A journey through Sicily nature, fishing tourism, culture, land and sea. Choose the itinerary you prefer

Splendid sandy coastlines interspersed with coves and promontories look out onto crystalline waters whose colours transform with the changing of the seasons. Fine, silica sand form dunes lled with Mediterranean scrub, where plants that adapt well to a marine environment are not a rare discovery. The most beautiful beaches are located in the lands that lie in the southern tip of Italy They count dozens, of any size, at times hidden away amid rocks, cli s and grottos, and at others stretching as far as the eye can see. This itinerary, in a single route, will o er the opportunity to visit some of the most charming beaches of the area. Starting from the north-east of the city of Avola, you will take the SS 115 from Avola to Cassibile and arrive at Contrada Gallina from which the beach takes its name. Access to the beach is by a dirt road (which is marked) from the “statale” or state road. By following a path that leads to the promontory, you will reach a beautiful beach with large white stones and clear waters, 500 meters of sandy shoreline with a row of dunes protected by white rocks sloping into the sea. The beaches of Avola are all lovely and well taken care of. After the seafront promenade in town, you will arrive at the beach of Pantanello, also called “Ferro di Cavallo” for its horseshoe shape. The next beach that is well worth the visit is Mare Vecchio, adjacent to the old “tonnara” (tuna processing industry or tunnery) in the village of Marina di Avola. In the Noto area we will visit di erent coasts, all of which have a fascinating morphology. The beach most to the north is the Lido di Noto, a section of coast bordering a delightful holiday village, noted for its ne, amber- coloured sand and crystalline waters that gently slope towards the open sea. The beach has charming bathing establishments that provide gear and equipment for water sports. To arrive at this delightful seaside village, take the “provinciale” (provincial road) from Avola. Parking is permitted along the coast. Taking the provincial road south, you will arrive at the Oasi Faunistica di Vendicari (which is also a nature reserve of the “Riserva Naturale Orientata” class): here you may visit the beach of Calamosche, labelled by the 2005 Blue Guide of Lega Ambiente, as the most beautiful beach in Italy. It is an enchanting sandy cove about 200 meters wide with limpid, calm waters surrounded by two rocky promontories with rich coastal vegetation that slope gently into the sea, and providing snorkelling enthusiasts with bays, inlets and seabed. To get to the beach, enter from the secondary access of the Reserve (from the provincial road Noto - Pachino) and walk along a path for about 1 km. Descending into the farthest tip of Europe, the southernmost beach in Sicily and Italy is united by a strip of land to the Isola delle Correnti in the municipality of Portopalo di Capo Passero. Unlike its name, which identi es the meeting of the two seas and thus two currents, the beach is enclosed by a small gulf that has the e ect of making the waters calm and allowing the visitor to admire the spectacle of the currents. To reach the beach, you must go past the town of Portopalo and the harbour and follow directions for the Isola delle Correnti. West of the beach there is a paved parking lot and also one on an unpaved at. In the area of Pachino an absolute must is a visit to the beach of Carratois. To arrive, take the provincial roads 6 and 8 from Portopalo, then follow directions for Carratois. An extraordinary strip of sea stands before you, crystal clear and nearly always calm, protected on the left by the Isola delle Correnti and to the right by the Punta delle Formiche. The beach has free access and is wide with very ne sand. You can park the car along the small roads bordering the beach. During summer, but also in winter, the beach lls with windsurf and kitesurf enthusiasts. Now heading west into Ragusa territory, you will take the provincial road that travels along the coast and will come upon a very long ivory-coloured beach, Santa Maria del Focallo in the municipality of Ispica. The beach has free access and is easy to get to from the road. It is also equipped with public showers. The dunes behind are extraordinarily rich with Mediterranean scrub. A few more kilometres north-west is Pozzallo: beneath one of the most ancient fortresses of the entire area, Torre Cabrera, lies one of the most beautiful beaches in Italy, Pietre Nere. Plenty wide and stretched out before the seafront promenade, the beach o ers facilities and services, is freely accessed and easy to reach. Very nearby to the west, another beautiful beach called Raganzino is accessible directly from the road that leads from the town to the port area.

A route that will inebriate the senses. This itinerary dedicated to the senses winds through a territory that exposes you to its history, culture, avours and emotions through monuments, beautiful nature and environments, the social development and labour of its inhabitants, and especially through the indivisible relationship between its people and their territory. Le Terre dei due Mari are abounding in nature, sun, clean air and rich and productive soil. It is precisely in this extraordinary land that over two millennia ago, in the area between Noto and Pachino, that the Greeks started to cultivate vines “ad alberello” (head-trained bush vines). The zone most suited for this cultivation, because its terroir is unique owing to its minerals and water, was the hilly slope that gently descended to the sea. Thanks to the characteristics of the land and the climate, the inhabitants of these lands started to experiment with new types of cultivation, selecting grape varieties that were more resistant and agreeable to the palate. Family life revolved entirely around the vineyard and the grape harvest. Rituals, techniques of cultivation and pruning and the custom of the grape harvest were handed down from father to son, generation to generation. Still today, one of the oldest wines of Italy is produced in the area encompassing Noto, Rosolini, Avola and Pachino: Moscato di Noto DOC. Made only with Moscato Bianco grapes left to ripen on the vine to increase the sugar content, this nectar regales the palate with extraordinary sweet sensations. Obtaining the DOC (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata) label in 1974, this wine can be produced either as naturale, liquoroso, passito or spumante. In addition to Moscato, this territory produces other DOC wines under the denomination Noto DOC: the Noto Rosso and the Noto Nero d’Avola. In a zone that expands even further to embrace the towns of Noto, Pachino, Portopalo di Capo Passero, Rosolini and Ispica another unique wine is produced, Eloro DOC. The name derives from one of the most ancient Greek colonies in Sicily, whose archaeological site is located on a hill facing the Ionian Sea approximately eight kilometres south-east of the town of Noto. Eloro DOC is a wine made from the varietal types Nero D’Avola, Frappato and Pignatello, vini ed in Rosso and Rosato. Nero d’Avola is one of the most precious grape varieties used for wine-making. Until 20 years ago, only the areas of Ragusa and Siracusa cultivated this type of vine. For over 100 years, it was the blending wine par excellence used to boost other red wines that had less colour, structure and alcohol by volume. Today Nero d’Avola is cultivated across Sicily but nds its true calling in Le Terre dei due Mari.

A route that will inebriate the senses. This itinerary dedicated to the senses winds through a territory that exposes you to its history, culture, avours and emotions through monuments, beautiful nature and environments, the social development and labour of its inhabitants, and especially through the indivisible relationship between its people and their territory. Le Terre dei due Mari are abounding in nature, sun, clean air and rich and productive soil. It is precisely in this extraordinary land that over two millennia ago, in the area between Noto and Pachino, that the Greeks started to cultivate vines “ad alberello” (head-trained bush vines). The zone most suited for this cultivation, because its terroir is unique owing to its minerals and water, was the hilly slope that gently descended to the sea. Thanks to the characteristics of the land and the climate, the inhabitants of these lands started to experiment with new types of cultivation, selecting grape varieties that were more resistant and agreeable to the palate. Family life revolved entirely around the vineyard and the grape harvest. Rituals, techniques of cultivation and pruning and the custom of the grape harvest were handed down from father to son, generation to generation. Still today, one of the oldest wines of Italy is produced in the area encompassing Noto, Rosolini, Avola and Pachino: Moscato di Noto DOC. Made only with Moscato Bianco grapes left to ripen on the vine to increase the sugar content, this nectar regales the palate with extraordinary sweet sensations. Obtaining the DOC (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata) label in 1974, this wine can be produced either as naturale, liquoroso, passito or spumante. In addition to Moscato, this territory produces other DOC wines under the denomination Noto DOC: the Noto Rosso and the Noto Nero d’Avola. In a zone that expands even further to embrace the towns of Noto, Pachino, Portopalo di Capo Passero, Rosolini and Ispica another unique wine is produced, Eloro DOC. The name derives from one of the most ancient Greek colonies in Sicily, whose archaeological site is located on a hill facing the Ionian Sea approximately eight kilometres south-east of the town of Noto. Eloro DOC is a wine made from the varietal types Nero D’Avola, Frappato and Pignatello, vini ed in Rosso and Rosato. Nero d’Avola is one of the most precious grape varieties used for wine-making. Until 20 years ago, only the areas of Ragusa and Siracusa cultivated this type of vine. For over 100 years, it was the blending wine par excellence used to boost other red wines that had less colour, structure and alcohol by volume. Today Nero d’Avola is cultivated across Sicily but nds its true calling in Le Terre dei due Mari. 

Le Terre dei due Mari hold two important recognitions from UNESCO: the Baroque architecture of the Val di Noto, where the towns rebuilt after the catastrophic earthquake of 1693 contain wondrous examples of stone-masonry; and the Mediterranean Diet, included in the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list by UNESCO in 2010. The UNESCO itinerary rings around the Cattedrale di Noto, the prime example of Baroque art and the symbol of strength, tenacity, courage and obstinacy of a people who refused to give in to fate and instead reacted, struggled and rebuilt even more solidly than before. This splendid illustration of culture, history and art derives from a combination of knowledge, practices and tradition that are also contained in the pattern of eating typical of the Mediterranean Diet. It is a model of nutrition that has remained unchanged throughout time, and one enduringly tied to the territory, agricultural products, cultivation, harvest, fishing, breeding, preservation, processing, preparation and consumption of food. The area between Avola and Pozzallo contains several exclusive products of the Mediterranean Diet. Olive oil, vegetables, fish, fresh and dried fruit are foods rich in nutritional properties, Omega3, vitamins necessary for physiological growth and development for all ages. These products are part of the Sicilian food heritage, but to a greater extent the specific eating habits typical of the people of this territory. Ispica produces one of the most renowned types of carrots in Italy: the Novella di Ispica IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta). The production of this root, a precious source of minerals and vitamins, lasts from February to June. Pachino is the realm of the tomato. Among its many varieties, the most renowned on international markets is the Ciliegino di Pachino IGP, which is produced for the most part of the year. Avola holds the distinction for cultivation of the finest almonds in the world. The blossoming of the almond trees (a spectacle in itself!) is limited to a few short days at the end of winter and the almonds are harvested between mid-August and September. Among the most precious varieties, the Mandorla Pizzuta di Avola is the most sought after by high quality confectioners and pastry chefs. In Portopalo di Capo Passero and Pozzallo, where the local fishing industry is active, a visit to the fish market makes for a highly enjoyable experience. Mediterranean fish, chiefly oily fish, is the princely catch, rich in nutritional properties, particularly mineral salts and Omega3. The exceptional value for money of oily fish makes it the most widely consumed by Sicilians. The varieties most caught in these zones are sardines, scabbard fish, albacore, little tunny, mahi-mahi, swordfish and tuna. Oily fish is a versatile product that can be used in a wide variety of dishes: from the simplest made by a fisherman to the most elaborate recipes cooked by chefs. With the exception of tuna, oily fish cannot be farmed; they are always wild, fished from the open sea and available throughout the year. As a final destination, we return to our starting point at the Cattedrale di Noto. Seated in front of this extraordinary monument, you can enjoy sipping the nectar of the Gods, a sweet Moscato di Noto doc.

Like an inland fortress that protects the coast, the plateau is characterised by an incredible morphology: breathtaking canyons and plunging gorges cut into the rock that conceal small lakes filled with cold, clear water. Not only an example of wild, uncontaminated nature, in their most intimate space they tell of thousands of years of history and evolution. Since Neolithic times, native populations, exploiting the morphology of the high rocky walls overhanging riverbeds and streams, created hundreds of cave dwellings into the rock connected by tunnels, stairs, corridors and paths until they evolved into actual settlements. This took place in nearly all the canyons of the Iblei. Cava d’Ispica and Cava Grande del Cassibile are two precious archaeological and nature conservation sites. Cava d’Ispica is a wide river valley that stretches for about 13 km from Modica to Ispica. This valley, in some sections reaching 500 m in width and 100 m in depth, includes prehistoric necropolises/burial grounds, paleo-christian catacombs, hermitages and rock-hewn churches. The part most easily reached is Parco Forza located at the south entry of the city of Ispica. It is managed by the Department of Archaeological and Cultural Heritage of Ragusa and besides the archaeological park, it offers rest areas and a park for children. Cava Grande del Cassibile is an awe-inspiring canyon that stretches through the central-eastern area of the Ibleo plateau between the towns of Noto and Avola. It is a Riserva Naturale Orientata (Natural Reserve) overseen by the Forest Service for Sicily. The valley features several lakes and potholes locally called “Urvi” created by the incessant erosion by torrential waters over a spectacular terrace of the riverbed. Cava Grande del Cassibile is a habitat of enormous interest that contains species of endemic flora and fauna. Lush and leafy trees of considerable size grow in this zone, such as the Oriental Plane (now rare), willow tree, poplar, as well as unique and spectacular wild orchids. Among the animals that may be often encountered are foxes, porcupines, hedgehogs, and some reptiles, and it is not rare to see the nesting of birds of prey such as the eagle owl and peregrine falcon. Several eco-touring itineraries are offered inside the reserve. We propose two. The “Scala Cruci” itinerary starts from Belvedere on the canyon and arrives at Laghetti d’Avola. You are allowed to go on this itinerary without an authorised guide since the whole trail is well marked. The trail is almost 2 km and starts with a stairway that leads onto a dirt path. The difference in elevation between the access and the valley floor is about 300 meters. During the walk, you can admire on the opposite wall from where you started a remarkable natural gorge where the Sicels, who were of the first colonies of these sites, carved out dozens of caves. Later the site was inhabited by Byzantines and Arabs (who created leather tanneries giving the name “Cunziria”) until the 1800s when it was used as a strategic retreat for the brigands, from which it takes its name, Grotta dei Briganti. On the wall of the canyon where the path starts, you can reach Dieri, a complex of troglodyte caves dating back to the period of the Sicels (between the 11th and 9th centuries BC). It is formed by a series of caves dug into the rock and linked by tunnels with steps; as the caves hung over the canyon, they formed a system of defence that was impregnable. Because of the difficulty of this section of the itinerary, to reach the Dieri you must be accompanied by an expert and authorised guide. At the end of the path of departure, you will arrive at the Laghetti d’Avola, extraordinary lakes of unique beauty, always plentiful of clear, cool water, a place of rest and refuge from the heat especially in summer after such a trek. Keep in mind that the time to follow the itinerary back up is almost twice as long as going down. The itinerary lying more to the north is also called “UrvuTunnu”; it will take you to a round pothole carved by the waters of the Cassibile river and situated on the valley floor. It is a ring-shaped path that starts in Contrada Turisco, a few kilometres north-west of the previous. It is not a marked trail and for that reason it is advisable to be accompanied by an authorised guide who is an expert on the site. The itinerary, which crosses dirt paths, mule tracks, mid-high trails and the valley floor has a difference in altitude no more than 150 meters, and within everyone’s ability, even less expert hikers. Arriving at UrvuTunnu gives the opportunity for a rest and cooling off. The itinerary resumes towards the valley along a mid-high trail and then ascends after a kilometre to the plateau where you will return to the point of departure.

The farthest tip of Sicily, cradle of Le Terre dei due Mari, is a favourite rest stop for the migratory birds that head towards northern Europe in spring and return to Africa in autumn thanks to the water contained in the extensive wetlands located in several zones of the territory. These marshes are often so full of water during the winter that they remain full also in summer. The visitor will be lucky enough to observe an abundance of species: black-winged stilts, grey herons, black storks, white storks, flamingoes, little egrets, spoonbills, glossy ibis, collared pratincoles, European rollers, seagulls, terns, woodcocks, marsh harrier, perns, ducks and widgeons. The Oasi Faunistica di Vendicari (Noto) is a nature paradise. The five kilometre itinerary will stun the visitor with marvellous beaches, rocky coastlines overlooking the sea, seabed perfect for snorkelling, a 15th century fortified tower, the old tuna processing factory that has been recently restored and the wetlands of the Pantani (large and small). This wondrous natural environment contains approximately 100 bird species whose presence varies according to the season. Some species nest in these places and find their perfect natural habitat. The sanctuary provides the birds a tranquil environment since it is protected from noise pollution and external disturbances. The reserve is provided with observation huts located along the marshes. Binoculars are recommended for a more detailed observation. Continuing south are the Saline di Morghella. This is one of the largest marshes in the Pachino area. It was originally a rainwater basin until its transformation into a salt evaporation pond. Excavated in the period of Arab rule, the salt ponds were active until the 1960s, when they fell into disuse due to the scant production compared to the more productive salt ponds in north-western Sicily. Today, this expanse of water is one of the preferred resting spots for bird fauna thanks to its location bordering the sea. After passing the town of Portopalo di Capo Passero and its harbour, the route continues towards the southernmost marshes of Italy, those of Ponterio, Ciaramiraro and Baronello, the smallest of all. Of the three, only Baronello is still connected to the sea by a small canal, whereas Pantano Ponterio, used in the past as a salt pond, is isolated from the sea, as the channel communicating with the sea was filled in after salt production was abandoned. These wetlands are part of the Riserva Naturale Orientata “Pantani della Sicilia sud-orientale”, instituted in 2011 with the purpose of protecting coastal wetlands that host populations of wintering shorebirds and waders and to permit the nesting of fauna by exploiting Mediterranean vegetation for the protection of aquatic birds. The largest marsh of all is the Longarini in the zone of Ispica; it is a basin situated a few hundred meters from the sea and contains salt water. Since the time of the Greeks and Romans, this area was utilized as an inland harbour, thanks to its position bordering the coast, that served to protect ships loaded with cargo. Today the Pantano Longarini, with its 200 hectares of lake area, offers shelter and refreshment for hundreds of bird species. The easy access directly from the road allows visitors to admire the different species without venturing into the reeds and trees so as to minimise disturbance to local fauna.

A coast as mesmerising as the Due Mari has always been a desirable destination for sailboats and pleasure boats thanks to small natural harbors, coves, jetties originating as breakwaters and used as temporary moorings, in addition to the splendid marinas that offer facilities and supplies for ordinary navigation. Starting from the northeastern part of Le Terre dei due Mari, we note one of the most charming areas for temporary docking, the small port of Marina di Avola, adjacent to the old tunnery and fishing village. It features a single arm of breakwater which created an inlet suitable for mooring small boats. The small port has a sandy bed and is rather shallow. When sailing towards the port of Calabernardo in the Noto area you will follow a low, sandy coast, abounding in beaches, coastal villages and towns. The distance between the two ports is 1.73 nautical miles. This small marina has two piers of 50 and 20 meters, unsuitable for large boats due to the shallow bed which is 1.50 meters at its deepest point. There is a fountain for water and slide for small boats. From this port, the route south coasts along one of the most beautiful beaches in Italy, Calamosche. This should be followed by a splendid view of the Oasi Faunistica di Vendicari, including its pantani (marshes), the torre Sveva (Swabian tower) and the tonnara (tunnery) with arrival to the seaside village of Marzamemi. This tourist site truly deserves a longer visit. The route covers 7.92 nautical miles. There is a choice of two ports in the Borgata di Marzamemi, La Balata and Porto Fossa. The small port of Marzamemi, La Balata, is protected by a 150 m pier marked by a green light at the head. Several floating docks run out from the beach. The larger port of Marzamemi is Porto Fossa, a few hundred meters from La Balata. It can accommodate over 400 boats up to a maximum length of 55 meters. Both ports have refueling points, water and electrical connections, dock lighting, slipway, restrooms and showers. To arrive at the southernmost point of Europe, you will have to sail for another 8.5 nautical miles, leaving to starboard an uneven coast with rocky beaches alternating with hidden coves. The Port of Portopalo di Capo Passero is composed of an east pier of 360 meters and a west pier of 390 meters. The port is mainly reserved for fishing boats, however there are docks for pleasure craft as well. Refueling services, water and electrical connections, dock lighting, slipway, restrooms and showers are available. At this point begins the longest leg of the sail of 17.80 nautical miles. You will coast along the southernmost tip of Sicily, the Isola delle Correnti, where foamy water marks the point where the two Seas meet. Going back up the coast, leaving to starboard the enchanting spiaggia di Carratoise by crossing Porto Ulisse, you can admire the spectacular faraglioni di Cirica, the very long beaches of Santa Maria del Focallo, Pietre Nere and of Raganzino before arriving to Porto Piccolo di Pozzallo. Situated immediately north of the commercial port, the Porto Piccolo is protected by two piers that totally enclose a basin with docks used by fishing boats, pleasure craft and harbor boats. It has 150 boat slips and refueling services, water and electrical connections, dock lighting, slipway, restrooms and showers.

Symbol of fear, anger and joy. The red tuna of Sicily was the most desirable prey, the tuna with the firmest flesh and largest heart containing sacks full of eggs. It was the fish that supplied sustenance and a living to the entire population who lived in the neighbourhood of the Tonnara. Tuna fishing in Sicily has very antique origins, especially the “mattanza”. The first to teach the techniques of catching tuna were the Arabs, followed by the Spanish. In south-eastern Sicily, precisely in Le Terre dei due Mari, many tunneries were in production until the 1960s. They were spectacular processing plants located by the sea and near salt-water areas. Before the Florio family invented tuna packed in olive oil, the best method for conserving this extraordinary fish was to use salt. That is why almost all the tuna processing plants were built in the sea salt production areas, near the salt evaporation ponds or salt water lakes. The tonnare of Vendicari, Marzamemi and of Portopalo had their own salt ponds next to them. The tuna processing industry by now no longer has use for these tunneries, which have become a store of memory and tradition, splendid examples of industrial archaeology. The tonnara located in the northernmost point of this itinerary is Avola, situated at the entry of the Marina. Its position was strategic to facilitate the transport of tuna from the boats to the Malfaraggio (spaces for storing and processing the tuna). The tonnara also included the house inhabited by the owner, who during the summer also became a “tonnarota” or tuna fisherman. Little remains of the old tonnara: the perimeter walls, the large chimney and part of the warehouses, but it is well worth a visit, especially at dawn, when the old walls of the processing plant take on a golden hue. Inside the Oasi Faunistica di Vendicari, you can admire another tunnery. Exquisitely restored, the visitor experiences the tonnara as if it were an open book. It was a tonnara dedicated to the fishing of tuna that would return to open sea after the mating season. The Vendicari tonnara, also called Bafutu experienced its maximum splendour in the early 1900s, when the salt ponds lying behind were granted in concession to a nobleman of Avola, who restructured all the 18th century buildings of the tonnara in order to resume processing and production. When the allies landed in Sicily during World War II, the tunnery stopped activity and is now a symbol of the Vendicari Reserve. The most ancient tonnara in all of south-eastern Sicily is that of Marzamemi. The first settlements date to the year 1000 AD by the Arabs, who installed the first housing clusters that would later form the seaside village. La Loggia, once a shelter for returning boats, is a perfectly restored space. All warehouses and processing areas are visible from the large Balata. In Marzamemi, the seafaring life has never stopped. The processing of the tuna continues in several modern plants and those who visit them understand that the “flavour of history” is immutable here. The last tuna processing plant is located in Portopalo di Capo Passero. Its particular architecture can be especially appreciated from the sea: the processing plant and residence of the owner were and are still located on a rocky coast 40 meters above sea level. This, too, was a tonnara dedicated to the returning fish, the last before returning to the open sea. The tuna having survived other tunneries arrived tired and thin, their flesh was firm and with little fat, and having already deposited their eggs, their capture constituted no damage to reproduction.

The Mare di Sicilia, especially the section of coast that goes from the Gallina di Avola beach to Pozzallo, an area colonised by the Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Spanish, has been the theatre of events, fortunes, encounters, war, shipwrecks and has contributed to preserving, in a more or less visible way, the traces of history. There are the remains of cargo ships once containing imposing columns for the construction of buildings, amphorae for wine and oil, statues for adornment and furnishings. Hundreds of artefacts, most of which given the size and state of preservation have been left in loco in what appears as a sort of underwater museum. Today, thanks to the precise work of surveying and research by the Department of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology of the Sea, many of these archaeological finds have been identified, studied and catalogued. Many other artefacts preserved from the attrition of the sea and saved from wreck looters are conserved in a bona fide archaeological museum of underwater “cultural assets” that include hundreds of artefacts found in the sea bottoms of the entire coast of the GAC dei due Mari. This museum takes the name the Museo del Mare di Calabernardo (Noto). Of all the archaeological-undersea itineraries that the visitor may experience, we propose Marzamemi 1, located about one mile from the coast near the seaside village from which it takes its name. To arrive at the diving point we advise leaving on a boat from the big port of Marzamemi (Porto Fossa) accompanied by expert guides with authorisation for diving in the archaeological site. The dive is not a difficult challenge as the site is located about seven metres in depth on a rocky plateau. The water is almost always transparent since there is no suspension of sand. The site stretches over a surface of about 600 square metres. Because of its size and shallow depth it is suited for snorkelling excursions as well. It includes a cargo of semi-finished columns and square blocks presumably to be used as bases or capitals. Amphora fragments made it possible to date the wreck back to the 3rd century AD. The marble of the columns originates from the East, so we may theorise that it came from quarries in Turkey. It is the size of the columns that gives the site its impressive display The largest is 6.40 metres long, with a diameter of about 185 cm. There is no way to know what these columns were destined for, presumably construction of a grandiose building given their colossal dimensions. Of the wreckage and the wood elements nothing remains. The ship, having sunk on a rocky bottom, was exposed for centuries to the seawater and the activity of a particular mollusc, the Teredo Navalis, who loves to burrow long tunnels inside wood. Given the cargo (about 165 tons) we can hypothesise that the ship was a little less than 30 metres long with a minimum width of 9 metres. Between the columns and blocks of marble, well hidden amidst the seagrass Posidonia Oceanica, undersea fauna make their home: moray eels, octopuses, scorpion fish, small crustaceans colour and render the exploration of the site truly unique and captivating.

In good weather the coastal zone, with its splendid beaches, seafronts and coastal roads, gets packed with bike enthusiasts who take full enjoyment from their beautiful surroundings. The itinerary we have designated extends into the southern part of this zone between Portopalo di Capo Passero and Porto Ulisse. The terrain is mostly flat: of the 24 km comprising the route, the highest point is 37 m above sea level, so it is within everybody’s capacity and can be ridden at any time of the year. For the most part, the itinerary runs along paved roads and no special equipment or hi-tech bicycles are required. The starting point is at Terrazza dei due Mari, a panoramic viewpoint in the town of Portopalo di Capo Passero. The last section of the Ionian Sea and the islet of Capo Passero are included in a stretch of this itinerary. After crossing through the town, you first head towards the roadstead coast along the port. At this point the route takes you through vineyards and cherry tomato orchards. The first stop is at the farthest tip of the area where your gaze meets the Isola delle Correnti. Stop at the small square in front of the beach, which serves as a parking area during the summer. From here, you can walk along the section of beach that leads to the island, an isthmus of a few dozen metres that can be crossed by foot during low tide, especially in summer. The longest leg of the itinerary is 21 km. Heading back up the coast, you bike in a north-west direction crossing fields, vineyards and greenhouses with thousands of cherry tomato plants, The red splash of colour of the tomatoes on the vine will accompany you for several kilometres! The itinerary then turns eastward. You will return along the coast through the town of Granelli, leaving the province of Siracusa and entering the territory of Ragusa. You then arrive at a startling expanse of water called Pantano Longarini. It is not rare to observe hundreds of pink flamingoes taking a rest on these brackish waters in spring or autumn during their migratory period. It is truly a site to behold. The peace that reigns here makes one reluctant to ever leave; it is as if time has stood still. The last three kilometres of the route wind along the coast towards one of the best-known destinations of the entire zone, Porto Ulisse. Named in honour of Homer’s legendary hero who raised the ire of the heaven and sea gods and landed on Sicily, one of the most beautiful islands in the world. From these cliffs, you can glimpse to the west the “faraglioni” or sea stacks of Cirica just behind the Secche di Circe, the cause of many shipwrecks of Roman and Byzantine vessels.

This is a journey that knows no bounds, it is unique and incomparable. The itinerary is an invitation to the senses, emotions, and palate that is expressed through the enjoyment of food, the element that most characterises it. The dishes of the culinary tradition of these places are inextricably linked to the sea, the primary source of food, in addition to good health and good air. The types of fish available, which vary according to the season and zone, play a leading role in the gastronomic history of the two seas. The itinerary starts from the town located at the northernmost point of these lands, Avola, where the local fishermen catch different products based on the season and techniques. During spring, especially in March, the fish market brims with Seppie (cuttlefish), one of the most delectable molluscs, appreciated for its white, firm flesh, while its sack of “ink” flavours thick tomato sauces making for excellent first course dishes. Freshly caught cuttlefish is excellent roasted or grilled accompanied by a prized olive oil, fresh parsley and a touch of hot red pepper. In Noto, we recommend sampling a Zuppa (soup) made with the daily catch: scorpion fish, tub gunard, squid, squilla and a few mussels, flavoured with an excellent tomato purée and toasted bread. This is the traditional dish of fishermen, who at the end of the day would bring home the poor man’s catch, the fish left unsold. It was thanks to the mastery in the art of cooking of the women of the home to transform this blend of fish species into the most delicious dish of all. Pachino, home of the oldest tonnara (tunnery) of south-eastern Sicily, the Marzamemi, is dedicated a tuna-based dish. The best period to taste the Tonno Rosso of the Mediterranean is in spring, when large schools of “tunnidi” enter from the Atlantic into this sea to reproduce. Their flesh is still fatty and succulent. The flavour of the Tonno is enhanced by cooking lightly on a grill accompanied by sweet and sour onions and peppers. For those who are enthusiastic about raw fish, we suggest visiting Portopalo di Capo Passero, where besides the red cherry tomato, a taste of the Gambero Rosa (pink shrimp) of the Mediterranean or white shrimp is highly recommended. This crustacean has a very delicate taste; it is excellent raw or slightly marinated in olive oil and a small squeeze of lemon. The best time for fishing the gambero rosa is in winter and spring. In the most inland town in the area, Ispica, we suggest trying the king of cephalopods, Polpo (octopus). Across the entire Mediterranean octopus is fished particularly in shallow seabed, which it prefers. It is well prepared in a salad served tepid with just boiled potatoes added with extra virgin olive oil and a scattering of fresh parsley. The low calorie content of octopus and its refined flavour make it the ideal dish for any time of the year. The last dish we find in Pozzallo, especially at Christmastime. In this delightful seaside town the tradition is to fill an “impanata” (savoury pie) with a truly unique fish, Palombo or smooth hound. Similar to a shark in shape and genus, it is not a species dangerous to man. Its lean flesh has no cholesterol and the absence of spines makes it easy to eat, especially for children. The savoury pie with palombo can be added with capers and potatoes, or a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce. 

Le Terre dei due Mari has over 90 km of coast. From Avola to Pozzallo incredible beaches of fine sand alternate with stupendous rock coasts, with high cliffs that stand proudly before the sea. Often they hide grottos and inlets, whose clear water glisten blue. Not by chance, then, that snorkelling enthusiasts search for places that are far from sand and fluvial waters. As these areas have no suspended sand the sea waters are even more clean and transparent and offer excellent visibility. These sites are a perfect destination for exploring rocks and grottos and admiring the submerged flora and fauna without necessarily being expert divers. The places appropriate for snorkelling are numerous and are spread along the whole coast.

A beautiful seaside town north-east of Avola. A splendid rocky cove with small iron stairs lead into the water. Large slabs of rock allow gear to be set down during the preparation phase. The seabed is not sandy; it is rich in rock encrusted with barnacles, limpets and sea urchins, fauna rich in crustaceans (notably crabs) and small inshore fish. It is not unusual to encounter octopus and moray eels hidden between the rocks.

The rocky coast of the Oasi Faunistica di Vendicari can be reached only from the main access of the Reserve. Swimming is permitted, however fishing is prohibited. You are allowed to use masks and fins but not carry knives, compressed air rifles or elastic powered spearguns. The activity is devoted to pure snorkelling. The protected area extends to the entire zone along the coast. The sea of Vendicari is crystal clear and clean. In the sandiest part of the seabed there is an incredible meadow of Posidonia Oceanica, among the most extensive patches of seagrass in the Mediterranean, which covers nearly 30 square kilometres. It is a plentiful source of oxygen for these waters and acts as protection and nourishment for innumerable species that inhabit it: fish, molluscs, bivalves (including the very rare “Pinna Nobilis”) and the solitary seahorse.

As soon as you leave the centre of Portopalo, from a very small beach under the Terrazza dei due Mari, you can head towards the Isola di Capo Passero, but only if wearing a good pair of fins. Until a short time ago, the island was joined with the mainland by a small sandy isthmus. All the coast beneath the island is jagged and full of grottoes. Where the waters of the sea break against the rock and are oxygenated, it’s not a rare sight to find schools of white sea bream, sea bass, sole and a grouper here and there.

After passing Porto Ulisse near Ispica, you will arrive in the area of Marza. Here the breakwaters have carved out small beaches, leaving several grottos dry but making it possible to arrive at the Faraglioni, the large standing rocks. The sea of this coast is among the bluest and most transparent of the Mediterranean. The Secche di Circe, a few hundred metres from the coast have been the cause of devastating shipwrecks in the past, so it is not a rare occurrence to happen upon artefacts encrusted for so long that they have become fused with the natural underwater seascape. Green algae, false coral and sponges are hiding places for moray eels, octopuses, sea bream and sea needles, while the varicoloured scorpion fish camouflage themselves amid the rocks.

The towers lining coastline of Le Terre dei due Mari had a highly important function, as their strategic position made them excellent lookouts. The entire coast and overlooking sea were kept watch to defend from pirate invasions. Watchtowers, fortifications, and warehouses were solid structures built to resist outside attacks and last the test of time. Thanks to their strong construction some of them are still perfectly preserved and today recount stories and legends of a fabled past. Inside the Vendicari Reserve, almost to protect the territory behind, the Torre Sveva is an outstanding example of a watchtower. Built presumably around the 13th century AD the tower had the temporary function of a warehouse, a storage place for foodstuffs that arrived or departed from the small port centre of Vendicari. Noto, according to a document dated 1396, had permission to trade in foodstuffs through the docks at the present nature reserve. The tower appears as a large structure with a rectangular layout composed of large limestone blocks. At top the corners feature corbels, which were probably added later to support ledges for lookouts, canons or sentry boxes to allow the tower to perform its protective function. In Contrada Belvedere di Torre Fano, in the zone of Pachino, remains are still visible of a sighting tower, one of the most ancient dating back to 700 DC. In this period Siracusa, capital of Magna Grecia, had control of the entire sea overlooking their territories. Torre Fano was utilised as a guide for navigators who doubled the two seas, but also for the control of the sea against the Punic invasions. It maintained this function also during the Roman and Byzantine period. A system of watchtowers was later organised during Norman rule. Torre Fano, given its unique position (in the southernmost point of Sicily) acted as a defence for many centuries. The island of Capo Passero is site of a fine piece of military architecture built at the beginning of the 1600s, the Regia Fortezza Spagnola. The works to build this defensive structure went on for about 35 years, a drawn-out enterprise owing to modifications resulting from power struggles, completions and adornments. It was always overseen by military garrisons, all Spanish, apart from the barber and chaplain, who were Italian. The fort performed its function as a bastion defending the entire coast against the marauding Ottomans for over two centuries without ever being conquered. It remained unharmed from the catastrophic earthquake of 11 January 1693 which destroyed a great many towns in the Val di Noto. From 1871, with the construction of a small lighthouse, it was guarded by the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) for lighting the lighthouse at night. Now that night-time lighting is automatic, the guardian service is no longer active. The lighthouse situated at the very southern tip of Europe is on the Isola delle Correnti. It is a tiny islet shaped as a tear drop, linked to the terra firma by an isthmus whose appearance is dictated by the tides and rough seas. The island of the Two Seas sits at centre of all passages, currents and movements between the Ionian and Mediterranean Seas. Extraordinary due to its geographic position is its endpoint opposite Trieste of the “Sentiero d’Italia”: one of the longest hiking trails in the world (circa 5,500 km). Until a few decades ago, the island was host to the lighthouse guardian and his family. In addition to the guardian’s house, still visible is a military structure managed by the Marina Militare until a short time ago. Returning inland towards the Pachino zone you can visit Torre Xibini. It was built at the end of the 1400s by the baron and owner of surrounding fiefs, both as a way to flaunt his prestige and to defend the lands and crops from pirate invasions. The old tower still has all of its square base and the eastern side of the walls, measuring about 10 meters in height. On the façade you can see the family’s coat of arms fully intact carved into the limestone and an inscription in Latin. The most imposing monument, the Torre Cabrera can be admired in Pozzallo. This too was a watchtower, built by King Alfonso V of Aragon in the early 15th century. The tower was constructed in defence of the Caricatore, a complex of warehouses of strategic importance positioned on the coast and built with slides and wharfs for the loading of goods on the sailing ships (especially wheat, produced in enormous quantities in the Contea di Modica). This site was the second in importance and value in Sicily. The Torre Cabrera was the centre of activity from which the entire town of Pozzallo developed and today is a national monument and symbol of the town.

The culture of the sea and its resources, the appreciation for marine and fish heritage, and the defence of biotic communities are all expressed in the concept of Pescaturismo or fishing tourism. This type of tourism is integrated into the daily fishing activities aboard fishing boats or small boats dedicated to artisanal fishing. It initially originated as an opportunity to increase the income of fisherman authorised to practice by hosting on board people other than their crew for recreational purposes. Fishing tourism allows participants to observe professional or sport fishing techniques, the use of bait or special hooks, but more than anything, the tourists aid in spreading the culture of sustainable fishing that observes limits on sizes, places, methods and periods for fishing. Fishing tourism can be offered during the whole year, including Sundays and holidays and in good seafaring weather conditions, in some cases even at night. It is open to all, even those under the age of 14 accompanied by a responsible adult. This itinerary departs from the fishing port of Portopalo di Capo Passero, though it should be pointed out that all the other fishing fleets in the territory of the GAC dei due Mari are organised to offer fishing tourism. Departure and return time are agreed upon based on the requirements of the tourists and the marine weather conditions. After leaving the harbour, the boat heads south-west in the direction of the Isola delle Correnti. The expedition arrives at about 2.5 nautical miles from the port to begin the catch. After admiring the island, the bow turns east and the Conzo or Palamito is lowered into the sea. This is one of the most ancient of fishing gear consisting in a variable number of hooks (maximum of 200 for non-professional fishermen) that are attached to a single line by means of small pieces of line and dropped to the bottom with weights. The Conzo, recognisable by floating markers, is left in the sea for a period of time at the discretion of the fisherman. During the wait, the boat heads towards the island of Capo Passero, a distance of five nautical miles, where it circumnavigates the island slowly so that all of its magnificence can be taken in. The excursion then continues towards the old Tonnara and the Tafuri castle (a monumental turn-of-the century building built as the summer residence of the marquises of Belmonte). This splendid bay affords the opportunity for participants to take a swim. Once back on board, the boat captain heads in the direction of where the Conzo was dropped by identifying the floats. Now begin the operations to recover the fishing equipment and the fish that have been caught. Any fish that is not the suitable size is thrown back into the sea if still alive. For each species there is a table of minimum measurements to abide by, even though the best measuring stick is the conscience of the fisherman. The excursion has a duration of a day or half-day: participants can have lunch on board for the number of people approved by the authorisations from the Maritime Authority. The boat returns to the port of embarkation unless there are different requirements or particular necessities.

Churches have always represented the centre of gathering for Christians, especially in small villages, where the communities would join together for festivities celebrating the local patron saint. Exploring the main churches of a town or city means understanding the historical and cultural development of their inhabitants. The mother church of Avola is dedicated to San Sebastiano. It was built immediately after the catastrophic earthquake of 1693. With a height of 50 m and depth of 30 m, it has three entrances corresponding to the three naves, the central of which is the largest. The lateral naves are formed by four lateral arches and four altars. The Patron of Avola is the virgin martyr Santa Venera. Each year on the last Sunday of July, she is honoured with a solemn feast day, and eight days later, the simulacrum of this saint, as decreed by an ancient religious-seafaring tradition, is brought on board a boat for the procession at sea, followed by a parade of sailors, fishermen and worshippers. The procession hugs along the shore and landing places in the Avola area in the jubilation and solemnity of mysticism and religion. The most important place of worship of the city of Noto is the Basilica di San Nicolò di Mira. It, too, was constructed after the earthquake of 1693. It was built entirely out of blocks of soft limestone in a spectacular rose colour and stands atop a majestic stairway with four flights of stairs. In 1996, a disastrous collapse razed to the ground the central nave, right nave and part of the cupola. After 11 years of works, the cathedral was handed back to the town in all its magnificence. The interior, in the layout of a Latin cross, holds a precious silver coffer from the 1500s containing the remains of the Patron Saint of the city and of the Diocese of Noto: Corrado Gonfalonieri. Each year in the month of August, this silver urn is carried in the procession from the Noto Cathedral to the Hermitage of the Patron situated in the small village of San Corrado Fuori Le Mura (a few kilometres north-west of Noto). After two weeks of veneration, a night-time procession is held for the return of the remains to the Cattedrale di San Nicolò and is spectacular sight. Dedicated to San Bartolomeo, the mother church of Ispica dominates the upper part of the Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia. It was built starting in 1750 through the efforts of Don Antonio Li Favi, and its façade is characterised by late Baroque and classically-styled elements. The major religious festivities in Ispica are related to two of the most sacred moments in Catholic and Christian tradition, Easter and Christmas. During Holy Week the entire city moves in processions and in “via Crucis” including to the Cava d’Ispica, which holds the small church of Santa Maria la Cava hewn into the rock. A unique and inspiring experience is to observe the live nativity scene put on every Christmas in the spectacular Parco Forza of the Cava d’Ispica. The mother church of Pozzallo is dedicated to the Madonna del Rosario. Commissioned by the Reverend Vincenzo Ferreri, its construction began in 1876 and was completed in 1891. The church (with Latin cross layout) is formed by three naves, separated by a set of squared columns. The statue of the Madonna, a work by Valente Assenza, is placed in the apse at sides of which two chapels contain the Blessed Sacrament and a statue of Christ Crucified. Celebrations in honour of the Madonna del Rosario fall every October 7th; the liturgical program with processions and solemn celebrations is accompanied by recreational and traditional activities taken part by all the townspeople. On the main square of Pachino stands the mother church dedicated to SS Crocifisso. It was built by the marquises of Starrabba, proprietors of the neighbouring Scibini fief and founders of the city. Works to build the church were begun in 1970. It features a façade in two overlapping sections and two small bell towers. The magnificent bronze door was made in 1968 by the sculptor Biasi. The celebrations in honour of the patron saint, the Madonna Assunta, are celebrated every August 15th, and are an occasion for solemn celebrations, processions and candlelight vigils that also embrace the neighbouring seaside villages such as Marzamemi. The most recent of all churches of Le Terre dei due Mari is dedicated to San Gaetano, located in the small town of Portopalo di Capo Passero. Its construction was begun in 1927. Its appearance is simple, without exaggerated adornment, suited to a fishing village. Built entirely in stone and inaugurated in 1931, it fell victim to a devastating fire in 2012 that destroyed all the roof of the apse (constructed of reeds and gypsum), part of the roof of the nave and the sacristy, in addition to damaging a considerable part of the chapel of the Eucharist. Restoration works were completed in November 2014. On top of the bell tower a weather vane in the shape of a swordfish has become the symbol of the town. Festivities in honour of the Patron Saint are held each August 7th with a procession through the streets of the town. In the days that follow, celebrations continue with sailing regattas, contests and traditional games.

A thin “fil rouge”, red as the tuna that have returned to the small harbour of Marzamemi for over a millennium, narrates the history of this village. Marsa al Hamen is the most characteristic fishing village in this area. It has maintained intact some of the characteristics of the fishing village, buildings and structures that preserve the history and development of fishing and artisanal crafts. Tuna is still processed in Marzamemi with the same patience, care and dedication that has been handed down for generations. It was the Arabs who built the first tonnara around the year 1000 during the period of their rule. For its size and production it was for many centuries the principal tunnery in Eastern Sicily. Only at the start of the 1700s the Principe di Villadorata, after buying land and buildings gave a vital stimulus to the zone by expanding the village around the tuna works, enlarging warehouses, building housing for the fishermen, the church and his lovely palazzo nobiliare. From that moment on, Marzamemi started to abound with artisans including sailors, fishermen, rope-makers, “calafatari” (repairers of fishing boats), eviscerators, salters, “cavallari” (fishmongers with carts hauled by large horses) to create an active centre. A very elementary network united these activities in a unique but absolutely necessary way: one activity was a preparatory step for the next, everything was efficiently timed and executed to perfection. Still today, Marzamemi preserves the charm and memory of that artisanal activity and synergism. Visiting this village is a true step back; everything seems like a moment in time when the village lived its peak of prestige and prosperity. The fishing village is organised around the Piazza Regina Margherita with the Palazzo del Principe di Villadorata. Connecting the old church of San Francesco di Paola to the palazzo is an Arch, which conveys the rainwater from drains installed on the façade of the palazzo in two large cisterns at side of the church. The Fishermen’s houses look out onto the square and an Arab Courtyard in the back. Small, tidy and simple, the houses have two doors, one facing the sea, the other the village so that the connection between life on land and life among the waves is never broken. From a balcony of the palazzo, the Prince, owner of the tonnara, could look out onto the Loggia where the tuna was processed and control the Scieri (the boats used for tuna fishing) just returned with their precious cargo. The “scieri”, entering the village from Porto Piccolo were towed to land and docked with the part of the slide against the Balata (comprising slabs of smooth limestone) in such a way to unload the freshly caught tuna by means of a hook. Slippery and sloped, the Balata served to facilitate the dragging to land of the tuna to the Loggia: here the tuna would undergo the first part of their processing before being hung for about 24 hours in the Camperia. This was the canning plant of the Tonnara, recognisable from the tall quadrilateral chimney stack. The entire complex was called Malfaraggio and also included housing for workers, spaces for storing the “scieri” during the winter, the Magazzini or warehouses for the equipment, nets and other tools for fishing and rooms for the processing and storage of the fish. This corner of artisanal fishing and processing and trading of fish products has been continuously active despite hard times (especially during the two world wars). Today in Marzamemi there are several artisanal tuna processing plants, which perpetuate with simplicity the time-honoured fishing tradition as it has been handed down from the earliest generations.

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