Over my years of assisting clients to find accommodation in the best Sicily resorts, I've been privileged to have explored a great deal of what I believe is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. You'd be hard pressed to find a more diverse and abundant landscape, and throughout the nine provinces numerous areas of great significance have been designated as protected nature reserves.
Among the most picturesque “Marine Protected Areas" are Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve and Plemmirio Marine Reserve.
Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve
Renowned as the most impressive nature park in Italy, Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve encompasses seven kilometres of coastline from San Vito lo Capo to Scopello, in the north-west of the island. Where the land meets the ocean, the reserve takes in tranquil deserted coves, mysterious underwater caves and a proliferation of marine life that makes the surrounding waters home.
The interior can be explored on foot via a network of routes, but the most picturesque is the coastal trail that takes around five hours to complete. Along the way you can duck down to tiny pebbly bays tucked into shorn-off cliffs and marvel at timeworn grottos carved by Nature out of the limestone.
Rugged, dramatic and entirely entrancing, this magnificent natural area is one of my favourite places in Sicily. Resorts in San Vito Lo Capo are my top recommendations for a base to explore this wonderful Marine Protected region
Plemmirio Marine Reserve
In the south-east of the island, just outside Syracuse, the Plemmirio Marine Reserve takes in the area from Punta della Mola to Punta Milocca, on the spectacular Maddalena Peninsula. More than 2,500 hectares of ocean come under its guardianship along with more than 12 kms of coastline. The reserve encompasses myriad underwater caves and the surrounding sea provides a home not just for the rich marine life, but also the relics of the ancient Roman and Greek merchants.
The numerous decaying wrecks and corroded anchors submerged just off shore in the warm, crystal clear waters washing over the coral reef make the reserve one of the most popular diving sites in Sicily. The striking Cave of the Stalactites is a highlight, along with a number of easy-to-access sites in the area known as La Lingua del Gigante. Along with dolphins and larger fish like tuna and amberjack, the waters of the reserve also provide a home for countless smaller species, including sponges, sea crickets, corals and nudibranchs.
I've been lucky enough to experience the pristine underwater world of Plemmirio several times since it was declared a protected area in 2005, and even for the novice snorkeler there's plenty to enjoy. I recommend Sicily resorts in Ortigia as the perfect base to visit Plemmirio Marine Reserve.
As a nature lover myself, I'm impressed with the local and national commitment to preserving the breathtaking natural beauty of Sicily. Over the past few decades, the number of protected reserves (including Marine Protected Areas) have seen a marked increase, but these two have a special place in my heart.
John Dixon is an experienced world traveller and the Managing Director of Prestige Holidays. For over 30 years, he has been providing holidays in the finest 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 stay 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 arts, history and culture.