Italy is home to some of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, from cosmopolitan Lake Como to romantic Rome and picturesque Tuscany. But there is a hidden side of it too that travel guides won’t reveal to you, especially if you are a sailing aficionado who is always on the lookout for new adventures. Click&Boat has gone the extra mile to help you discover the real Italy, asking the locals for some tips about the country’s secret boating charms.
The Aegadian Islands, three Sicilian pearls
Just a stone’s throw from Trapani on the west coast of Sicily, the Aegadian Islands (Isole Egadi in Italian) have escaped the tourism craze that has overtaken their famous neighbour. Home to one of Europe’s best preserved marine reserves, this small group of islands offers to sailing fans plenty of isolated bays and coves to explore, as well as challenging hiking paths and a whiff of the traditional Italian dolce vita.
To reach the islands you can hire a boat from Trapani in Sicily and sail to Favignana, the biggest Aegadian island in terms of size and population, also known as La Farfalla among locals due to its butterfly shape. You can dock your boat in the port of the Favignana, a picturesque fishing village with a long history that straddles the millenniums, attested by gracious buildings such as Palazzo Florio and Fort of Santa Caterina. The island is famous for its delicious tuna, fished locally, so don’t miss the opportunity to visit a trattoria to try a local specialty, such as bottarga (dried tuna roe). The island’s stunning beaches include Cala Rossa, Cala Azzurra and Cala Rotonda: little paradises with crystal clear waters, ideal to enjoy the Mediterranean sun in the summer. For something more adventurous, explore the island’s remote grottos, particularly Grotta Azzurra (the blue cave), Grotta dei Sospiri (the cave of sighs, due to the sigh-like sound produced when the wind hit the cave’s rock), and Grotta degli Innamorati, aka Lovers’s Cave.
You next stop could be Levanzo, the smallest of the islands. Archaelogy fans will adore this island for the Paleolithic cave paintings in “Grotta del Genovese”, depicting pictures from everyday life tens of thousands of years ago, including – what else – tuna fishing. Levazzo also happens to be a hiker’s paradise with its hilly landscape, particularly the peak of Pizzo dei Monaco. If you want to sail the extra mile, there is also Marettimo. the most remote of the Aegadian islands, as well as the most rewarding one in terms of sailing delights. Its rugged cliffs, engulfing the island from all sides, as well as its hilly interior, will blow your mind with their natural beauty, making the trip to the Aegadian Islands, these pearls of hidden Italy, worth your time.
Tremiti Islands: Rugged and beautiful
Located a few miles from the ‘spur’ of the Italian boot, the Tremiti islands make a perfect sailing destination in late summer or early autumn. Isolated from the hustle and bustle of Italy’s eastern coast, they offer a combination of natural beauty and serene ambience that characterises the country’s Southern regions. The islands are part of the Gargano National Park, which also includes the Mount Gargano promontory. Sailing from Bari, Vieste or Garganico to Isola San Domino, the largest of the islands, is the standard way to reach the Tremiti islands. This Mediterranean gem of hidden Italy lends itself to a one-day boating trip; we recommend the circumnavigation of the island to explore its remote caves: Viole, Sole and Bue Marino. The beaches won’t disappoint you either with their turquoise waters and rocky landscape in the background, especially Cala delle Arene and Cala Matana.
Just a few hundred meters from San Domino is the island of San Nicola, home to some of Southern Italy’s most beautiful coves. You can start your trip from Acquedotto, a rocky beach, and then head to the Punta del Cimitero on the northern tip of the island to admire its steep cliffs, typical of the raw Mediterranean landscape. On the eastern part of the island, you can explore the cave Grotta del Ferraio with its mystical vibes, and La Muratta, an ancient promontory hanging from the cliffs, reminiscent of the times when the island was isolated enough to attract pirates. For the last leg of your trip you can visit Isola Caprera on the north of San Domino. The island is uninhabited most of the year, but it is home to a gorgeous lighthouse and a small remote beach to explore with your boat, Cala dei Turchi.
Although the Tremiti Islands are an up-and-coming destination for sailing fans, there is no sheltered harbour to dock at night apart from an anchorage in Porto San Nicola on the southwest of the island. Sailing in these waters can also be treacherous, as shoals and reefs abound, while the depth of the water can be less than 2 metres. But that’s perhaps part of the allure of this unique place, a monument to the beauty of hidden Italy.