Ustica is a small, beautiful, unique, and wild-enough island full of good-hearted people. Fantastic seabeds, a marine reserve like few in the Mediterranean, and many well equipped diving centers. A fascinating historical backgorund, a paradise for divers and fish.
This is Ustica: a jewel that rises on the sea foam.
The magical island of Circe, immersed in the blue Tyrrhenian Sea, is only 67 km far from the city of Palermo. In less than 9 square kilometers you will see history, art, nature, adventure, and culture. Ustica is an island with a wonderfully mild climate and a meager vegetation, rich with olive and almond trees, vines, brooms and the characteristic Mediterranean steppe.
1 – The sea
Coves with sand pebbles, beautiful caves, incredible colors and crystal clear water. Here are some places of interest:
Cala Sidoti is located on the western side of the island and it has shallow-water near the shore, so it is recommended for children.
Soon after we find Scogli Piatti, an ideal place were relaxing in the sun in a picturesque setting.
Piscina Naturale is a pool of clear water, surrounded by a cliff and communicating with the sea under the Punta Cavazzi lighthouse.
A Punticedda is an uncrowded and easily attainable pebbly beach. In the north of the island, next to the prehistoric village and to the Faraglioni, the small inlets of the beach of Curruggio.
2 – A boat ride
Let’s go for a boat ride to the caves to admire the sea of Ustica with all its shades of light and color.
We loose ourselves in the magic of the minerals, listening to the silence that only the caves can give: the Blue cave, the Green cave with its emerald hues, the Cave Pastizza, with its ancient stalactites, or the Cave of the Boats, where the fishermen once took shelter in times of storm, the Golden Cave, with its colorful and glittering walls.
Ustica is the first Marine Protected Area established in Italy. This is because it has wonderful flora and fauna, really unique in the Mediterranean. Indeed, Ustica is a paradise for diving and snorkeling. We can choose among various and beautiful seabeds.
The seabed near Scoglio del Medico is home to a marine life now rare in the Mediterranean, consisting mainly of barracudas, groupers, sea breams and amberjacks.
Punta Galera, along with the Scoglio del Medico, is one of the most fascinating dive sites for its Cave of the Shrimps, where, about 37 meters deep, we find a colony of tiny crustaceans with antennae.
Secca della Colombara starts at a depth of only 3 meters and after a while you are left breathless in front of a vertical, basalt columm wall that falls up to 30 meters.
The Secchitello is characterized by large boulders resting on a sandy bottom, completely colonized by benthic organisms, and a white sand reflecting the sunlight and creating a surreal atmosphere.
In the Cave of Cipree we will see a unique sight: stalactites and roots of trees hanging down to the water.
Punta dell’Arpa is a dive, at about 35 meters, recommended to divers with advanced experience; following a landslide of large boulders we will come to some rocks completely covered with red gorgonians.
4 – Walks and paths
The topography of the area invites us to take a walk to discover the native species of the Reserve of Ustica Island.
The trails that follow the island gentle slopes, memory of its volcanic origins, make us enjoy amazing landscapes and stunning sunsets, surrounded by the blue of sky and sea. Its multi-colored and unique Mediterranean scrub changes along with the alternation of the seasons, through a blend of contrasting colors.
The Southern Trail is a route that starts from Santa Maria Tower, built by the Bourbons. We will discover an extraordinarily beautiful glimpse of Cala San Paolo where, with a special focus on the soil, we’ll notice the superficial marks of a deep fissure (Spaccazza of San Paolo) that drops steeply down into the seabed. The path continues with Punta Galera until reaching Punta Cavazzi.
Rocca della Falconiera is an ancient and early Christian age archaeological site that provides a truly unique emotion: you can admire several underground tombs (third century BC) and a late Roman necropolis with graves carved into the stone.
The Path of the Wood is an evocative walk among large scrubs of Mediterranean plants. It starts north of the island along the route used by the Carbonari, who exploited the natural resources of the island.
5 – Path of the Northern Cost
The itinerary starts from the Square of the Town hall and continues along Via Petreria towards Tramontana. After about thirty meters the road forks at the height of a small building that once marked one of the boundaries that the neighbours could not cross. On the right wall we see a marble plaque, dated May 13 1906, that commemorates the visit of the King Vittorio Emanuele III and Queen Elena after a strong earthquake in the island.
Once on the cobbled path, we pass a route that leads to the Falconiera and we continue untill we reach the splendid view over Cala Giaconi and the cliff that overlooks it. After the bend, a stone niche dedicated to the Virgin Mary, built by an islander in the nineteenth century where once stood a sentry box used for sighting . Also here a beautiful landscape on the north coast. Further on we find, on the right, the Rock of the Sacramento, famous for its particular shape.
Moving forward, the Maltese Gorgo, once used to collect rain water, also used by the Romans. At the northernmost tip of the island, we find the prehistoric village of the Faraglioni.
6 – Riding on a little donkey
The exciting idea of walking through the natural paths of an ancient village, riding a nice little donkey, in Ustica comes true. This funny tour, also suitable for children, will take us back to the past and make our vacation unforgettable.
7 – Walking and biking
The walking trail that allows to complete the circumnavigation of the island lasts 5-6 hours. Much shorter is the climb to the forest hill (Monte Guardia dei Turchi, 244m high). Along the way we meet wild rabbits while huge hawks fly above in the sky.
We can rent a bike at the port: descents and climbs (over 20% gradient) and flat sections. But be careful: don’t be distracted by the wonderful view…
8 – Slow food e the pizza usticese (from Ustica)
The Lentils of Ustica, a Slow Food presidium included in the group of the Sicilan Islands, are unique and delicious.
The pizza Usticese is a simple and tasty local delicacy, prepared with tomato sauce, anchovies, garlic and a bit of bread crumb.
Excellent the production of wine in the island, especially the zibibbo from which we get a delicious passito.
Don’t forget to taste the preserves directly produced in the island with local raw materials.
9 – Archeological sites and museums
Ustica is like a history book made of land sea. Burials, tunnels and a large amount of archaeological finds, also coming from the sea and due to of several shipwrecks over time, bear witness to a constant presence of man since the Paleolithic era. Phoenicians, Greeks (who called the island Osteodes), Carthaginians, and Romans (who gave it its present name from ustum, burnt) lived in the island. For a long time it became also the headquarters and the shelter for Saracens pirates and Barbarians.
Let’s start with the prehistoric village of the Faraglioni, a settlement dating back to the Bronze Age with circular huts defended by a mighty wall.
Not to lose the Municipal Archaeological Museum intitled to “Padre Carmelo Seminara” where we can admire finds of the Middle Bronze age, household effects, obsidian tools and jewelry made of various materials coming from the ancient prehistoric settlement of the Village Faraglioni and partly kept also in the Archaeological Museum Torre Santa Maria.
We make a stop at the Laboratory-Museum of Earth Sciences that illustrates the geo-volcanological history about the birth of the island and finally we are ready to discover the Island past life at the Museum of Rural Life and Marinara L.S. of Habsburgs, that displays agricultural and fishing tools and household objects.
10 – Feasts and Holidays
Feast of Our Lady of the Fishermen – last Sunday of May
Feast of the Patron Saint, San Bartolomeo – August 24 Feast
Feast of Our Lady of the Cross – the first Sunday of September
Feast of St. Bartolicchio – second Sunday of September
Sea and AMP Festival – July