San Vito lo Capo and surroundings offer great places to enjoy nature, an inspiration to give a try to different sports such as climbing and mountain biking.
This small town nailed in a blue corner of mediterranian waters in western Sicily is the main door to two natural reserves: Monte Cofano and Zingaro. You can visit them by sea or land: either way you will take advantage of breathtaking views and get the opportunity to challenge your body while practicing some sports, especially during summer, when the temperatures go very high and the lack of shades may be a delightful kind of defiance. But, before visiting both natural parks, you might want to be introduced to the free-access beauties.
The main beach of San Vito lo Capo is undoubtedly gorgeous and most tourists come to the place attracted by its multiple-toned blue waters and beige sand. The main beach has a lot of lido options, where you can rent umbrellas, purchase drinks and food from bars and other services; there are also sand strips between lidos that are free of charge, spiaggia libera (free beach), where you can find a place to stretch and simply enjoy yourself. If getting sunburned concerns you, it might be a good idea to practice (or give it a try) standup paddle. Depending on the wind, the main beach is perfect for this sport. At San Vito, you may find some great spots to do some snorkeling or a swim with a breathtaking view, in and out of the water. One of those is Tonnara del Secco, a place just 3 km downtown that used to be a tuna fish factory, dismantled in the 70’s. There are still concrete slides where to sit and some effortless entrances to the sea. Just be sure to take water shoes and swimming goggles with you, you will regret it if not once you get there.
Another excellent place for snorkeling is L’Isulidda, a calm hidden rocky beach under the viewpoint (Belvedere), on the main road to San Vito lo Capo. This place is a bit tricky because it is better known by locals, with almost no indication for tourists and where it is not so easy to find a legal parking spot. Near the Macari area you can also dive in Bue Marino’s refreshing waters, once you walk a few meters from the place you leave the car – this time, a clear sign indicating a parking lot. This small beach made of light pebbles has beautiful caves to explore, therefore if you consider yourself a good swimmer, it is a highly recommended spot.
Entering Castelluzzo, still part of San Vito’s territory, you will get to Santa Margherita’s bay, a half-moon beach made of brown sand in the middle of a stony plain coast. During winter, you may be lucky to spot idyllic horses strolling on this beach. If you are on your own, you can either walk right or left and find a cozy rock to seat pot or your own caletta to get tanned without competing for a dignified space. At Frassino, for instance, a beach was cleared recently and became one more option for those who prefer equipped places. As these beaches offer some facilities, such as a bar and beach umbrella for rent, they are generally busy during summer.
Repeat after me: beach, beach, beach
If you are willing to take a walk with appropriate shoes, there’s much more to see and discover, equally worth it. Most of the beaches mentioned in this article are not sandy, but preserved coastal clippings full of rocks and round stones, the ideal environment to meet colorful fishes and, with some luck, even dolphins.
The Zingaro Reserve
What you should know before you go
The Zingaro Reserve (Riserva Natuale Orientata dello Zingaro) is a stunning place flavoured with wild mediterranean nature and beautiful beaches. The natural park can be reached by car and also by the sea, since there are many boats offering delightful excursions and snorkeling equipment for those willing to have this type of experience at San Vito lo Capo. Considering it is a short trip – about 15 km from town – some sportive visitors rather visit it by bike, even though it is a challenging path. The Zingaro Reserve is for pedestrians only, and connects San Vito lo Capo to Scopello, where there’s a south entrance to the park. Make sure that Zingaro is open before going there, it’s common that the zone gets hit by fires. Remember to take everything you need with you, the Reserve is not equipped, and a place to buy food or beverages is not year-long guaranteed, so don’t forget to take litres of water! Considering the lack of shade and the high temperatures during summer, you better take this suggestion very seriously and also bring with you sunscreen, hat and parasols as well.
What to see
Entering from the north side, nearest San Vito, the first beach you will find is Cala Tonnarella dell’Uzzo. A few steps from the ticket office, this sunny corner can be appreciated and reached in less than a 20-minute walk. As it is the first beach, you will find it generally crowded during summer, something that also happens to Cala Capreria, which is the first beach to anyone who enters Zingaro from Scopello’s entrance. So, if you are trying to find a quieter place to enjoy nature, you will have to walk for a while and choose one of the next beaches, usually less busy: Cala dell’Uzzo, Cala Marinella, Cala Berretta, Cala della Disa and Cala del Varo. The complete hike, from San Vito to Scopello and return, is 14km long and takes about five hours, depending on your trekking level and energy. Some of these beaches, like Disa, Varo and Tonnarella dell’Uzzo, have some cliff shadows during the afternoon, which requires some visitor-strategy to get the most out of the day. Cala Marinella, for instance, is just a cave that you must swim to get in, with few dry spots and large rocks to place your stuff. The only constant in all beaches is the blue transparent sea so, wherever you choose to stop and get sun kissed, you will undoubtedly have a great time.
Monte Cofano’s reserve
What you should know before you go
Monte Cofano, just as Zingaro, can be visited in both ways: one option starts from the east, which is the nearest entrance from San Vito lo Capo, and the other is at the west side, at Custonaci, a neighbouring town. If you decide to walk through the main path, it is a two-hour intermediary trekking with a worthy view. Or, to those with adventurous spirit, it can be done by bike as well. The parking at the east entrance is small and easily full, while at Custonaci side it is more spacious. Like Zingaro, there’s no place to buy water or rent umbrellas inside the park, so you have to take everything you need with you. The beaches are generally less crowded than Zingaro’s – and also less visited by tourists.
What to see
Monte Cofano consists of a coast made exclusively of rock-strewn beaches. If you start on the east side, you will discover fascinating spots during a twenty-minute flat smooth walk, from the main entrance of Monte Cofano’s Reserve until the last breath of land over the sea.
The first irresistible stop, right in front of the entrance, is a medium-size beach called Agliareddi, made of white orbed rocks and turquoise water. Walking coasting the sea, you will find small descents to jump and refresh yourself, depending on the actual tide. Keep the track until you get to the tower, Torre di Tono, a very rare construction from the 1500’s, from which you might have a great landscape from Macari’s Gulf and a pacific scenario made by fishermen’s original houses that composes the Tonnara di Cofano.
The Tono’s tower is located at the bottom of Monte Cofano, a calcareous mountain of 659 meters above sea level. After this point, the trekking gets more intense, time to put your shoes on if you are still in a wet mood. Continuing the path, clearly indicated, you will come across most of the attractions: the chapel, a cave called Grotta del Crocifisso, Punta Saraceno and another tower. If you get to the west side, a mandatory stop is Grotta Mangiapane, a cave with clear indications of an ancient prehistoric settlement.
What if I fell like… climbing?
San Vito lo Capo is known for its beaches and boasts of great weather, no matter which season the rest of Italy is dealing with. Climbers copied that, and you can actually see them climbing walls during the whole year. The best (and safe) zone to do this activity is Cala Mancina area, a quiet residential neighborhood in San Vito lo Capo. There are countless cliffs and hundreds of routes to climb on the sea. Divided in four sectors, the walls are suitable for beginners and also experienced sportists that may choose whether climb exposed to the sun or in the shade, depending on the period of the year and the wind. Cala Mancina is also a beautiful beach and a great option for those who prefer a quieter place.