Crystal-clear waters and golden beaches: the Zingaro Reserve is an earthly paradise where you can relax and completely soak in nature. It is a protected territory, located in the northwestern part of Sicily, between the areas of San Vito lo Capoand Castellammare del Golfo.
The Zingaro Reserve is the first nature reserve to be established on the island. Established in 1981, this area covers a surface of more than 1,500 hectares: its coastal strip is about 7 kilometers long.
The Zingaro Nature Reserve: the morphological aspects
Of uncertain etymology, the Zingaro Nature Reserve is an autenthic paradise where nature reigns supreme: the coastal stretch, the Reserve’s major attraction, consists of Quaternary calcarenites and limestone reliefs of a dolomitic nature, dating back to the Mesozoic. In addition, the coast is also composed of cliffs that, passing from the maximum height of Mount Speziale, slope down to the blue of the crystal clear sea.
This is a unique area where the heavy vegetation frequently leaves room to the clear water of the coves. Embellishing the reserve are the eight coves and numerous caves found here, such as the Corvina Cave, the Capreria Cave, and the Mustia Cave. The coves and caves provide the perfect setting for all snorkeling enthusiasts.
Vegetation within the Reserve
The vegetation within the Reserve is typically Mediterranean, enriched by numerous endemic species. In spring, this place becomes a riot of colors, thanks to the blossoming of poppies, saffron, carnations, Sicilian cornflowers and the rock stars. At this time of year, trees also flaunt their best color tones, as do almond trees. There are about forty endemic species, those that grow only within the Reserve; there are also numerous rare and peculiar shrubs. Among them we definitely find Todaro’s Limonium, belonging to the Plumbaginaceae family.
The emblem of the Zingaro Reserve is certainly the dwarf palm garrigue, the only one growing wild in all Sicily. If you visit the Reserve in the spring period, then you can also admire the flowering of the 25 different species of orchids – an explosion of bright and vivid colors! The other seasons are also perfect to visit Lo Zingaro: summer is ideal for diving into the crystal clear sea, autumn gives scenery with unique chromatic tones, making it a paradise for all trekking lovers.
Fauna within the Reserve
The Zingaro Reserve is home to a great biodiversity, not only in terms of flora but also in terms of fauna. Among the various animal species, one can admire the wonderful Bonelli’s eagle. The protection of this specimen has been one of the reasons behind the establishment of the Nature Reserve. In fact, the Bonelli’s eagle has been declared an endangered species worldwide, although it nests permanently in the most mountainous areas in the Reserve.
In addition to the Bonelli’s eagle, specimens of the Sicilian Conturnice, the peregrine falcon and the imperial raven can also be seen. At night, however, the Reserve is populated by the barn owl, the flat-headed owl and the tawny owl. This list we have made so far is definitely not exhaustive: the Zingaro is populated by about 40 different species of birds.
Other animals include two very rare species: the river crab and the painted discoglossus. The former is a large crustacean inhabiting river environments; the latter is a peculiar amphibian, very similar to a frog, about five centimeters long.
The five museums of the Zingaro Nature Reserve
The Zingaro Nature Reserve enchants not only for its natural beauty: it also includes five museums, telling and illustrating the history of this incredible area.
Museum of Maritime Activities
The first museum you can visit inside the Reserve is the Museum of Maritime Activities, located in an old factory used for tuna processing. In the museum you can admire the working tools used during the mattanza, complete with photos depicting people intent on tuna fishing. Also on display is a miniature tuna trap.
Museum of Weaving
Inside the Museum of Weaving you will be able to take a real leap back in time! In fact, the building houses the memory and tradition of the local peasant culture, particularly the art of weaving, with which everyday objects were made.
Museum of Peasant Civilization
This museum hides within it the customs and traditions of the peasant civilization, of the community that supported itself through animal husbandry and agriculture. The museum also houses all the tools and implements used by the local rural communities.
The Manna Museum contains the tools needed to harvest and preserve ash trees. Manna, an edible sap, is in fact obtained from the bark of the ash tree. Manna is used as a sweetener but has laxative properties as well.
The Nature Museum is the final, major stop to make among the museums in the Reserve. Inside, there are illustrations and reproductions of the flora and fauna featured in the Zingaro Reserve.
Walking through the paths of the Reserve, you can wander in Borgo Cusenza, one of those authentic villages where time seems to have stopped.
It is a cluster of dwellings dating back to the early twentieth century. The ovens no longer in use, the small houses, the cellars for wine production: everything has remained intact, thus treating visitors to a real journey through time, in a rural setting where life was marked by the synergy between man and nature.The village owes its name to an important family living there: the Cusenza family, originally from San Vito Lo Capo. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the village was inhabited by little more than a dozen families living in a patriarchal society. Today, no one lives there anymore but it is charmingly enchanting and definitely worth a visit!