Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Isola delle Correnti | Sunny Desert Islet where Sicily Ends.

Isola delle Correnti is something very special and unique in its kind, it is a sunny desert islet where Sicily ends and once there you are in the southernmost point of that Southern Italian island facing the sandy beach of the municipality of Portopalo di Capo Passero along the splendid coastline of Siracusa, a very scenic coastal stretch of the Mediterranean also highlighted by that great attraction.

That geographical point is where you will directly look at towards south and you can see that wide Mediterranean channel named Canale di Sicilia but also called by Tunisians Qanat al- Kelibia from the name of that town which is situated on Cap Bon, that Maghreb promontory facing the town of Mazara del Vallo and from which at distance you can also see the beautiful Malta and its splendid archipelago.(If you are interested I wrote a post about that place of Tunisia)

The visit of that islet is particularly suggested to all people who are planning a Fly & Drive or a tour around Sicily and they want to see something of extremely suggestive and greatly fascinating along an enchanting coast and the weather in that Italian region is  always excellent, a great destination all year. 

The Ionian coast is a paradise and in that concrete cape it meets the large open Mediterranean, a coastline full of colours and lights with a stupendous horizon and coming from north if you are spending holidays in proximity of Messina you will be delighted driving towards south by enchanting long coastal stretches flanked by citrons, picturesque hills with olive groves and unforgettable sandy beaches lined by a sea has boasting stupendous crystalline waters with a tonality between emerald and a light blue. 

Reaching during a planned itinerary that site means during that route to visit something of extremely fabulous regarding art and history with the marvellous chance to admire places declared UNESCO Patrimony Sites such as Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa, Scicli, Modica, Catania, Militello di Val di Catania and Caltagirone, the eight marvels of the late Sicilian Baroque in Sicily.

In addition to all those marvels you can also enjoy the enchanting Siracusa, so famed for its superb Hellenic past with a monumental area absolutely wonderful, all special places as special in its kind is that islet located where that sunny islands ends. 

Isola delle Correnti could be a very attractive image to take home with pleasant memories of that fabulous land for all people who love art and history and in a day during a break after a full immersion admiring monuments and palaces of high relevant historic value to enjoy in a pleasant break the beauty of the Sicilian sea admiring something of different and beautiful in its kind.

That area close to Isola delle Correnti is also particularly suggested to all the visitors who are sea, sun and water sports lovers and with also the chance to appreciate a typical, genuine and delicious cuisine, very comfortable accommodations and kind people.

Land of Tonnare those activities linked to tuna fishing, hard job for many Sicilian fishermen who since a long time ago until today in long sailing through that large maritime space facing one side North Africa spent and spend days searching the best fish to sell on the markets and often landing in proximity of that islet which for long time with its lighthouse indicated them the right routes.

Isola delle Correnti has always been witness of generation of people living that very dignified life in constant contact with a sea which with its pitfalls and risks highlighted their great work offshore from the mainland and that sunny islet was and is as a sort allied, a constant point of reference and much more always present.

The same history happened many centuries before with first Hellenic colonists who founded along those coasts relevant centres of Megale Hellas, that famous cradle of a civilisation corresponding to the Magna Graecia and that islet was reached, explored and integrated in the domains of the powerful Siracusa founded by Greeks from Korinthos who used that place as a secondary dock for their ships.

That large and sharp promontory bathed by the Mediterranean and that wide sea hallway in ancients times represented a very important cross point of cultures between Europe and North Africa but also in many occasions characterised by several clashes.

Historically those waters were protagonists of the epic Punic wars so famous for endless battles between the fleets of the Imperial  Rome and the most powerful city of Africa, Carthage which were in that time fighting to have the domain of an immense sea with open doors to other lands to conquer expanding their influences.

 Isola delle Correnti was also in those centuries perpetual witness of attacks and defences, sailings and landings. According narrations that place was also used as a small natural harbour for some vessels led by Publius Cornelius Scipius Africanus, that eminent figure of the Roman Republic who defeated Hannibal, leader of Carthage in that epic battle at Zama just south of Tunis. (in the case you are interested I wrote a post about that city)

The islet is at 4,0 metres of altitude over the sea level and it approximately has a surface of 0,01 square kilometres, very small and its current name in its Italian form derives from the Latin denomination  Currentium Insula which translated means the island of the currents, a name took since the ancient Roman Empire times.

Those former rulers gave it such designation because the intense changes of the currents can be very different in terms of intensity in a few of kilometres offshore form the coast.

 Sometimes gentle but becoming insidious just some miles after and creating high waves. In days of storms and bad weather they are often very insidious, all depend by the winds when the Sirocco comes complicating the navigation.

The Romans immediately noticed all that when during their navigation they started to sail in excellent conditions and in a while less than one kilometre offshore all changed with the sea showing another attitude as upset and sometimes furious and that islet facing all that took such name since then.

Other historic periods linked that sunny desert islet with the landing in Sicily of the Moorish in the 10th century where they stayed for over two centuries before to be defeated by the Normans with the Grand Count Roger I also King of Sicily who also as in those previous centuries used that place where Sicily ends as reference for its routes towards the conquest of Malta.

Just 63,0 km from the wonderful and historic Siracusa, one of the most important and shining gems of the Greek colonisation in Sicily, Isola delle Correnti is a place in which the sun shines all year and you can immediately see it along that beach of Capo Passero.

That sandy stretch is characterised by its light brown tonality lining turquoise waters on which the smell of marine salt is an unmistakable presence in the air and the view of that cape is as something of iconic showing its wild cliffs and typical Mediterranean vegetation all around.

From far the view of such islet appears for someone as an illusion, a kind of mirage, others confound it as a peninsula and it is a place of very mild springs, hot summers, warm autumns and a winter season which is never cold.

From that coast  that very tiny uninhabited scenic place was once residence of the guardian of the old lighthouse which indicated the maritime routes to the boats, merchant ships and fishing vessel sailing in the Ionian Sea.

Once reached the concrete point facing it you will notice in the air something of highly suggestive reminiscent those remote times linked to epic eras, all around that image in a more than strategic point you can feel something of relevant happened there where Sicily ends.

Its silhouette and the view conceals around it as a kind of  mysterious aura because now desert and that sort of mystical atmosphere is just highlighted by migratory birds landing there but all around apart that, silence, just the sound of the sea waves impacting on its rocks and no human presence.

Someone visiting that place including felt the aura of the mythological Hellenic Gods in a windy day embracing the islet, suggestive sensations but one thing is certain the colours and tonalities of the soil in that place are identical or very similar to those of the Greek Thessaly. 

Including the immediate interior reminds in a sort of comparison those places at the foot the Mount Olympus which was according historic narrations home of the iconic twelve Olympian Gods.

You are there in the most Southernmost point of Sicily and Bizerte and Tunis at that latitude are northern than that islet and it is that is another attraction more because you are so close to the mainland of a big European island. 

The old faro, the lighthouse is today in ruins, originally the construction was developed on a rectangular plan with a small square and a courtyard leading to the access of the structure which was the house of the guardian and with a strong protective wall and in the middle was erected the lighthouse.

The strength of the Mediterranean and those currents have modelled its shape and you will notice the presence of a  string of earth linking in periods of low tides the islet to the coast of Portopalo forming a sort of tombolo.

It has an irregular shape, from a perspective along the county road leading to Pozzallo the Strada Provinciale 67 at distance it seems as an egg. From the cape is the unique point in which you can see its real silhouette which has a sort of headland and another thin string flanking it forming a narrow inlet in its western side while the eastern and southern are pretty rounded.  

If you sail approximately a couple of kilometres offshore south and towards east of the cape you will have an excellent perspective of the entire islet and also that is another great image of that scenic site.

Generally in winter season the temperatures drop around a  minimum of 6º-7º degrees in January but very rarely while in early spring you can find already temperatures reaching a media average of 25 º, 26º degrees. 

Summers are hot but ventilated at evening and night thanks to the breeze of the Channel of Sicily which characterised all that along the entire coast of Siracusa. Early autumns are pretty warm with temperatures which sometimes can reach over 30º degrees while in the late season is more temperate descending around 20º/21º.

On Isola delle Correnti a relevant aspect is that  since 1987 the Region Sicily included that site in a plan of Nature Reserve for a very interesting and notable presence of coastal vegetation with some rare example of psammophilus relict and biocenesis halophilic.

The rest consists in small Mediterranean bushes, a few sea lilies and small plants such as wild capers, ruchetta marina, a sort of a marine rocket, a kind of rucola which generally grows in sandy areas. 

Some scientists apart that decided to explore that islet because some years ago it  started to host some species of insects very rare in the European continent and they are object of study.

Another interesting feature is that despite its very small size there is a presence of varied kinds of clays of different colours such as yellow, brown others with a tendency to an ochre tonality and a further with a sort of gray or also white and all that has generated curiosity and interest from part of various geologists. 

What attracts the attention of someone in particular scuba divers is to visit the seabed which is pretty rich of marine fauna with different species of fish, some kinds of rare algae and marine flora and furthermore special rocks of different formation. All that in the past was of great interest for scientific researches and further explorations analysing different kinds of fragments. 

Around that desert islet is very lovely to swim and to enjoy the magnificent crystalline waters of that corner of Sicily and another activity pretty loved by people is undoubtedly surf thanks the excellent waves generated by those famous currents and winds.

That site since a long time ago is also a beloved point by ornithologists due to different kinds of birds which land there on the route towards the coasts of Tunisia and Libya as a natural stage while others stop there because they find for a long period the right habitat to live and survive. If you are a lover about that kind of fauna you can see there an ample variety of  gulls, herons, red herons, albatross and woodcocks among others.

In the extreme northern tip of the islet for all photography lovers there is also a splendid view in late afternoon at sunset, a paradise of lights, reflections and colours with the sun rays falling on that islet combined with that light brown tonality of the coast and that point is also where you can also see the old path leading to lighthouse.

If you walk for approximately 300,0 metres north of the cape along the coast you will see a small sharp promontory and from there it is another splendid occasion to enjoy a great view of the cape and the island. That tip with another headland approximately 1,0 kilometres further north form a pretty ample cove starting after a long pleasant straight.  

In the area there are some conformable accommodations, friendly people and right place to have a more than relaxing stay. Excellent is the local cuisine with a superb tuna, fried fish and delicious seafood, notable is also the quality of juicy tomatoes, great in mixed salads or cut and flavoured by olive oil and salt on a toasted bread and the local wines are superb.

In the area there are some conformable accommodations, friendly people, if you need some information or special places to see they will help you and in addition it is right place to have a more than relaxing stay. 

Excellent is the local cuisine with a superb tuna, fried fish and delicious seafood, notable is also the quality of juicy tomatoes, great in mixed salads or cut and flavoured by olive oil and salt on a toasted bread and the local wines are superb.

 Many are the places of historic interest you can visit in the surroundings apart the stunning Siracusa, Noto is a gem of Baroque art with Churches and palaces absolutely beautiful, Pachino is another place very suggested famous for its archaeological sites, some ancient grottoes and a very rich architectonic history, very recommended is also Avola which apart its great historic patrimony also has a very important dolmen discovered in that municipality in 1961.

The Airport Fontanarossa Vincenzo Bellini of Catania is situated at 114,0 kilometres north of Portopalo di Capo Passero and in approximately one hour and half driving you can reach that beautiful area via Siracusa along the motorway E18 until the town of Noto. Once there you have to follow the indications of the county Road SP 19 in direction Pachino. I wrote above some links of good accommodations in the case you are planning an itinerary in that geographical area.

If you are planning a trip to Sicily, I suggest a visit or why not stay close to that site, a splendid sea, crystalline and clean waters, a mild climate all year and a beautiful view of the small Isola delle Correnti will delight your days, a magnificent Mediterranean setting to enjoy and admire in which always special lights shimmers next to that sunny desert islet where Sicily ends.

Francesco Mari

Recommended Accommodations in Portopalo di Capopassero

Hotel Ristorante Jonic
Hotel La Rosa dei Venti 
Albergo Perseo