15 Dec Vendicari Nature Reserve
Beaches, marshes and wildlife
On the south-eastern coast of Sicily between Noto and Pachino lies the Nature Reserve of Vendicari, spreading its green carpet 8km along the south-east tip of the island. This natural reserve is an ecological hotspot, strategically positioned for the many species of migratory birds that choose this protected area as a stopover before embarking on their long, fascinating and mysterious journey toward the African coasts.
Here, you can hike or meander through scenic winding paths revealing lush Mediterranean vegetation, alternating between rocky cliffs, breathtaking landscapes, a crystal sea and golden sandy beaches. The ancient remains of the reserve’s former inhabitants are amongst some of the most insightful must-sees in this part of Vendicari which we wll explore next.
- Eloro Beach: located close to the archaeological site of Eloro, wild, sandy, crystal clear waters
- Marianelli Beach: very clean un-spoilt, nature at its best and nudist!
- Calamosche beach: inside a cove, remote, good for snorkeling and renowned for its beauty
- Vendicari Beach: the most accessible beach of the reserve, on the south side
- Cittadella beach: located next to the archeological site of “Cittadella” south of the reserve
- San Lorenzo Beach: stretches further south, charming coast of sandy beaches, shallow waters and small coves
The exceptional biodiversity of the area stems from the narrow swampy coastal strip marches high in salinity that form the most northern wetlands in this complex system chain on the east Ionian coast of Sicily.
As “coastal wetland” go, the adapting vegetation in Vendicari alternates between rupicolous, psammophilous and halophyte plants:
Amongst the dense Mediterranean macchia: evergreen shrubs, lentisk, myrtle, alatem, spartium, wild olive trees and other plants such as juniper, tamarisks and Salicornia.
Along the coast: sea rocket, saltwort, beach grass, eryngium cretium, maritime euphorbia, sea lily, beach restharrow beach cornflower, maritime fennel.
Wandering in the dunes: juniper, ephedra, lentisk, and phellirea.
While the marshes are the resting place for birds, the reserve is a refuge to a many species of fauna. From rocky coast, sandy coast, Mediterranean scrubland, to marshes (brackish and freshwater), salt pans, garrigues and cultivated areas, these different biotopes are now vital for African migratory birds. To name just a few of the 200 species resident or nesting birds that flock to Vendicari each year: grey herons, storks, flamingo, glossy ibis, wild goose, pink gull, black winged stilt, stone curlew, waders, the mallard, seagulls, the Italian knight.
For the keen birdwatchers, observations huts have been arranged along the marked paths, with binocular or telescope lenses to watch or photograph the wildlife.
Between the resident mammals you’ll find: the fox, the hedgehog, the porcupine and the wild rabbit, garden dormouse, hedgehog and the pygmy shrew.
Regular amphibian residents include: the emerald toad, the coluber, grass snake, leopard rat snake, green lizard, the Sicilian marsh turtle, the caretta tourtle. Some stretches of the Vendicari beach are closed to favor the arrival of the turtles and the hatching of the eggs.
- Pantano Piccolo to the north which never dries up even during periods of drought thanks to the presence of brackish water sources
- Pantano Grande is closest to the Tonnara
- Pantano Roveto is also part-reserve and welcomes many birds, its estuary is usually buried
- Pantano Sichilli and Scirbia to the south, are more inclined to seasonal variations
At the junction between the beach and the green trail, there is often a flooded passageway. In summer it is passable and allows you to see the marsh more closely. It is possible to cross the reserve from north to south and vice versa, but this can be interrupted by the presence of water in the marshes. Some areas are inaccessible to ensure the protection of flora and fauna.
Admission to the Vendicari Nature Reserve is free. Pets, b-b-q and camping are prohibited.
Expect to do a good 10 mn hike to get to the beaches from the parking points.
This is a natural environnement of exceptionnal beauty and services here are extremely scarce. We recommend that you bring adequate clothing, sun hats and footwear, refreshment and snacks for picnicking but keep beach paraphernalia to the necessary minimum.
There are 4 entrances to the reserve:
- The entrance in the Eloro area, north of the Vendicari Reserve
- There is one in the Calamosche area
- The main entrance at the Sveva Tower
- The entrance at Cittadella dei Maccari, south of the Vendicari Reserve
There are 3 official itinerary trails:
The blue route which starts at the beach of Eloro and leads you to the beach of Calamosche. Distance : 5.6 km
The orange route begins at the main entrance. Along the marshes it will take you to the Tonnara, The Sveva tower through the beach of Vendicari to arrive at Calamosche. Distance: 4.38 km
The green route departs at the Cittadella Maccari Entrance point . It encompasses visits to the the southern sites of archeological interest including the Citadella, the Trigona, the byzantine Necropolis to finaly reach the Tonnara of Vendicari. Distance: 5 km
Villas overlooking Biai degli Aironi:
We have recently acquired the management of Villa Majoli and Villa passo degli Aironi overlooking the Sichilli and Scirbia marshes south of the Reserve. These two exceptionnal villas offer a unique relationship with the ecology of the surrounding area of outstanding natural beauty. Here, the versatile landscaper Ivan Gallo, has masterfully created a union between the garden and the wider verdant landscape of Vendicari. He has created an extraordinary atmosphere conveying a true sense of the place reflecting the culture, customs and the endearing poetry of the area.
Things to do:
A range of ecological and holistic solo or group activities relating to the wider landscape can be conjured from this amazing configuration without disturbing the ecology. Cycling or e-cycling, walking, bird watching, snorkeling, personalized yoga or cooking classes, guided wildlife tours are all available from these villas. As traditional Italian design components coexist harmoniously with modern and luxury comforts here, this creates an atmosphere that is, simply put, quite unique!
- Closest airport: Catania, 1h10 minutes by car
- Closest town: Noto, 15 minutes by car
- Siracusa: 45 minutes by car