A Sicilian Side Trip

After reporting a feature story on Sicily’s north coast, our writer discovers a village not on her itinerary.

By Terry Ward

With a few extra days left over after photographer Matt Dutile and I parted ways in Cefalù (and I write this realizing full well what a fortunate situation a few extra days in Sicily is), I decided to head back to the island’s northwest side to check out the tiny village of Scopello. Several Sicilians we’d met while reporting our story had described this spot, on the eastern San Vito Lo Capo peninsula, as unmissable, but our schedule was already overbooked with awesome experiences, like wine tasting on the slopes of Mount Etna and a cooking class in Cefalù.

I immediately knew I was going to love Scopello when, on my checking in and attempting to settle the bill for my two-night stay at Angelo B&B, the proprietor of the same name said with a smile, “No pay now; please after. In Sicily we say, ‘Pay before means no eat good fish.’” Then Angelo proceeded to rattle off a list of experiences and foods I had to have while staying in this well-preserved village, located just above an old tonnara (tuna fishery) on a breathtaking stretch of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

I started with breakfast in the main square at Bar Pasticceria Gelateria Scopello, known for its delicious pistachio-filled croissants, then headed a few steps away to grab a pane cunzato sandwich to go (sardines, oregano, olives, tomatoes, cheese, onions) at Panificio di Stabile e Anselmo and filling my water bottle from the spring-fed fountain in the square. Then I made the 10-minute drive to the entrance of one of Sicily’s most celebrated natural areas.

The Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro stretches slightly more than seven miles along the coast from north of Scopello to the town of San Vito Lo Capo. Carpeted with sea fennel and lavender and rich with birdlife, it was Sicily’s first wildlife reserve. And the coastal hiking trails here dip down to beautiful bays that just beg for a picnic and swim (bring water shoes, as the beaches are rocky).

After a few hours of hiking, I took more of Angelo’s good advice and visited a hidden natural hot spring near the port town of Castellammare del Golfo. He’d told me to look for the entrance to Terme Segestane, and then sketched a map that carried on past the fee-access springs along a dirt road to a makeshift parking area. Once there I followed a trail of wet footsteps to a path leading a short way over a knee-high rushing river to a rock-lined pool surrounded by olive trees and tall grasses. A few people were soaking in thermal water bubbling up beneath them, a soak that required no entrance fee. And the only thing left for me to do was join in and bliss out in the peaceful setting with twittering birdsong for a soundtrack.

Angelo B&B
4 Via Marco Polo, Scopllo; 011-39-338-6974276; angeloscopello.it; doubles from $58* a night
Bar Pasticceria Gelateria Scopello
13 Via Diaz, Scopello; no phone or website; breakfast for two, $9
Panificio di Stabile e Anselmo
5 Via Galluppi, Scopello; no phone or website; sandwiches, $3
Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro
1 Via Salvo D’Acquisto, Castellammare del Golfo; 011-39-92435108; riservazingaro.it; admission, $6
  • *Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars. Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax, or tip.
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: July 2015