In this article, your old semi-official, but seasoned host Don Tano is gonna tell you everything you need to know about Ustica Island and all the interesting things you can do there.
Buongiorno signori! Old Tano Bongiorno is back with news of Palermo and surroundings. Today, I’m gonna talk about Ustica. Ustica is an island that you’re gonna love like the locals. But you do need to get the right information to get the most out of your visit. Fortunately, you have Don Tano to tell you everything you need to know.
Obviously, as you can see, this little guide is pretty long, but I can assure you that you won’t regret having spent these five minutes reading my little guide. This is precious information that you aren’t likely to find elsewhere and it can really change your vacation for the better.
Now, let’s cut to the chase and see what you should do and know in Ustica. I’ve summed up the three best things to do in Ustica. These are what locals basically do while on the island.
What to do
1. SWIM INTO CRYSTAL CLEAR WATERS
Believe me, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that the main activities on this islet revolve around the sea. A person with an imagination might find other very interesting things to do, like hunting rabbits with bow and arrow — people sometimes do that — but you’d better keep it legal.
The most beautiful beaches, divided into to categories. You choose which category fits you best.
Beaches for families (as well as sluggish people)
1. Al Faro (The Lighthouse)
A large concrete platform facilitates the access to a crystalline sea which I not very deep for the first 30 meters. In this evocative setting, it’s easy to lose oneself in daydreams while enjoying the warm water and basking in the hot sunlight.
Ideal for families with children and those who can’t live without food and drink. You can rent a sunbed and umbrella as well as a small refreshment stand. However, if you go after 10:30 you won’t find anything available.
2. Cala Sidoti
This is black pebbles cove. Protected within the boundaries of the Mariner Protected Area, on the north western side of the island. This is unique and ideal for the children. T
This a small slice of heaven where a person can stay in contact with nature and relax as if the world had stopped spinning.
One word of caution, however: Be careful of the pitch. It can leave indelible stains on yoursBathing suit and towels as well as bringing out the worst in you!
The name alone will put a smile on the face of any kid, and probably on yours as well. Here on Usticia Island the waters are so clear and friendly with fish eager to eat beat from your hands like dogs.
It’s probably the best place to snorkel too if you don’t have a boat. Okay, you may not find Nemo or Dory, but it’s easy to see the mullets and large salps that browse among the boulders.Beaches for more adventurous visitors.
Beaches for couples
This name is really evocative because piscine in Italian means pool. Located immediately below the Punta Cavazzi lighthouse in the Spalmatore area. There, you’ll be looking at a transparent stretch of water enclosed by a high cliff and communicating with the sea through a submarine tunnel. It can be reached by a rather difficult path between the cliffs.
In the same spalmatore area just below the Bourbon Tower, you’re gonna see a small pier about two meters high where you can relax in the sun and also from which you can make spectacular dives into the warm Mediterranean waters.
However, I have to remind you and all risk seekers, that the emergency doctor on the island sews heads and mouths entire days at a time, and all I can say is that you don’t want to get to know him. The fact that the island needs one say a lot.
3. Scogli Piatti
Down at the western end of the Marine Reserve in the Spalmatore area just past Cala Sidoti, you’re gonna find a part of the coastline with flat rocks ideal for relaxing in the sun.
Before your eyes, you’re gonna be looking at the picturesque setting in front of the Scoglio del Medico. Nevertheless, the rocks are not always comfortable. But this is also an ideal place to snorkel
Three Must-Do Water Activities
On the Isle of Ustica, here are three things you really must do if you hope to return home and say, “I did everything in Ustica.”
1. Rent a boat
This is a really great adventure to get out on the sparkling clear waters in a boat. The kids can trail their fingers in the water and you’re gonna feel at home with nature. Just like Favignana and the other islets around Sicily, your best bet is a small boat that will enable you to enter the caves (5 in the south and 1 in the north) and see the coast from a totally different point of view.
Must-sees by boat are Scoglio del Medico, Grotta Azzurra, and Scoglio Pistizza. To rent a boat and save some money, Don Tano always rents from the locals. Just go to the port and ask local fishermen if you can rent a boat today. (They’re easy to recognize) and be sure to negotiate a little on the price. That’s expected.
It’s possibly no surprise to you when I say that the island is one of the favorite destinations of Italian divers for the marvels you’re gonna see deep in clear waters. Like all the old tiers, I’m perhaps a chicken, but I wouldn’t recommend diving alone even for expert dives.
There are many places that arrange scuba diving on the island such as Blu Profondo and Orca, the most popular. If you want to explore Ustica seabed, just head towards one of them and they’ll direct you.
The sea around Ustica combines a wonderful spectacle of nature together with history. The presence of ancient artefacts, some dating back to distant times, have embellished the seabed of the island over the years making it an authentic submarine museum.
Those looking for a place to snorkel in Sicily will find in Ustica a pure and uncontaminated natural environment, where you can admire the marine fauna and flora as well as the many glimpses into history.
Especially within the Marine Protected Area where the waters are particularly clear, and the fish are free to swim safely. There you can really get close up to grown groupers, sea breams and other specimens of the best Mediterranean marine fauna.
When you’re tired of cooking under the sun, you can stretch your legs and breathe some fresh sea air with a nice hike. Breathe in that air and feel nature all around you.
The Island of Ustica offers some wonderful hiking paths and they suggest tying a shoelace around your head so your jaw won’t drop at every turn due to the amazing landscape that you’re gonna admire. Here are the most beautiful:
Sentiero del Castello
You get the most panoramic points on the island of Ustica at 157 meters (515 feet) high. You’ll reach the Fortress of Falconiera built on the edge of an ancient crater overlooking the sea. A place that offers a unique view.
Moderately demanding and it’s gonna last for about forty minutes.
Sentiero del Mazzogiorno
This pathway winds around between the town and nears Punta Cavazzi, and along the entire southern coast of the island touching on some of the most beautiful views on Ustica. Grotta azzurra, Grotta delle Barche, Punta Galera, Punta dell’Arpa, and Piscine.
Easy walking for about an hour and a half.
Sentiero del Tramonto
Contained entirely in the protected area, along the northern slope between about 100 and 200 meters of altitude, this pathway connects the village with the summit portion of Monte Costa del Fallo, offering beautiful views both town and the other elevations and on the plain of Tramontana and well as around it, you can view the entire marine coastal stretch.
An added perk: this is not a very demanding hike and lasts about an hour.
If you’re a toughie and prefer a greater challenge, put on your hiking boots and head out on the crazily all-day hike with all the path you could want, you can try the Sentiero dei Quattro Venti or the Sentiero Archeologico.
3. LOCAL CUISINE
As with the rest of Italy, and especially, Sicily, food is king. Here too, fish is to be found in every shop, market, restaurant and home in all of Palermo where I live.
We have small shrimps (gamberetti usticesi), sardines, bogues, squid, bream, groupers, etc. And we can’t leave out swordfish and tuna. In many parts of the world, people prefer halibut, but I love swordfish when I can get it.
Vegetarians haven’t been forgotten either. They’re gonna be happy to know that aside from the riches of the sea around us, this volcanic land is world-famous around the world for its lentils. These are proudly sold all around the world and the main characteristic apart from being the smallest in Italy is the ease of cooking and above all else the rich intense taste and its typical aroma.
While you’re still taking a bath after all the salt water, you’re gonna be thinking of the delightful food, the delicacies you’re looking forward to and all the genuine recipes that highlight the rich flavors of each ingredient. All this is a wonderful testimony to the authenticity that continues to distinguish the cuisine on this beautiful island.
Here are a couple of restaurants I can recommend that you’ll leave without having a headache.
- Rosso di sera
- Da Martina
Any of these three are dependable places to dine on local cuisine, but the island has many others. Just be sure to check the prices before sitting at any table because you don’t want any unpleasant surprises.
Actually, Ustica is not renowned for its nightlife at all. Ustica is a quiet island where the locals normally go to enjoy the sea and a quiet day. You can, of course, sip a cocktail (my recommendation would be an Aperol spritz) or a glass of white wine at Red or Faraglioni bars.
Where to stay on Ustica
My advice is to book your room(s) in the city center since everything revolves it. Supermarkets, cafeterias, shops, restaurants — almost everything is there. And I’m gonna tell you three names of places where I personally have slept and can assure you they are pleasant and comfortable.
Just take a look at each of them. Any of these are all right but if they don’t seem to you, you might consider the hotel just below.
In any case, be sure to book your accommodations well in advance because around the summer season most are fully booked and I can assure you that you don’t want to sleep on the beach. That may sound adventurous and romantic (unless you’ve been married a long time), just not a great idea. Ideally, you should spend 3 days (2 nights) for an unforgettable memory of the island.
Getting around Ustica
Unfortunately, Ustica isn’t quite what you might define as an elderly-friendly zone. The island features some very steep climbs and slopes. Unless you’re a real hiking enthusiast, don’t forget to bring along all your vocabulary of cuss words.
If you should consider renting a bicycle comes to mind, just think of the sweating bikers facing yet another climb while they invoke their god to put an end to their corporal punishment and torture immediately.
So what then is the best way to get around the island? Okay, old Don Tano may not be Nostradamus, but he knows a lot of things about his beloved Sicily. As to getting around on the island, there are basically two ways.
- Scooters or electric bicycles. These are the best way to get around the island. If you’re environmentally conscious like I am, go green and get an electric bike. You can rent one in many places around the main square or near the port Prices vary based on the season, but they usually range from 30€ to 60€.
- And then there’s the bus. A paved road follows the circular shape of the island and two buses serve in both directions more or less every 15 to 20 minutes. Tickets cost only 1€ and you can get one on the bus. Of course, it’s not as fast as having two wheels, but the good thing is that you can meet people and perhaps find a loved one right on the bus!
My recommendation is to rent a scooter or electric bicycle if you can handle one. Buses are rather slow and often very crowded.
Getting to Ustica
Ustica is a volcanic island located about 9 kilometers (6 miles) across and lying about 52 kilometers (32 miles) north of Palermo in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Essentially, there are two ways to get to Ustica from Palermo.
- LIBERTYlines Hydrofoil. It takes an hour and a half one way and a round-trip ticket cost about 53€ in summer. There are about three trips a day in either direction.
- Siremar ship. This boat ride takes about 3 hours each way and the round trip costs 38€. During the summer, there is one trip daily from Palermo and Ustica.
Needless to say that most people prefer the hydrofoil because they’re faster and the extra 15€ won’t ruin anyone’s life. In any case, both hydrofoils and the ships depart from the port at Palermo.
I hope I’ve given you enough information to make your visit more comfortable with a few tips and suggestions. But I’m getting pretty old, and after 53 years of marriage, I’m reminded every day that I’m not as smart as I used to think I was. So…if I’ve omitted anything or you have any questions, don’t hesitate to drop a line below.
Grazie mille e arrivederci,
Don Tano Bongiorno