Sicily, San Vito lo Capo’s dream beaches

“I‘ve spent a week lying on the most beautiful beaches in Italy”. Not a bad remark for a friend just back from a holiday in Sicily and probably a rash declaration because the beaches in our country are many and it’s doubtful that the friend in question has visited them all. Nevertheless, it’s a tall story that takes on some truth when the matter in question is Sicily’s beaches and in particular that of San Vito lo Capo.

San Vito Lo Capo, beach

© Giovanni Caruso

Yes, my friend must have been a prophet, seeing that his roaring affirmation goes back to 2003, and that this year, 2011, the small municipality of San Vito with its little more than four thousand inhabitants in the province of Trapani, was elected just that: ‘the most beautiful beach in Italy’, coming eighth in the classification of the most beautiful beaches in Europe.

What makes the sea and sands of this village with its low white houses so special, a village that all in all seems little insulted by the exploitation of the construction industry that has turned large parts of the island and the area into an eyesore? Take a look at the turquoise colour of its waters, go see how they happily meet with the golden sands in front of the village, a landscape that is absolutely fascinating for its colours. A small picturesque town with crystal uncontaminated waters, San Vito Lo Capo is one of Italy’s paradises, a flagship for our seas, a national and international showcase for the natural beauties of our coasts. It’s placed on one of the two promontories of the Gulf of Castellamare, thirty kilometres from Trapani and a hundred kilometres from the island’s capital Palermo, and blessed by the enviable climate of the Sicilian coast with its summer breezes.

San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily

© Giovanni Caruso

It’s difficult to recommend one part of the beach in particular as you always land on your feet on this stretch of the Gaia Coast. Firstly, there’s the village beach, seven kilometres of fine golden sand – and described by some as a Caribbean beach in the Mediterranean sea – with its regularly-placed palm trees and intense colours, framed by cliffs rising straight from the sea of Monte Monaco on one side and by the verdant slopes (at least until the most scorching summer months) of the high grounds of Mount Cofano. The sea bed slopes gradually, and is perfect for less-skilled swimmers and children.

However, San Vito is not merely a wonderful bay. Cliffs, mountains, rocky sea-beds are all within reach and the landscape changes quickly, presenting its visitors with an iridescent beauty. The hamlet of Macari, for example, three kilometres from the town, is a small woodland village on the slopes of Mount San Giuliano, a place of archaeological interest for its Paleolithic caves. Its coast is very particular, low and jagged behind its vegetation, made up of Mediterranean scrub and high grasses that almost reach the water’s edge. Towards the east and beyond the Montemonaco promontory, the coast becomes rocky. Cliffs take over the coast, outlining marvellous little pebbly bays in which the sea seeps in becoming even lighter and clearer, and taking on the colours of the limestone typical of the mountains of the Zingaro Reserve, a vast natural park rich in trekking trails. It’s a wonderful resource for sports lovers, with its rocky sea-beds inhabited by divers and its climbing rock faces rising up from the sea.

More excursions into nature in the Parco di Monte Cofano, with its watchtowers facing the sea, old fortifications against Turkish pirates, and its many trekking and mountain bike trails. The sunsets from the mountains of the hamlet of Castelluzzo are a spectacle of colour absolutely not to be missed. Magnificent – and differing – beaches, history, nature and a totally spectacular coast: this, and more, is San Vito lo Capo, a rare pearl in the picture frame of the land of Sicily, hospitable by nature and habitually surprising.