South Coast in Sicily

The main destination of this shore is the amazing Valley of the Temples, near Agrigento, but the western and eastern ends of the south shore also offer some of the most enchanting beaches of Sicily. Unfortunately many resorts with a tourist potential have spoilt by the disturbing presence of petrochemical installations situated near the sea. Capo Passero is the southernmost point of Sicily, an area with numerous beaches just south of the marvellous natural Reservation of Vendicari. A special place is Portopalo, an old maze of nets used to catch tuna fish, with a small cove with clean waters.

Pozzallo is another location with a beautiful beach close to the 14th century tower Cabrera, and Punta Secca, with its beautiful beach overlooking the characteristic houses in Mediterranean style.

Further on is Gela. No inviting beaches here, but one of the most impressive Greek fortifications, certainly worth of visit. The fortifications in Capo Soprano date back from the IV sec. b.C, while in the city you can visit the Archaeological Museum, that boasts an important collection of painted pots dating back to the VII and V century b.C. Agrigento is usually considered as a transit place to visit the nearby archaeological site, which is one of the most beautiful in the world, but the city also boasts a medieval old town with gorgeous views on the Valley.
After Agrigento you will meet Eraclea Minoa, another important Hellenic site with one of the most beautiful beaches of the south coast, Capo Bianco, a sandy beach bordered with cliffs.

With its colourful houses right behind the water, the fisherman port and the variety of architectural styles, Sciacca represents a little pearl in this part of Sicily, where the Arab roots are well highlighted. There is not a specific element, but it’s the city as a whole that charms the tourist. One of the most panoramic points is Piazza Scandaliato, overlooking the sea and the wharf. Not far from the Norman Dome stands out the Palace Steripinto, with its Catalan style dating back to the XV century. Sciacca is especially renowned for the production of majolica and for the Carnival, but it is also a good place to taste fresh and cheap fish. Just outside Sciacca lies a peculiar garden, the Enchanted Castle, towered by some big stone heads sculpted by the garden owner, Filippo Bentivegna.

Selinunte is another interesting and fascinating archaeological site, and you can also enjoy a swim in the nearby beach of Marinella di Selinunte, a long sandy beach very good for surf lovers.

After Selinunte the western part of Sicily begins, which is mostly influenced by the Phoenician and Arab tradition. Geographically speaking, the territory is flat and spread with white flat cubic houses, reminding of North Africa architecture, and actually very close to it.

Mazara del Vallo enjoys a past of flourishing city under the Arabs, having been capital of the largest walis, the administrative districts in which Sicily was divided. Mazara was the first to be conquered by the Arabs, and the last one to be ceased. The count Ruggero settled here a strong Norman presence, and Mazara preserved its importance even after the definitive Norman conquer in 1087.

The Arab influence is evident in the maze of streets which make up the Kasbah, where today resides the majority of the Tunisian community of Mazara. A very good and cheap Tunisian restaurant can be found in this area, serving two or three meals per day.

Other reminiscences of the Norman presence can be found in the Castle of the Count Ruggero, which ruins lie in Piazza Mokarta, and in the church of San Nicolò Regale, with clear Arab elements.

The baroque buildings are always present, like the Dome, a Norman construction completely rebuilt at the end of the XVII century, and the palaces on Piazza della Repubblica. In Piazza del Plebiscito lies the church of Sant’Egidio (XV centuey) with the Museum of Satyr, hosting the famous bronze statue of the Satyr, dating from the IV century b.C and found at the end of the ‘90s in the waters between the island of Pantelleria and Capo Bon.

Mazara offers the visitor a good balance of intimacy and relax. The visit of the old town and the Kasbah only requires a few hours, but its charm of borderline city makes you want to stay more, enjoying the little lanes, courtyards and the sea promenades. Another good reason to stop in Mazara for more days is the culinary aspect: here the food is very good and cheap. Fresh fish abounds in restaurant menus, and the cous cous is now a tradition in town. Ice creams shops and pastry shops are also very good.

Marsala has Carthaginian origins, but the city was later called Marsah Alì (port of Alì) from the Saracens who chose it as their main base on the island. A little more expensive than the other locations, it is nonetheless a good starting point for excursions to the Egadi Island and Pantelleria. You may also visit the cellars and get to taste the famous liquorish wine which is produced here.

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