Ustica, Sicily

© Giovanni Caruso –

A small island with a great history. A hour away by boat from Palermo, Ustica is an island of farmers and fishermen blessed with a crystal clear sea and breathtaking colours thanks to the play of light on its black lava rock sea bed

Thrust out of the sea by subterranean forces, Ustica’s black soil is fertile and rich as the Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians and Saracens who lived on the sea and inland found out. Today Ustica is a little Southern Tyrrhenian sea gem, one of the favourite islands of the people of Palermo and a paradise for divers thanks to the island’s marine reserve, Italy’s first and still the most important. It is a peaceful spot to enjoy Sicily’s characteristic cuisine and an island with a thousand bays carved out into caves by the sea. Grotta Azzurra is exceptional with its stalactites and stalagmites.

Ustica town

Ustica town, with its elegant buildings around the port and houses climbing up the cliffs around it and its maze of stairways which make the town look like an amphitheatre, is a fascinating place. The houses and the walls of the buildings have been transformed by the frescoes of a great many artists. Torre di S. Maria, in a dominant position, contains the Archaeological Museum holding the remains of the prehistoric village found near the Faraglioni and the Hellenistic-Roman era tombs of Capo Falconiera. Don’t miss either.

Cala Sidoti is a perfect place to have a dip in a pristine sea and enjoy the beauties of the marine reserve, one of the few in which swimming is allowed in order to protect the sea bed habitat around the island. An enchanted place on the north western side, you can reach it on one of the characteristic dark cobbled paths of the island.