Sailing around Sicily simply can't be done in a week - there is just too much to see and experience, you should either extend your yacht charter to two weeks or plan to come back at least once.
Sicily is somewhat different to the rest of Italy. It is as Italian as it gets with added Greek, Norman and Arab influences which are omnipresent in local culture, architecture and cuisine. At times you may rightly wonder whether you are in Italy or in Greece.
We love sailing in this part of the world because it's different and exciting. There is always something new and monumental to see. It would be unfair to talk about Sicily without mentioning Calabria (the 'toe' of Italian peninsula) which is just across Messina Strait or the nearby Aeolian islands, which we have sailed extensively and already have written about here.
Sicily is extremely rich in history, culture and architecture and is a proper mecca for anyone passionate about any of the subjects. It is also a culinary wonderland with rich and fragrant flavors, unusual combinations of ingredients and we should not forget strong and aromatic espressos Sicilians love.
You should definitely try cannoli made with ricotta and pistachio as well as arancino, a savory breaded and deep fried ball made of saffron rice and meat. You will notice that most Sicilian dishes are made with pistachios, which are a prime staple.
When starting your yacht charter in Sicily, there are three main charter bases - Palermo, Portorosa and Sant Agata. Portorosa and Sant Agata are excellent starting (and end) points for hopping over to the Aeolian or sailing through the Messina Strait and popping over to Calabria, while Palermo is some 50NM from the archipelago and therefore better suited for coastal cruising.
Now, let us brag a little bit... having gone through a challenging year and fast approaching a
milestone birthday and a significant anniversary, we decided to celebrate with indulgent and exceedingly luxurious holiday. But holidays are not holidays if they don't involve floating objects propelled by wind, right? That's why we settled on booking a large, fully crewed sailing catamaran. It was the best choice we could have made.
We couldn't have asked for more comfort or luxury than our catamaran offered. The crew that came with it could only be compared to royal household staff based on their professionalism, level and quality of service as well as ability to give us a lot more privacy than we expected. The catamaran was always in pristine condition, beautifully sailed and there was a constant stream of freshly prepared, Michelin star worthy snacks and refreshments. We were also supplied with plenty of water toys, such as paddle boards, a kayak, snorkeling and fishing gear plus a regular inflatable dinghy.
For the first time, we weren't doing much sailing ourselves. It was a strange feeling at first but we settled into glitz and glamour of a crewed yacht charter very quickly. Our crew made it clear that we are welcome to get involved in sailing if we wanted to, but they worked so well as a team, we decided to keep out of the way.
They first took us to San Vito. San Vito is a small seaside town in northwestern Sicily, known for its beach, which is on a sheltered bay overlooked by Mount Monaco. The town center, the 15th-century Santuario di San Vito is a fortress-like structure with Arab-Norman architecture. Arab-Norman influences can also be seen in many other places in the area. Our crew dropped us ashore with detailed directions where to find the best Panino con Panelle, a traditional Sicilian sandwich which we had to try.
The next day we continued on along this rugged coastline towards Marsala. Marsala is well known for its ancient ruins, fortified Marsala wine and Stagnone Nature Reserve, with salt pans and migratory birds. The town has plenty to offer to the lovers of archaeology, art and history.
Our next stop was in Mazara del Vallo, the home of the largest fishing fleet in Italy so make sure to have some ultra-fresh sea food while you are there. The town is a perfect summary of everything Sicilian - a collage of Arab, Norman, Greek and Romanesque influences is everywhere, from town's inhabitants to it's rich cultural heritage.
From Mazzara del Vallo, we headed back north-west towards the Egadi Islands where we intended to spend a few of days. Our first island stop was Favignana, which is some 4NM directly west from the Marsala salt pans. The island is known for many popular diving locations. We are not into diving so we decided to stretch our legs by taking a lengthy walk up to the Castle of Santa Caterina. This is the highest point of the island and once we got there, we were rewarded by a spectacular sunset. We also checked out the Tuff Caves which can be found in several locations such as Cala Rossa, Bue Marino, Punta Fanfalo and Lido Burrone.
The logical next destination from Favignana is another of Egadi islands - the most western one, Marettimo. This remarkably green outcrop is a place for cultured, long-stay regulars rather than hit-and-run day-trippers. Car and almost hotel free Marettimo remains a very special destination for walkers, scuba-divers and sunseekers looking for a relatively unspoilt island. Island's walking trails afford fantastic sea views and if you are very lucky, rare glimpses of many species of wildlife. We decided to respect what seem to be the wishes of this island and its sparse inhabitants and keep to ourselves and our boat which served us really well as a base for swimming in the crystal clear waters surrounding this unspoiled gem.
As our holiday was in it's second half, we slowly started making our way back towards Palermo. Our next stop was another one of Egadi islands, Levanzo. Levanzo is the smallest island of the archipelago but very rich in natural beauty. La Grotta del Genovese is island's best know claim to fame. The cave, discovered in 1949, retains prehistoric cave art, of about 8,000 years ago and is located on the north-western side of the island.
The most remarkable thing about Sicily and nearby archipelagos is their ruggedness and apparent disinterest in being touristy. Having been to this part of the world several times, we were always warmly received and well looked after by the friendly and hospitable locals. Yet somehow, they have managed to retain and maintain their own identity and way of life, despite thousands of tourists flocking to the region every year. We find that quite remarkable, if compared to most other tourist destinations which have molded themselves to fit demands of tourism.
WannaGoSailing.com operate a fleet of over 9,000 yachts in more than 50 worldwide destinations. Over 300 yachts in our fleet are available for charter in this region. Please check out our current special offers below or contact us for more options. All our yachts are available as bareboat, skippered or fully crewed yacht charter.