Going west from Palermo, in the north-west area of Sicily, just after Castellammare del Golfo, the coast host the Zingaro Natural Reserve.
Going west from Palermo, in the north-west area of Sicily, just after Castellammare del Golfo, the coast becomes irregular and magnificent.
The sea shaped the landscape realising, as little miracles, loads of bays, coves and caverns.
A section of this coast includes the peninsula of San Vito Lo Capo, hosting the Zingaro (literally from Italian: the Gypsy) natural reserve.
Approximately 1650 hectares of untouched nature and 7 km of rocks seaboard, reaching the lovely village of Scopello, Trapani.
This park and its surroundings are one of the most beautiful areas of the region, which you must see if you’re doing a tour of the west of Sicily.
From far, the reserve could seem to be quite deserted, but getting closer and strolling among its alleys, you will discover many varieties of plants (around 650 different species), including:
- Le Giummare: small palm trees, symbol of the park;
- The sea lavender (Limonium Flagellare), very rare and typical of the area;
- More common species, namely as crocus, anemones, iris and several types of orchids.
The natural reserve has also a varied fauna, including a population of local birds - eagles, peregrine hawks, partridges, kestrels and several types of owls – sea birds, weasels, hedgehogs, foxes, lizards and even vipers, rare and harmless.
Caressed by the winds and shapes by the storms, Zingaro Natural Reserve is the first park established in Sicily, after a huge citizens’ protest and victory against the Tourism department.
The division wanted to build, in that area, a coastal road to connect San Vito Lo Capo with Scopello.
On the 18th May 1980, about 6000 people started a peaceful march to protest against this mockery and save the area, declared to be a natural reserve in 1981.
Sicilians did not only want to save one of the most beautiful parts of their Region, but also to protect an historical and natural heritage with immense value.
This reserve is an Italian jewel, with cliffs directly jumping in the crystal-clear sea and the mountains’ sides reach 1.000 meters’ height.
Also, we cannot forget the many wonderful pebble beaches and turquoise Mediterranean waters.
There are many alternatives to reach the reserve, but once you reach the main entrance – the access ticket costs 5€ - you will have to continue by foot or with a donkey’s support.
Yes: the park is protected from cars circulation, as well as powerboats, which have to stay at least 300 meters far from the coast.
If you really dream about exploring bays and coves with a boat, you could sign up for an organised tour, such as the short cruises with catamarans, made to explore the areas.
Let’s see how to reach the protected area main entrance:
- By car: if you come from the south, take the highway A29 Palermo - Mazara del Vallo and exit at Castellammare del Golfo. Continue towards Tonnara di Scopello, until the Reserve parking area. If you come from the north, take the regional road SP16 until San Vito Lo Capo and then the SP83 road until the park entrance;
- By bus: Autoservizi Russo buses, available only from the south, connect Palermo to the reserve;
- By flight: the closest airports are Falcone e Borsellino, in Palermo, and Vincenzo Florio in Trapani;
- By train: the closest train station is Castellammare del Golfo.
Zingaro Natural Reserve is open from Monday to Sunday from 7:00 to 19:30.
Zingaro Natural Reserve attracts excursionists, trekking lovers and swimmers.
In summer, many beaches will be crowded with tourists.
The best periods of the year are May, June and September, to be able to have a walk among the tracks and then relax on an almost desert beach.
You will enjoy the experience choosing one of the three panoramic trails:
1. Coastal Trail: it is the easiest, 7 km length, approximately 2-hours duration. The trail smoothly twists and turns among seven gorgeous white sand coves with crystal waters: Cala Tonnarella dell’Uzzo, Cala dell’Uzzo, Cala Marinella, Cala Berretta, Cala della Disa, Cala del Varo and Cala Capreria;
2. Mid-coastal Trail: the hardest, 9 km length and approximately 4,5-hours duration. This is the most panoramic trail, between land and sea, reaching incredible areas such as Scardina wood, Contrada Sughero (literally: the Cork district), Cusenza village and Canalone delle Grotte di Mastro Peppe;
3. High Trail: a real challenge, made for trekking professionals, 17 km length and 8-hours duration. This breath-taking trail goes from the highest point of the reserve to the most hidden beach, giving unique feelings and crossing charming places such as Mercato Mennola and Mercato della Sterna, Pianello ancient rural blocks of flats, up to Speziale Mountain, 913 meters height, Pizzo dell’Aquila, 766 meters and Passo del Lupo (literally: the wolf’s pass), 822 meters.
As you may have guessed, this reserve is truly a must-see.
At both entrances, maps are available, showing the different trails by foot and the bays to visit.
Last advice: if you are in the area, plan a stop in Scopello to taste the “pane cunzato” (literally: the seasoned bread), the traditional dish with water and local seasonings.
You won’t regret it!