It takes patience getting to San Vito Lo Capo: the village at the far end of the promontory on Sicily’s north-western coast is reached by taking the only road there that seems to never end, traversing a natural landscape of mountains, fields, vineyards and olive groves. The reward is a picturesque village of white houses, once the haunt of fishermen working on the prolific tuna fishing industry, and a spectacular beach framed by mountains, whose crystal waters call for a dip in the sea; in late September, the annual Cous Cous Fest, the popular festival celebrating the signature Mediterranean dish, takes over San Vito, making it an ideal time to explore the area, when the sun and the sea are still warm.
It is an area that, within few miles, can offer solitude and wilderness, with the rocky coast of Baia Santa Margherita, interspersed with gorgeous coves, to the south-west and, on the other side, the Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro, Sicily’s first – and beloved – natural reserve, where beaches are reached hiking down unpaved trails with great views of the sea.
I visited San Vito Lo Capo last July and was happily surprised by the clear, azure waters, white sand and palms that reminded me of a tropical beach. I arrived in the early afternoon. It was hot. I walked around the sun-drenched streets of the city center; it was quiet as stores were closed for the afternoon break and I supposed whoever wasn’t taking their afternoon nap was at the beach. By the time I got there, all I wanted to do was jump into the sea – which I did. And yes, it seemed like everybody was there – indeed, the only drawback to the beach at San Vito is that, in the summer months, it’s very crowded, mostly locals and Italians. After all, tourism is the number one industry in the area.
But if you, like me, don’t particularly like crowds, drive a few kilometers to the south-west of San Vito and you will find yourself in the midst of a wild landscape with gorgeous rocky little coves and far less humans. This area, the Gulf of Cofano, takes the name from the 659-meter high mountain of the same name at the south end of the gulf (San Vito is at the north end). The mountain is home to the Natural Reserve of Mount Cofano, a quieter alternative to the popular Zingaro Reserve. Along this stretch of coast, don’t miss Macari Bay, famous for the transparency of its waters; Isulidda beach, framed by Mount Cofano to the south; and Calazza beach, one of the pearls of this stretch of coast.