Although the beautiful island that's on the receiving end of the nudge from Italy's so-called 'boot' is a much-loved tourist destination, there are still parts of western Sicily that are relatively unknown. But with superb beaches, wonderful cuisine, a rich culture and some of the most unspoilt of all Sicily resorts, it's well worth considering. |
In my job organising holidays to this wonderful destination, I've done a lot of exploring, including spending time in the west around places like Agrigento, Menfi and Marsala. For those travellers who want immersion in the culture and to get to know the real heart and soul of the island, I always recommend using Sicily resorts and agritourismos around the aforementioned towns as an excellent base from which to explore further.
The Unspoilt Coastline
Driving along the spectacular southwestern coastline, places like Selinunte and Menfi offer a smorgasbord of deserted sandy beaches and pretty, isolated coves, while heading up north will take you to Scopello, the Lo Zingaro marine nature reserve and what's known as the best beach on the island, San Vito lo Capo. The beach is quiet and relaxed with a much more 'local' feel than some of the busier, touristy ones in the east. If you've wondered where the Italians go to get their dose of sun, sea and sand, wonder no more!
Get Back to Nature
The abovementioned Lo Zingaro marine nature reserve is one of the island's premier natural attractions. This 7km stretch takes in a magnificent coastal and mountainous landscape, replete with picture-perfect pebbly coves, wild pastures awash with fennel, and old wooden refuge huts. Even for a short hike, this is a truly rejuvenating place for the heart, mind and body.
Explore the History
There's an astonishing depth of history wherever you look in the west, but for those with a keen interest in history and archaeology, the ancient Greek sites of Agrigento, Selinunte and Segesta offer a marvellous insight into the past. On the island of Mozia, off Marsala, you can visit the ruins of a Phoenician settlement or simply walk around the island (in an hour) and take in the wonderful beaches and picturesque vineyards. With a heritage as rich and deep as anywhere in the world, the influences of the British, Greeks, Phoenicians, Arabs, Spaniards, Normans and Albanians mesh into a glorious fusion of what is, now, unmistakably simply Sicilian.
Eat, Drink and Eat Some More
The gastronomy of the western region is outstanding, with incredible seafood and excellent locally produced wines setting the standard. In the island's most western city, Marsala, aside from the namesake wine (which you simply must sample), the adventurous palate can enjoy an experience like no other. With none-too-subtle influences from its near North African neighbours, the cuisine is heavy on couscous, seafood and chickpeas, and infused with the exotic flavours of citrus, chilli, fennel, artichokes and laden with sea salt – which, incidentally comes from the saltpans on the island of Mozia.
If you do choose to base yourself in any of the wonderful western Sicily resorts, you'll need a car (a fly/drive holiday option is perfect here) in order to get around. The roads are generally good and driving opens up a whole new world, not to mention the independence it affords to really immerse yourself in this absolutely authentic region – one of my very favourite places in the world.
John Dixon is an experienced world traveller and the Managing Director of Prestige Holidays. For over 30 years, he has been providing holidays in luxury Sicily resorts, as well as holidays in Bermuda, Croatia and many other destinations around the globe. John tries to visit each of the destinations regularly in order to ensure the quality of his properties, and stays up-to-date about the latest local news and events. He has a taste for the finer things in life and has an interest in the arts, history and culture.
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