In Sicily’s northwest corner, a peninsula thrusts out into the sea. At its tip is the town of San Vito Lo Capo, home, many would say, to the island’s most idyllic beach. The eastern side of the peninsula extends southwards down to Castellammare del Golfo, also home to a long expanse of sand. In between these two beaches, is one of Sicily’s most dramatic, most striking and most varied stretches of coastline.
The coast road from Castellammare del Golfo climbs from its waterfront castle up to 200m above sea level, affording wonderful views over the bay, the town and the sea below. Then, a winding road leads back down to the sea and the charming pebbly beach of Guidaloca. Up again, and one is on the road to Scopello, a fascinating little village centred around a fortified baglio (farmstead). Once providing shelter for the local landowner’s animals and workers, this wonderfully evocative 18th century construction now plays hosts to a couple of restaurants, a café and a shop, all of which spill out into the cobbled courtyard in the summer months. Scattered round the baglio are a few houses and restaurants, one of which, Le Terrazze, offers enchanting views out to sea.
The tonnara and its surroundings have featured in several films in recent years, including Ocean’s Twelve (with Brad Pitt and George Clooney) and Inspector Montalbano...
Scopello’s coastline is rocky, craggy and dramatic. Steep cliffs and sea stacks have been sculpted over millennia by the sea and the wind, prickly pear bushes cling perilously to precipitous inclines, plane, pine and eucalyptus trees cluster together, and a gentle, almost Arcadian atmosphere hangs in the air.
In a small bay amongst all this beauty sits the tonnara, a tuna fishery. Dating back to the 13th century (though remodelled over the years), and built in creamy yellow sand stone, the tonnara is an impressive sight indeed. Sun worshippers lie amongst the antique anchors on the landing area, where tuna-heavy boats were once hauled ashore, while swimmers and snorkellers delight in the clean, limpid waters and abundant subaquatic treasures. The main buildings, where the tuna was processed, canned and made ready for distribution, now host a small museum and a bed and breakfast.
The harmonious perfection of the tonnara and its surroundings has piqued the imagination of location managers, who have featured it in several films and TV programmes in recent years, including Ocean’s Twelve (with Brad Pitt and George Clooney) and Inspector Montalbano.
There is more beauty still to come in this enchanted corner of Sicily and we heartily recommend you continue your journey a few kilometres further north to where the nature reserve of Lo Zingaro begins. Find out more about that here.
Villas near Scopello >
About 1km before Scopello there is a superb gastronomic hub, comprising a bar serving excellent rosticcerie, cakes, ice-creams and light lunches, a minimarket with an exceptional deli and butcher's counter and a great selection of Sicilian wines, and a farm shop selling organic fruit and vegetables grown in the fields behind.