Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Isola delle Correnti | Sunny Desert Islet where Sicily Ends.

Isola delle Correnti is something very special,it is a sunny desert islet where Sicily ends and once there you are in the southernmost point of that Southern Italian Region 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 geographic area is where you look directly south and you can see see that wide marine 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)

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 generations and generations of people living that very dignified life in constant contact with a sea which with pitfalls and risks highlight their great work offshore from the mainland and that sunny islet there was and is as a sort allied,a constant point 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 the islet was reached,explored and integrated in the domains of the powerful Siracusa
founded by Greeks from Kòrinthos who used that islet 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 often and in many occasions characterised by several fights.

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 ro conquer expanding their influences.

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

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 the previous times 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 the view of that cape as something of iconic showing its wild cliffs and typical Mediterranean vegetation.

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

At the horizon of that long coastal stretch  that very tiny uninhabited island form a scenic set and it was
once residence of the guardian of the old lighthouse which drove the boats,merchant ships and fishing vessels along the coast of the Southern of Ionian Sea.

Once reached the concrete point facing it you will notice in the air something of highly suggestive and reminding 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 conceal around it a kind of  mysterious aura because now desert and that sort of mystical atmosphere you is highlighted by migratory birds landing but all around apart them,silence,only 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 the places at the foot the Mount Olympus which was according historic narrations was 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 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 containing 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 the lighthouse.

The islet is at 4,0 metres of altitude over the sea level and it has a surface of approximately 0,01 square kilometres,so 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 which took since the ancient Roman Empire times.

 Those former rulers gave it such designation because the intense changes of the marine currents which can have a notable difference of intensity in a few of kilometres offshore the the coast.Sometimes gentle but at short distance becoming strong and creating high waves.In days of storms and bad weather very insidious,all depend also by the winds,when the Scirocco comes but complicating the navigation.

The Romans immediately noticed all that when they started to sail in excellent conditions and just some kilometres 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.

The strength of the Mediterranean and those currents often 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.

Isola delle Correnti 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 of Portopalo is the unique point in which you can see its real shape 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 is pretty rounded.
If you sail approximately a couple of kilometres offshore south toward 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 can drop around a  minimum of 6-7 degrees in January but very rarely while in early spring you can find already temperatures around the 25 º, 26º degrees.The summers are hot but ventilated at evening and night thanks to the sea breezes of the Channel of Sicily which embraces the coasts of Siracusa.The early autumn are pretty warm with temperatures which sometimes can reach over 30º degrees while the late season is more temperated descending around the 20º/21º.

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

The rest of the vegetation 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 the islet because Isola delle Correnti  some years ago  started to host some species of insects very rare in the European continent and they are object of study.

Another interesting aspect of the islet despite its very small size is the presence of different kind of clays of different colours such as yellow others with a tendency to an ochre tonality and further with a sort of gray and also white and also that has generated interest from part of different 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 kind 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 kind 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 coming is undoubtedly surf thanks the excellent waves generated by those famous currents.

That site since a long time ago is also a point pretty loved by ornithologists due to different kind of birds which land there on the route towards the coasts of Tunisia and Libya as their 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,of herons,red herons,albatros,maritime woodcock,.

In the extreme northern tip of the islet for who photography lovers there is also has a splendid view in the late afternoon at sunset,a small paradise of lights and colours with the sun lights falling on the islet and that light brown colour of the coastline and 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 form with another headland about 1,0 kilometres further north form an 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.

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

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.

If you are planning a trip to Sicily,I suggest a visit to that area of that beautiful Siracusa coastline or why not stay,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 set  to enjoy and admire in which always a a crystalline sea shimmers next to that sunny desert islet where Sicily ends.

Francesco Mari

Recommended Accommodations in Portopalodi Capopassero

Hotel Ristorante Jonic
Hotel La Rosa dei Venti 
Albergo Perseo