Sicily is an island of riddles, whose natural beauty and rich culture cannot be compared to any other island. It is very difficult to not fall under its spell. Let’s imagine what it could be like. Early in the morning, you fly to the captivating ancient city of Palermo and after an essential cup of expertly-prepared espresso and a few bites of aromatic, fresh bread at Piazza Marina. You have only a few hours left until you take charge of the boat. Perhaps for a moment you succumb to the feeling of travel fatigue, but the beauty of the city is stimulating. You stand a little awestruck in Quattro Canti Square, surrounded on four sides by its Baroque palaces. And you are left spellbound when you pass through the colourful streets around the busy Vucciria market, which once enthralled the Arabs with their exotic trade.
A panoramic view of the city of Palermo
There is so much more to experience, but the time has come to set sail. The next week will be packed with experiences, stunning natural phenomena, and warm encounters with ancient history. West of Palermo, you cross the deep Bay of Castellamare and towards evening, you are admiring the most captivating coastal scenes created by the Zingaro Nature Reserve, which (you note) may have also been established with the tacit consent (gradimento) of the Mafia. In this incredible landscape, you are surrounded by 870 types of plants and in the airspace above rare birds of prey, wheel and dive. On your route around Sicily, you tell yourself you must visit the mythical settlement of Erice north of Trapani, certainly the most impressive in Sicily. Now you are faced with a dilemma—do you stay along the coastline and save a few miles of sailing, or do you visit the volcanic island of Pantelleria, whose charms even Sting and Madonna have succumbed to? The answer is clear. This island exerts a magnetic attraction—with its countless fjords and bays, rugged coastline, incredible diving, snorkelling, along with its many local farms to stock up your galley with first-class oil, capers, figs—the needle in your compass swings landward.
The lighthouse on the island of Pantelleria
The town Breakwater in Agrigento is another stop-off point. Here, early in the morning, you may set out to explore what might just be one of the most impressive places in all of Europe, the famous Valley of Temples. As you sail further along the coastline, you may treat the ladies on board to a rejuvenating mud spa on the beach near the white cliffs of Capo Bianco. Another town breakwater which would be a crime to miss, is at the ancient town of Syracuse on the island of Ortygia, which has been the heart of the town for 2 700 years. There, you can walk across the wonderfully lit Piazza del Duomo in the evening, admire the monumental Duomo itself, or freshen up on a hot day at Fonte Aretusa, one of the most famous springs in the Hellenic world where Virgil himself, sang The Odes. The backdrop to your cruise along the eastern coastline of Sicily will be that omnipresent natural phenomenon—the eerie volcano of Mount Etna which ancient mariners regarded as the highest point on Earth. You will often see its smouldering summit covered in snow, the volcano having last unleashed its power in 2001, when a lava flow in July and August endangered some of the local villages. Your cruise would hardly be complete if you failed to honour this elemental force with a visit.
Valle dei Templi—Valley of Temples, a UNESCO heritage site
You are now invigorated with the volcanic energy that Sicily abounds in, and closing in on the Lipari Islands. There are seven of them, all are volcanic and incredibly magical. Lipari offers the most varied nature of them all. Vulcano, where Vulcan the god of fire had his heavenly forge, will make your trip more pleasant and refreshing with its muddy lakes and fumaroles, and Stromboli, with its spectacular eruptions four times every hour, will bewitch you completely when night falls. On Alicudi you will be surrounded by absolute tranquility and irresistible places to dive, and you will already be starting to make plans in your mind how to extend your cruise by another week. This is just one of the ways your marine adventures around Sicily and the Lipari Islands could turn out.
Sicily is a great location for summer sailing, you just need to plan your route carefully. You will find plenty of anchorages and harbours subject to a reasonable fee. A lot of the harbours are currently being transformed into modern marinas, something reflected in the increasing prices, which can be very steep during the high season. Outside the marinas, prices are usually reasonable except for places where the local anchorages have gained a concession and their financial demands are usually overinflated.
Along the northern coastline it is usually easy to negotiate a reasonable fee for a berth in Castellammare del Golfo. If you like haggling, you can negotiate a berth in Palermo for a truly bargain price. Although the surrounding areas are not amazingly picturesque, the city centre more than makes up for it. You can also find a mooring at a good price in Termini Imerese.
The night view of Castellammare del Golfo Marina
Direct your cruise west or east to Sicily. If you are sailing to Sicily from Elba, Sardinia, or Corsica, you are advised to do so during the day, as the area around Trapani and the Egad Islands contains a lot of shallows. Yachts can travel from west to east almost as they please, but in the opposite direction, it is more advisable to sail along the northern coastline. If Sicily is a stop-off point for you on a crossing to Tunisia, you can sail, for example, from Marsala or Mazara del Vallo, make another small stop at the small island of Pantellería and then set course directly for the Gulf of Hammametský and one of the local marinas. From the south of Sicily, for example from Licata, it is no problem to get to the beautiful island of Malta. From Greek waters, yachtsmen mostly set sail for Syracuse and Catania. Just bear in mind that the weather up to 30 km from the coastline may not necessarily indicate the weather conditions further out to sea, at this distance from the sea breezes you might find yourself suddenly becalmed and looking at an extended holiday, after all.