The green pearls of Sicily are 77 natural reserves. Real oasis of beauty available for visitors 365 days a year, thanks to the management system put under the care of Public Authority,such as the Azienda Foreste Demaniali that manages the Malabotta wood (Messina), Provinces or town administration such as the town administration of Ragusa that manages the reserve of the Irminio river- or environmentalism association - such as Legambiente, Italia Nostra and WWF, that manages the reserve of the Capo Rama in Terrasini (Palermo). The first anvironmentalism association that were created had begun the history of the Sicilian environmentalism. The Zingaro, with its wild coast and rare Mediterranean vegetation of dwarf palm plant, the ancient tuna-fishing station and tall rocks is considered as a true paradise. Today, Sicilian reserves are real natural laboratories where the protection of the flora, fauna, archaeological and entropic landscape combines with didactic activities and experimentation. As for example the Isola dei Conigli at Lampedusa in the archipelago of the Pelagie (Agrigento), where each summer they organize protection areas for the Caretta Caretta turtles which are back again for depositing the eggs. Exotic birds spend their winter In Vendicari, near Noto (Syracuse). They stop undisturbed in this habitat among spring water, lake vegetation and sea while they are moving towards the routes of Africa. Unique for its landscape impact and for the size of the necropolis (more than 5.000 tombs), is the reserve of Pantalica in the Anapo valley (Siracusa). The river digged its bed in the limestone of the Iblei tableland during the centuries and opened deep canyon in the middle of a wild fluvial vegetation. Going on, wonderful are the reserve of the Stagnone in Marsala (Trapani) and the reserve of Trapani and Paceco where saltpans, windmills and nature matched themselves in a subsequence of colours and sceneries that leave tourists breathless.
This small archipelago stretches on the sea in front of Trapani and Marsala, it is formed by three bigger islands such as: Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo and the islet of Formica. The Egadi islands, close to the sicilian coast, offer to visitors an "easy travel", with the serenity and peace of the countryside of Trapani. It is easy to reach, visitors can take ferries or hydrofoils (20 min. are needed in order to reach Favignana by hydrofoil, while an hour is needed to reach Marettimo). Different offers of accomodation can be found from hotels, for more exigent tourists, to bed&breakfast and private houses to camping structures. The islands have different personalities, Favignana is quite confortable and "family size", Levanzo has the charm of its soft minimalism and Marettimo is for people who love trekking. These three islands are linked by a satisfying relation with the mediterranean environment.
Favignana, the biggest of the three islands, is also the one with the best accommodation facilities. The little village, all gathered around the harbour, still has some buildings of a certain value, like the little mansion of the Florios and some small Baroque churches. Its name is indissolubly linked to the tuna fish. Here, indeed, there is the biggest tuna processingstation in the Mediterranean, which, decisive for the island´s economy for centuries, is once again picking up now. You can easily get anywhere on the island on a bicycle, as it is rather flat. It is largely tufa rock, which has always been used in building. Along the paths deep quarries open up, partly hewn out by man, and partly caused by sinking of friable rock; they are surrounded and covered by low bushes. The coasts, rich in crannies, little bays and grottoes, are bathed by a clear turquoise sea with splendid reflections.
Levanzo is known above all for the Genoans´ grotto, which conserves decorations and graffiti considered the most interesting in Italy. On the walls the accurate hand of an unknown artist of 10.000-15.000 years ago traced out men, women and children, animals and fish, thus handing down to us an unknown ancient world. One should also not miss the natural beauties of the island, which has nothing to envy to her sisters
Marettimo, the furthest from the Sicilian coast, is perhaps for this very reason the most unspoilt, but also the most different. Mountainous, unlike the other two, it hides in the bowels of its caves freshwater springs, and it is covered with incredibly luxuriant spontaneous vegetation, partly consisting of very rare or even unique plants. In the tiny white village the accommodation is at the homes of fishermen, from whom one can hire a boat to go round the island, which is absolutely the most interesting excursion, since it makes it easy to discover the most inaccessible beauties of the coast, above all the grottoes. Among the latter, we have to mention the cave of the Cammello (camel), Bombarda and Presepe (crib) grottoes, with stupendous and unrivalled colours.
On the routes of the mythical Ausonians and Cnydian sailors north-east of the Sicilian coast, whipped by a salty wind, the Aeolian archipelago spreads out, like a fan, its seven enchanted isles which, because of their explosive volcanic nature, are sisters of the Hawaiian islands, the pearls of the Pacific. The Aeolian islands, starting in remote times, were colonised by Neolithic peoples interested in exploiting obsidian, an insuperable material for making carving tools. Between the sixteenth and fourteenth centuries B.C., the islands became an important commercial stage on the metal way, and in particular on the tin route, which from the British Isles went down to the orient, passing through the Straits of Messina. Later, in the Roman epoch, the archipelago prospered with the sulphur, alum and salt trade, which however gradually declined, until the islands were abandoned. This was due to further eruptions and also to the fact that the Second Nicea Council designated them a dwelling of the devil and a place of physical manifestations of this disturbing presence. Then in the Norman epoch the islands were gradually re-peopled and started a new season of splendours, taking on what is more or less their physiognomy now.
Vulcano still appears like a relict of the world´s prehistory, perennially fuming amid lava flows and mud bubbling with gas. The eruptive mouth rises to a height of 386 metres, where the big crater, which you can get to without too much difficulty and peril, raises its crest which dominates the western and eastern harbours, the Valley of Monsters and the profiles, gradually further and further away, of the other islands. Well worth a visit are the alum grottoes and the sulphur mines, where in the Bourbon epoch a population of damned people lived forced to extract the precious mineral. On the coast, in the north-western part of the island, there is the imposing Cavallo (horse) grotto, along the wild and half-deserted shore which slopes gently down to the sea with the black Gelso beaches over which there is an euphorbia scrub and twisted prickly pear plants.
As you approach Lipari, it appears lively and picturesque, dominated by the rock on which the ancient town stands; it has always been the heart of the archipelago. In its museum, which is one of the most interesting in the Mediterranean, there are countless vestiges of the history of the island and the successive stratifications, as in a gigantic palimpsest of a period of 5000 years of civilisation perfectly legible in the open diggings among the imposing walls with bastions. On Lipari a volcanological tour is an absolute must, amid flows of obsidian and white expanses of pumice, materials with the same chemical composition, differing only in their state: the former glassy, spongy the other one, because of the sudden reduction of temperature in the magma in the final phase of eruptions. Between Canneto and Acquacalda, two nice maritime boroughs not yet ruined by mass tourism, along the sea, in the direction of Punta Castagna, lies the spectacular obsidian flow of the Rocce Rosse (Red Rocks). Between the Pomiciazzo gorge and Lami, a lunar landscape heralds in the now inactive crater of Monte Chirica, beyond which the soft cliffs of Campobianco go down to the sea and into the crystalline waters off the Porticello beach. Likewise unrivalled are the panoramas that one can enjoy from the Quattrocchi heights towards the monumental Perciato cliffs, to the sides of which there are the picturesque "needles", beyond which the gaseous and sulphurous fumes of Vulcano rise. But Lipari is not only this. It is also in the old part of the town, a nice salon from the Umberto period with windows and balconies as delicate as lace, from which multicoloured cascades of geraniums and delicate carnations descend. An island for all tastes, with shady gardens scented with jasmine and basil, sunny terraces facing the sea, where gastronomic hospitality is perpetuated with its own physiognomy and traditions.
On Salina one must not fail to visit Monte Porri and Monte Fossa delle Felci. On the latter, at almost 1000 metres above sea level, the ancient crater has been colonised by gigantic aquiline ferns which are added to the luxuriant vegetation of Salina, conferring on the latter an almost tropical look. Not far away, Filicudi and Alicudi, between which the soaring spire of the Canna rock stand out against the horizon. Both distant from the din of mass tourism, they offer scope for abandon and meditation, which are unthinkable at the noisy latitude of our civilisation. Near Canna, sea beds rich in sponges and coral offer unexpected sights for those who love underwater photography. Another highly fascinating sight in the archipelago is the basalt rocks of Basiluzzo, Dattilo and Lisca Bianca facing Panarea, with which, as Strabo tells us, they once formed a single island, Evonimos, which a cataclysm split into the present ones. Monumental solitudes characterise this group of rocks near which, from imposing mouths of submerged hydrothermal vent, gurgling bubbles of gaseous vapours rise, which, in ancient times, were the scenario of probable worship of Hephaestus.
Panarea, situated on the Cala Junca cliff, Capo Milazzese, conserves intact the vestiges of a culture which here went on from 1440 to 1270 B.C., giving rise to a settlement of major archaeological interest. Inhabitants of Panarea are called "panarioti". They live in the main three centers such as: Pietro, Drauto, Ditella. The scenery, characterized by flourishing mediterranean vegetation, is rich in thermal springs and hydrothermal vent, in the sea marvellous and suggestive rocks emerge among them we remember: Basiluzzo, Dattilo, Lisca Nera and Lisca Bianca, Bottaro, Spinazzola and Formiche.
Stromboli rises out of the water with the dry symmetry of its shapes perennially crowned by eruptive fumes. Its impervious Ginostra harbour is the smallest one in the world, while, beyond the fire zone, where moaning and hissing the lava touches the sea, the villages of Piscità, Ficogrande and Scari, open up, airy and white, gathered around the white mass of the San Vincenzo church. Beyond the very black glassy beach, where there are reeds rising from the abysses of the Tyrrhenian, raises Strombolicchio, the primeval duct of the volcano, a fanciful natural sculpture in which fire, water and wind have left their eternal impress.
This small and remote island of Aeolian, is an ideal destination for a peaceful holiday, for tourists who want to leave behind the chaos of big city life. The island is charcterized by the presence of the mountain Fossa delle Felci (773 m.). Its inhabitants (almost 200 people) live in Filicudi porto and Vallechiesa, these areas are composed by houses with thick white walls that make an excellent contrast with the blue coloured sea. The island is charcterized by two types of accomodations such as: room for rent and hotels.
Alicudi, the youngest of Aeolian islands, is one of the less explored islands. It has a small number of inhabitants and does not have carriage roads. Its west side is rich in steep slopes which make it difficult to cross, while the east side is charcterized by terraces. The Falco della Regina a small island that represent an oasis of peace, out of crowded tourist circuits, offers different accomodations such as: hotels, room for rent, bed & breakfast.This beautiful small island can be admired from Alicudi.
Set between Africa and Sicily, nearer to the black continent than to our own, Pantelleria, a volcanic island, can be considered a true nature paradise. Its shape is circular and culminates, at the centre, in Montagna Grande ("big mountain") from whose top, on dry clear days, one can admire that spectacle of incomparable beauty which is the view of the African and Sicilian coasts in a single vista. Of volcanic origin, it still shows residual signs of its ancient activity, both around the now spent crater of Montagna Grande - where there are twenty-four mouths locally known as ´cuddìe´, and inside the crater itself, where there is the "Venus´ mirror" pool, fed by thermal springs whose temperature can go up to 50 degrees Celsius - and in other places, where there are other activities, such as fuming vapours, called "lavare" or "mofete". Morphologically, the area is very interesting: beaches, splendid coasts, rich in needles, like the famous natural "Elephant arch"; no less famous and fascinating are the numerous grottoes on Pantelleria, including the very interesting "Pertusa di Notaro", also known as the "Cold cavity" because of the cold air coming out of the cracks in it. One should not miss the easy excursions to the "Bagno dell´acqua" ("water bath"), to Montagna Grande, to Punta Spadillo, to the pretty Gadir village, to the Western Bay, the Turks´ Rock, Scauri, Monte Sant´Elmo and the Sesi, very ancient megalithic cupolashaped tombs.
The island gives the possibility to go horse riding in order to discover different natural itineraries, what is more different boat trips are offered in order to visit bays and sites situated along the coast such as: "Ballata dei Turchi", the cliff of "Dietro l´isola", "Del Tracino" and the rocks of Formaggio. Tourists that love natural itineraries could not lose the opportunity of living the experience of a beautiful holiday in a marvelous island that can be admired every day and during the whole year.