Sicily's coastline, beaches and sea


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Though you won’t find many locals in the water between October and May, for those accustomed to northern climes the sea temperature around Sicily is pretty much swimmable all year round, though don’t expect more than a quick dip when the water is at its coldest from December to April.

The coastline itself is very varied; moving anticlockwise from Palermo, one immediately arrives at the splendid sandy beach of Mondello which for years has been a magnet for people from Palermo and the surrounding region. The best season for Mondello is between September and June as in the summer it can get very crowded.

Continuing west, the last sandy beach is at Castellammare del Golfo. From here begins Scopello and Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve. The reserve offers some excellent coastal walks, crystal clear waters and a delightful series of pebbly coves.

To the west of Lo Zingaro is the long sandy beach at San Vito Lo Capo, one of the finest anywhere in Sicily and popular with both tourists and the residents of Trapani.

The saline lagoon between Trapani and Marsala has been supplying salt for over 2,000 years, and the salt works make an interesting detour. Within the lagoon is a tiny archipelago including the island of Mothya, once a stronghold of the Carthaginians. Slightly further off the coast, and clearly visible most days, are the Egadi Islands, very much worth a trip if you're in the area - a hydrofoil will get you there in about 15 minutes!

The southern coast of Sicily is a broken line of sandy beaches, such as those at Triscina, Selinunte, Porto Palo di Menfi, Sciacca, and Eracelea Minoa, and cliffs, including the remarkable white chalk ones of the Scala dei Turchi near Agrigento.

Further down the coast, past the industrial town of Gela, the sandy beaches begin once more: virtually non-stop for 60km right down to the south-eastern most point of Sicily: Scoglitti, Marina di Ragusa, Donnalucata, Cava d'Aliga, Sampieri, Marina di Modica and then the non-stop dunes and beaches where the Allied forces landed in the 2nd World War. At the southern most tip of Sicily is the Isola Delle Correnti, offering an almost African scenario. Indeed, here we are considerably further south than Tunis!

Just around the point, the Vendicari Nature Reserve offers the opportunity to see nesting turtles and migrating flamingoes on deserted pristine beaches.

Up the east coast there are a selection of sandy beaches around Syracuse, including those at La Pineta del Gelsomineto, Arenella, and Fontane Bianche.

The sandy beaches of the Gulf of Catania give way, to the north, to a more rocky coastline and pebbly beaches. Many small fishing villages dot this line of coast, including Aci Treza, whose intriguing sea-stacks are said to be the rocks Polyphemus hurled at Odysseus!

At the southernmost tip of Sicily is Isola Delle Correnti, offering an almost African scenario. Indeed, here we are considerably further south than Tunis.

The pebbly-sandy beaches below Taormina, including those at Giardini Naxos, Isola Bella, Mazzaro' and Letojanni are particularly popular and this stretch of coastline is enchantingly beautiful.

The coast continues north towards Messina, dotted with sandy beaches and great views of the Italian mainland across the Straits.

Around the point at Messina, which is dominated by cliffs, one soon arrives at Milazzo and its 5km promontory thrusting out into the Tyrrhenian Sea, flanked on either side by a series of beaches.

Next stop is Tindari, with its famous tongue of sand and the beaches of Oliveri, and then onto San Gregorio, Capo D’Orlando and Torrenova with their splendid sandy beaches and views of the Aeolian Islands.

The north coast between Capo d’Orlando and Cefalu is a mixture of rocks and pebbly beaches, such as those at  Sant'Agata di Militello, Marina di Caronia and Castel di Tusa.

Then comes the fascinating monolithic headland of Cefalu and a series of sandy beaches that continue, past Lascari, to Termini Imerese.

Continuing west, the dramatic rocky outcrops of Capo Zafferano and Capo Mongerbino announce your arrival at Palermo and the Conca D’Oro, once a fertile paradise longed for by mariners through the centuries.

A note for those looking for a summer beach holiday: when the schools close for the summer between mid June and mid September, a large part of their diligently studious population heads for the beach to release tension. Then in August, the rest of the adult population heads for the beach too. There are still plenty of quieter beaches around, and we’ll tell you where they are, but be prepared to spend a little time driving to them.

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