Sicily. Italian Marinas.

Italy. Collection of marinas and ports of Mediterranean from The large information site for the fans of Yachting and Sailing. Already there are more than 200 plans both descriptions of marinas and ports. Author's Photo gallery of two Whitbread Races.

General Information

Geographical Position

Sicily is the largest island (25,426 sq. km.) in the Mediterranean; it is also the most important economically and has the richest heritage of history and art. Its geographical particularity lies in its compact but varied orographical structure, the uniformity of its rivers, the typically Mediterranean climate and the insularity which has helped Sicily to experience homogeneous historical development with originality of custom, art and culture.
Together with the minor Aeolian islands (the Lipari), Ustica, Egadi, Pantelleria and the distant Pelagie, Sicily is the most extensive region in Italy, though it has only the fourth highest population. The population density is slightly higher than the national average.
The island is bounded by the Tyrrhenian Sea to the north, the Ionian to the east and the Sicilian Sea to the south-west; the Strait of Messina separates it from Calabria.

The Natural Environment

Sicily is a triangle, a fact that prompted the ancient Greeks to name it Trinacria, and is prevalently mountainous and hilly. The highest mountains lie in the north-east, and are Mount Etna (3,340 m.)-the biggest volcano in Europe, rising majestically between the Catania plain and the Alcantara and Simeto river valleys-and the Sicilian Apennines, stretching from the Strait of Messina to the Torto valley and clearly the continuation of the Calabrian Apennines across the water.

The Sicilian Apennine range of mountains is divided into three groups: the Peloritani, Nebrodi and Madonie. At the foot of the south slope of Etna lies the Catania plain, delimited to the south by the Iblei hills, a wide expanse of high ground culminating in Mount Lauro (986 m.). The middle of the island is a broken succession of rolling hills, the Erei (lying among the Catania plain, the Iblei and the Salso valley) and the so-called Altopiano Solfifero (the sulphur-bearing upland), low rounded hills of Cenozoic sulphurous chalk rock. The west of the island has a similar landscape of gentle hills and wide rolling uplands, predominantly Cenozoic clay and sandstone, alternating in some places with Mesozoic limestone formations: the nearby Egadi islands have the same geological and morphological structures, while Ustica, the Aeolians and Pantelleria are prevalently of volcanic origin. Other active volcanoes are Stromboli and Vulcano, in the Aeolians.

The rivers are fast flowing with an irregular volume of water, flash flooding in winter and long periods of drought. The principal rivers are the Simeto (which channels the waters of the Dittaino, Gornalunga and Caltagirone), the Alcantara, Anapo, Cassibile and Tellaro, on the Ionian side; the Torto and San Leonardo, flowing into the Tyrrhenian Sea, and the Belice, Platani and Salso which empty into the Sicilian Sea.

The climate is Mediterranean, with hot dry summers and mild wet winters. Distance from the sea and the height of the larger mountains are the causes of sharp differences in climate: on the coastal belt, the average annual temperature is around 19 ?C, which drops to 13 ?C inland. The precipitations are confined mainly to the winter months. Rainfall is low particularly on the low-lying ground round Catania and Gela. Spontaneous vegetation on the coastal areas consists of the evergreen shrubs of the Mediterranean scrub, dominated by citrus and fruit orchards, with vines and olive trees higher up. Woodlands, covering barely 8% of the territory, grow only in a few hilly areas.

Of extreme geomorphological and natural interest is Etna, the volcano that has exerted such an influence on the landscape, the history and the life of those living in its vicinity, and unlike the other volcanoes, it is famous for a certain turbulence and a tendency to erupt, of ten without warning. One of Etna's outstanding characteristics is the fascinating succession of types of vegetation that grow on its slopes: Mediterranean scrub at a low altitude, which gives way to a series of typically montane plant life farther up the slopes. The lava at the edge of the sea is itself a splash of almost tropical shapes and colours: rock samphire, stock, caper, broom, tree spurge and extravagantly exotic plants such as the prickly pear and agave, that have perfectly acclimatized. Then comes the carob and olive belt, a few remaining stands of holly oak then, beyond 100 m., the Turkey oak and white oak woods, frequently replaced by thick chestnut woods and a few limited stands of beechwood. Up the mountain, the pinus laricio predominates, especially in the famous Linguaglossa pinewood, together with the Etna birch and showy Etna broom.
The richest and most interesting forest environment in western Sicily is Ficuzza-Rocca Busambra, south of Palermo, dominated by the majestic limestone Rocca Busambra (1,613 m.), with a quantity of karst phenomena, marshes and small lakes, pastures and meadows, with an ecological variety unique in that part of Sicily.
One of the island's most picturesque coastal environments is Contrada Zingaro, at the heart of the Gulf of Castellammare, towards Capo San Vito, where sheer cliffs of Mesozoic limestone alternate with beautiful tiny coves, with glorious intact seabeds. The vegetation is that of hot dry climates, partly steppe and in part garigue.
One of Sicily's most important wetlands is Pantani di Vendicari, on the Gulf of Noto, near Pachino and Capo Passero, where a wide variety of ecosystems (sea, dunes, rock, scrub, freshwater and salt marshes, fens) concentrated in a limited area and in contrast with its arid surroundings, make it a place of exceptional scenic and natural interest.

Population and Economy

There is an imbalance in the distribution of population, the almost uninhabited inland zone clearly contrasting with the largely populated coastal areas. There is still considerable migration from the mountains and hills where the economy is prevalently agricultural-pastoral, to the larger towns and industrialized areas along the coast, where earning prospects are improved and living conditions better. The most densely populated areas are the coastal belt near Catania and Messina, around Palermo, Siracusa and the hinterlands of Agrigento and Licata; the inland underpopulated areas include the highlands of the Sicilian Apennines, Etna, the Erei, Iblei and other high ground in the west.
In the context of southern Italian dialects, Sicilian is divided into a number of sub-dialects, those of Messina, Catania-Siracusa, south-east Sicily, Nissa-Enna, Agrigento, Palermo and Trapani.
There is still a significant linguistic enclaveat Piana degli Albanesi (Palermo) where Albanian is spoken. The quality of life in Sicily is conditioned by a generally badly developed economy, characterized by a high rate of unemployment, frequently leading to exploitation and crime. Nevertheless, in at least several industrialized areas, the situation has greatly improved in recent years. From the point of view of the environment, the ecological equilibrium has been disturbed in a number of zones where petrochemical plant has been installed (Gela, Augusta, Siracusa) but the real danger lies in indiscriminate speculative housing construction with no respect for natural surroundings.
Of the economic sectors, the primary is still of great importance both in quality and output, though characterized by a net distinction between the low-productivity inland areas where wheat is extensively cultivated, and the coastal belt, with its specialized cultivation of citrus fruit, orchards and vineyards. The land is divided into a large number of very small holdings, with the result that incomes are minimum. The most important crops are wheat, carrots, aubergines, peppers, artichokes and courgettes. Citrus fruit (oranges, lemons and mandarins) are typical of the region, which is undeniably the leading citrus fruit producer in Italy.
Its international markets, however, are no longer safe from the keen competition of other Mediterranean countries such as Spain. There are numbers of plantations, especially of almonds and hazel nuts, as well as olive groves and vineyards (table and wine grapes). There are still large numbers of sheep but the fishing industry, though in difficulty as a consequence of overfishing Mediterranean waters, is still one of the most important sectors in the regional economy (tunny and swordfish fishing are traditional). There is a certain amount of exploitation of underground resources, petroleum (Ragusa and Gela areas) as well as potash and sulphur, though the latter is now declining.
In the industrial sector, petrochemicals (near Gela, Ragusa, Siracusa and Augusta) is highly important, while other developed industries include building and the transformation of agricultural and fish products. The principal industrial areas lie around Catania (engineering, pharmaceuticals, electrotechnical industry, food, building materials). Of the service industries, the commercial sector is fragmented into small units, while the proportion of employment in the public sector is excessive, especially in Palermo. Banking and finance are active, especially in the larger centres. Tourism is clearly a major surce of income, though still partly suffering from the lack of adequate hotel and other facilities.
Regional communications are still unsatisfactory, though the construction of new roads and highways has partially eased the situation. Links with mainland Italy maintained by sea (Palermo, Messina and Catania) and air (Palermo-Punta Raisi, Catania-Fontanarossa and Trapani-Birgi airports); construction of the bridge over the Strait of Messina is a future project, planned for execution by the end of the century.


With a coastline of some thousand kilometres, Sicily offers the visitor the greatest imaginable variety of marine environments: wide sandy beaches, sheer cliffs, remote tiny beaches, world famous resorts, an interior enriched by the remains of ancient civilizations and the survival of centuries-old traditions. A brief
description of those most interesting sights and settings not already mentioned in the chapter on `Tourist Itineraries', must begin with resorts on the south-east coast. Beyond Merzanemi on the Gulf of Noto, lie Portopalo di Capo Passero and the beginning of a sandy littoral that stretches glistening in the distance, swept by Mediterranean winds. The most interesting centres include Pozzallo, Donnalucata, the ruins of ancient Camarina (6th century BC.), Gela (with a visit to Capo Soprano and the archeological area), Falconara, Porto Empedocle, near Agrigento (for the archeological area, see the description of the city), the remains of Eraclea Minoa, Sciacca (also a spa), the exceptional archeological complex of Selinunte, with splendid Doric temples, and the famous fishing town of Mazara del Vallo. Beyond picturesque Marsala, famous for its wine, the ancient Phoenician city of Mozia (on a small island) and the Trapani littoral, the visitor reaches the north coast of Sicily, where it immediately forms the Gulf of Castellammare, where some of the tonnare are still in use (tunny fishing is a traditional activity here), then Terrasini, Isola delle Femmine, Mondello (the Palermo beach), S. Flavia, Termini Imerese, amidst luxuriant vegetation, and Cefalu, known for its great Norman cathedral (12th century).
Farther along lie S. Agata di Militello, Capo d'Orlando, the re mains of Tyndaris, with the Greek theatre (3rd century BC.) and Milazzo, on a narrow peninsula. One must not ignore the beauty of the smaller islands, ideal for those seeking a holiday in contact with unspoilt Nature and far from the stress of everyday life: the Aeolian islands, solitary Ustica, the Egadi, Pantelleria and the Pelagie, close to Africa.
The interior of the region too has much to offer the tourist: in the east stands Randazzo with the handsome cathedral of S. Maria (13th century), Adrano, in the shadow of its Norman castle (11th century, archeological museum), Paterno in a panoramic setting, amongst flourishing citrus groves, Lentini, and its nearby archeological area, the remains of the Greek colony of Megara Hyblaea; the great rupestrian necropolis of Pantalica, Palazzolo Acreide, with a 17th century appearance, Noto with a fine Baroque Duomo, and Modica, with the Baroque church of S. Giorgio. In the middle of the island lies the Casale Roman villa, near Piazza Armerina, Calascibetta, and its 13th century church, Petralia Sottana, with the church of the SS. Trinita, Castelbuono with the 12th century Castello dei Ventimiglia, and Monreale, with its famous Duomo (12th century).