing.
Some infoabout Mount Etna
The volcano is is located 30 km from the city of Catania and it is considered the highest active one in Europe. Apart from the Alps it is the highest peak in Italy.
The current height of Mount Etna is about 3340 m, but it varies depending on the eruptions that raise or lower its top and modify its shape.
Actually, Mount Enta is not a single volcano but a complex of several cones and fractures from which the lava comes out.
A peculiar characteristic of Mount Etna is the great geological and landscape variety: there are green forests but also desert areas covered with dark volcanic rocks.
This variety isone of the reasons behind the creation of a protected area, open to the publicfor guided tours. Furthermore, Mount Etna was declared a World Heritage Siteby UNESCO in June 2013.
The ski resorts on Mount Etna
There are 2 main ski resorts on the volcano.
The first one is Nicolosi, on the south side of Mount Etna.
It has slopes for expert skiers and a ski lift. Skiing at Nicolosi is a great experience especially because of the unique scenario. There is no tall vegetation due to an eruption in the early 2000s and you can have a breathtaking view of Catania and the Mediterranean sea. If this is not enough, all you have to do is looking at the top of the volcano to take a look at the smoking summative craters.
The second one is Linguaglossa/Piano Provenza, on the north side.
This resort has both easy and difficult slopes and is equipped with a chair lift.
The landscape is totally different from Nicolosi. The pine forest creates an alpine atmosphere that clashes with the Mediterranean sea views.
The ski slopes on Mount Etna may not be as expansive and exciting as those in the Alps, but in general people say that they are smoother, less crowded and less expensive.
The smoothness is due to the lava ground that creates a more regular bottom for the snow.
Of course, on Mount Etna you can enjoy Alpine skiing, freeride skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing.
The ski lifts are open every day, even on holidays such as January 1st or similar, unless there are terrible weather conditions.
Usually at theski resorts you can rent some equipment or a ski instructor. There are alsobars or restaurants where you can eat or have a coffee.
When toski on Mount Etna
Thanks to its height, the summit of Mount Etna may be covered with snow from November to April. The quality and quantity of snow depends a lot on the general temperatures. I think that the period between December and January is the most suitable.
In any case, the resorts are equipped with snow cannons to compensate for any lack of natural snow.
If you arelucky to be in Sicily during the last part of a snowy winter, you maybe livethe experience of skiing wearing short sleeves!
Is skiingon Mount Etna dangerous? What about the eruptions?
Mount Etna is an active volcano and therefore regularly erupts. Fortunately, the eruptions are not explosive and can be managed somehow. So, you don’t have to worry about finding yourself in the midst of a sudden eruption while skiing!
Moreover, in case of eruptions the ski resorts are closed.
In my opinion,the greatest thing about skiing on Mount Etna is the contrast with the restof the island. Once you get off the slopes you will find yourself in acontext that has nothing to do with snowy peaks. Sicily has beautifulcities, enchanting beaches and an exceptional sea. That’s why it isappreciated as a summer destination. However, the climate is mild even inwinter. This means that skiing on Mount Etna gives you the chance toenjoy the best of summer and winter in just a single day.
Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily. What to see and what to do!
As you may have read in other articles on this blog, My Rental Homes has some new destinations. Today I want to talk about Sicily.
Sicily is a wonderful land. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean, it combines the influences of the different cultures that dominated it over the centuries: the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Normans and the Spaniards. This unique mix can be seen in architecture, in food, in language and customs of the island.
But Sicily is also beautiful for its nature, in particular the sea.
Some of the villas owned by My Rental Homes are located near Castellammare del Golfo, a small town that is worth discovering.
CASTELLAMMARE DEL GOLFO, WHAT TO SEE …
Castellammare del Golfo is near Trapani, in the northwest of Sicily, close to the Inici mountains and overlooking the homonymous gulf.
The city has a small peninsula that stretches towards the sea, with two beautiful beaches at its sides. Right on the peninsula there is one of the main attractions of Castellammare del golfo: the Arab-Norman Castle, built around the 10th century on the ruins of pre-existing fortifications.
The historic center of Castellammare del Golfo, with its churches and palaces, still preserves the charm of the past. It’s nice to walk through the streets, look at the windows of local shops or take part to the events that animate the summer evenings.
No matter how beautiful the city is, if you’re coming to Castellammare del Golfo for your holidays you’ll probably spend your days at the beach.
In this area the coast can be both sandy and rocky and that’s fantastic because you will never get tired! On the contrary, you can choose a different landscape every day.
In any case, the sea of Sicily will not disappoint you. Its clear light blue color is fabulous!
Not far from Castellammare del Golfo is the Zingaro Nature Reserve in which is located one of the most beautiful beaches of Sicily. It is Cala Capreria, a small beach of colored pebbles surrounded by hills. It is an uncontaminated and wild place.
… AND WHAT TO DO
I think that the activities you can do during the holidays in Castellammare del Golfo are essentially 3.
First, discover the history of the city and its attractions.
Second, relax on the beach or play water sports.
Third, go hiking.
I mentioned the Zingaro reserve, but there are other itineraries to discover the natural and cultural spots near Castellammare del Golfo. For examples the one that leads yo to the Tonnara di Scopello, or the one to discover the watch towers along the coast.
But what about the nightlife? Castellammare del Golfo is more a quiet city. If you are looking for it, I think it’s better to go to San Vito Lo Capo.
I have always say that you cannot really understand a place until you taste the local cuisine.
In Castellammare del Golfo you can try the typical dishes of the area of Trapani and Sicily.
You can’t miss the fish cous cous and the almond sweets.
You must taste street food, such as arancini or sandwiches with panelle.
And on warmer days you should refresh with a granita.
Ok, I think I must explain what I’m talking about!
Arancini are are fried rice balls coated with bread crumbs and usually filled with ragù (meat and tomato sauce), mozzarella, and peas. However there are several variants.
Panelle are a sort of pancakes made with chickpea flour. People in Sicily eat them with bread.
Granita is the simplest, most delicious and refreshing thing you can imagine. It’s a semi-frozen dessert made of crushed ice flavored with fruit juice. Usually it is lemon juice or mandarin oranges, but also jasmine, coffee, almonds, mint are used.
If you want to spend your holidays relaxing on the beach, taking some breaks from the sun to enjoy nature and culture of Sicily, then Castellammare del Golfo is for you.
It is a welcoming city, perfect for families. The people are beautiful, the food is good, the landscapes are lovely.
What else can you wish for?
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