Zingaro Nature Reserve
Most people benefit perhaps from living within 20 km of a major highway. This was in any case one of the goals of the economic boom period of the late 20th century. But at some point the dream started to look like it might become a nightmare – even in Sicily.
1976 began with a plan to connect Zingaro – one of the last untouched coastal regions on our sunny island – with a coastal highway.
The consequences drove so many people into the streets that construction was stopped. What's more – the Zingaro region was given an official designation was a nature reserve. As a happy result, those enjoying their holidays in Sicily can today rejuvenate themselves at Zingaro – and even swim.
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Sightseeing Tour of Zingaro
Reaching Zingaro by car
As odd as it may sound after the introduction, Zingaro today is actually only around 20 km from a major road – the Castellammare del Golfo (top of the blue line on the bottom right of the map).
On the Castellammare del Golfo, follow the signs taking you in the direction of Scopello.
Because of the great number of signs for hotels and other offers to people enjoying their holidays in Sicily, road signs can be hard to spot. It is recommended that you familiarize yourself with your route ahead of time using Google Street View.
Just before Zingaro, you will come across the small village of Scopello (Marker 1). There are many choice for food. Scopello is perfect as a "base camp" for hiking around in Zingaro. It even has some of its own attractions (presented in the next section).
About 2 km beyond Scopello you will find the parking for the southern entrance to the nature reserve (Marker 4). Holidaygoers interested in the famous San Vito Lo Capo resort are better off using Strada Provinciale 63 to get to the north entrance to Zingaro. There's also parking here (Marker 19).
A bird's-eye view of Scopello
Scopello – In the movies
As described previously, Scopello is a small village close to the south entrance to Zingaro. Officially it has only 80 inhabitants – in the wintertime. In summer another 2000 people show up. This is proof that holidays in Sicily are truly something special – and here you can enjoy one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.
In much earlier times, Scopello was a center of the tuna trade. Tuna used to be all over the Mediterranean, and it was one of the pillars of Sicily's economy. A "tonnara" was a base for the tuna fleet.
Today the tuna has sadly almost gone, and the Tonnara di Scopello Hotel (Marker 3 on the map above) has become a popular location for films. The best known of these is definitely Ocean's Twelve (see detail above). Right next to the hotel is a beach with incredible views. It is so popular in the summer time that the parking lot (Marker 2) gets a lot of traffic.
To get to the second place of real interest in Scopello you will pass right by the way to Zingaro. A great "watering hold" and the "Baglio" mark the spot (Marker 1). "Baglio" in Sicilian means feudal estate, in this case with buildings grouped around a central courtyard. Viewing the map in satellite mode, you can see the structure next to the marker very clearly. Today the Baglio di Scopello is a nice restaurant – making it perfect place to stop and refresh before our trip to the nature reserve.
Hiking through Zingaro
You can't have your cake and eat it, too. Zingaro was saved from being linked up with a coastal highway. But that means there is a lot of wandering around in nature – perfect for holidays in Sicily since it's full of unique colors, smells, and sights.
On disconnected old paths you'll pass by old farms, discover wild flower gardens and olives trees and dwarf palms. You'll spot prehistoric caves and small, sparkling inlets with turquoise water. This by itself makes a Sicilian vacation worth it.
Zingaro is the perfect expression of Sicily's mountains and seas: here they nearly blend together. The highest point in the reserve is the 900 m tall Monte Speziale. But don't worry! You don't have to climb it.
Zingaro is traversed by three primary paths: the coastal path, the middle path, and the high path. The map above shows the various points along the coastal path. This path is easy to see on the map, though Google Maps mistakenly calls it Strada Provinciale 63. It an easy path to walk on. You'll encounter twigs and pebbles and a change in total elevation of only 50 to 100 m.
The middle path in Zingaro is a hike with elevation changes of up to 400 m. The high path takes us as high as 700 m. From here you have a breathtaking view of the sea and the entire Zingaro. Good footwear and a fair degree of physical fitness are both requisite. The sweetest fruits always hang the highest, of course. Visiting in winter means you will sweat less, but the best time to visit is in the spring when the colors and natural smells quite literally explode.
Swimming in Zingaro
Holidays in Sicily have a great place to cool off: Zingaro. Anyone walking along the coastal path gets to enjoy a variety of bays and tiny inlets. The word "cala" means bay, which makes them easy to find.
The Cala Capreria is only about 800 m from the south entrance of the reserve. It offers a pebble beach and water that is extremely clear. Fish of a variety of colors dare their way to shore. So bring along a snorkel, some goggles and flippers.
The Cala della Disa is – of all the bays in Zingaro – the most spacious. Again the water is clean and clear with a greenish tint. The deeply carved bay provides protection against any high waves. In the middle of the bay is a small rock that's a popular destination point for swimmers. The Cala Berretta is close by as well, and strongly resembles the Cala Della Disa.
The Cala Marinella is described by many holidaygoers in Sicily as the most beautiful of the bays. It may be that this is because it is a long way from the reserve's more popular south entrance. It's normal here not to find too many other tourists.
The Cala dell'Uzzo and the Cala Tonnarella dell'Uzzo are typical of the north side of Zingaro. Here there is excellent water just like everywhere else. But the bays are not so deep. So the Mediterranean's normal currents and wave are a bit more noticeable. The proximity to the north entrance to the reserve makes Cala Tonnarella dell'Uzzo rather busy.
A word of warning - an official statement from the province of Trapani that applies to all the bays and inlets says: without lifeguards and emergency ambulances close by, swimming is always at your own risk.
Those enjoying holidays in Sicily who speak Italian have another option: guided tours of Zingaro. An outline of these can be found on the Reserve's homepage. The guides are affiliated with a variety of organizations.
The Lega Italiana Protezione Uccelli (LIPU) offers birdwatching weekends. This can involve staying overnight in the reserve. For flower-lovers, the management of the reserve offers a "Sentiero delle Orchidee".
The Club Alpino Italiano (CAI, or Italian Alpine Club) in Decemeber organized a nighttime walk along the high path – and it was an unmatched holiday experience. A shared rowing canoe trip, or "Voghiamo insieme", along the coast of the Zingaro is offered by the WWF. Cavers even lead excursions into the various caves in the reserve.
There is even more than hiking and canoeing while on holiday in Sicily: culture. So there are museums in and around the reserve as well as watercolor courses and more. The sheer variety shows the importance of the Zingaro Nature Reserve for Sicily.
Let's stay in touch
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