Unwinding on Sicily’s Egadi Islands

There’s something to be said about saving the best for last.  While it’s hard to decide what my favorite thing about Sicily was, our last day visiting the Egadi Islands was definitely up there.  The archipelago is made up of 3 small islands, Favigana, Levanzo and Marettimo (plus a few other smaller uninhabited islets), distinguished by their whitewashed villages, rocky coves and turquoise waters and feel a world away from the mainland. And while it may seem like a paradox to go to an island (Sicily) and then leave for other islands (the Egadi Islands), this change in scenery was exactly what we needed after being on the go for a week.  Our last day started the same – up early, breakfast, hop in the car and drive – but that’s where the similarities ended.  So yes, I’m glad we saved the best for last.

Decoding the Islands
Figuring out the Egadi Islands wasn’t easy.  I found very little information while planning our trip in terms of what to expect when we actually got there.  But first there was the task of deciding which one(s) to pick given our limited time.  The islands are located off the coast of western Sicily and are connected by ferry from both Trapani and Marsala, so the Liberty Lines website was a good place to start.  Here we were able to view timetables, purchase tickets and email questions, which were met by impressively fast and responsive answers.

I learned that each island has its own unique charm (and fun fact, they didn’t become part of the Italian state until 1937!).  The largest Favigana is mostly flat sans the castle-topped Monte Santa Caterina, so it’s a good place to rent a bike and explore on two wheels.  Here you’ll also find numerous beach coves including Cala Rossa, a prime swimming spot that was once the site of one of the deadliest battles of the First Punic War in the 3rd century BC.  The smallest Levanzo is known for its pebbly beaches and prehistoric cave paintings at the Grotta del Genovese, which can only be viewed by guided tour (book in advance).  The least developed is Marettimo, where you’ll find an extensive network of hiking trails that fan out across the island.  It’s also a prime spot for scuba diving.  Since we didn’t want to feel too rushed we choose 2 of the islands, Levanzo and Marettimo, with about 3 hours to spend on each.  Favigana would have to wait for a future trip to Sicily.

We purchased our tickets online and were emailed vouchers that we had to exchange for physical tickets at the Liberty Lines offices near the port in Trapani.  If you’re arriving by car like us, there’s a ton of parking conveniently located along Viale Regina Elena adjacent to the port with automated machines to pay.   A parking attendant happened to walk by as we were arriving and sold us a day pass for 10 euros so we wouldn’t have to worry about rushing back to our car and could instead linger in Trapani after visiting the islands.

Beach Time in Levanzo
We boarded the ferry and after about 50 minutes we had arrived at Levanzo, which is the second stop on the ferry route after Favigana.  As the boat pulled into the port we were welcomed by an adorable village of whitewashed houses with blue windows and doors, a postcard-perfect scene reminiscent of a place you would expect to find in Greece.  Time seemed to stand still here, fishing boats bobbing calmly in the water, succulents and cactuses clinging to rocky crevices and quite streets in beautiful decay where locals hung their laundry out to dry.

Turn right and the road leads to a few rocky beaches including Cala Fredda less than 10 minutes away and Cala Minola a little further out.  We turned left and walked about 20 minutes through the town and along the peaceful coastline until we reached Cala Faraglione, a small pebbly beach cove across from a tiny islet of Il Faraglione with views of Favigana and Marettimo in the distance.  The water was crystal clear although we decided not to get in after noticing quite a few small jellyfish washed up on the shore.  We had the beach all to ourselves and spent a few hours lounging on the smooth white rocks.  With a slight breeze and overcast skies above, the conditions couldn’t be more perfect.

Eventually our beach hideaway was discovered by other people, which was our cue to pack up and make our way back to town.  We had just enough time to stop at a café for a coffee break before returning to the ferry port.

Hiking in Marettimo
Our next stop was Marettimo, the third and wildest of the Egadi Islands about 50 minutes away from Levanzo.  Here a green mountainous landscape rises high above the sleepy fishing village that hugs the port.  If you’re interested in hiking, look for the signs indicating the direction and walking time (some with endearing handwritten edits) of various trails that climb from the town up through lush pine forests.

Our original plan was to hike to Pizzo Falcone, the highest point on the island at 700 meters.  At about an hour and a half each way we would be cutting it too close, plus the sun had come out making the afternoon hot and muggy and frankly we were a little “hiked out” by this point in our trip.  So instead we took the 30 minute route to Casa Romane, a former military complex with nearby Byzantine church that dates back to Roman times with sweeping (and strategic) views below.

Afterwards we leisurely made our way back to town where we wandered through the quiet streets punctuated with more blue doors and windows and pink bougainvillea flowers, cooling off with a granita (or two) when the opportunity presented itself.  It was an enjoyable place to explore that mandated a slower pace, doing as the locals do, like the 5 old men who sat in a row on a bench watching the boats come in and out of the port and people go about their everyday lives.

Dinner in Trapani
We arrived back in Trapani a little after 6pm, just in time to catch the sunset from a spot at the end of Via Carolina.  One of the most impressive things about Trapani was the beautiful Spanish baroque architecture that dominates the old town center.  We joined the evening passeggiata along the area’s long streets including the pedestrianized Corso Vittorio Emanuele before settling into a table at the casual bar Sorsi e Morsi for dinner.  It was a great place to kick back with an aperitivo and antipasti after our long day, with a nice view of the adjacent Cathedral di San Lorenzo.  Our “light” meal was anything but that, and despite the volume of food we couldn’t resist one more gelato served in a brioche roll (a local specialty).  Not a bad way to end our last day in Sicily.

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