This Italian beauty will leave you wanting more. There just isn´t enough time on one sailing yacht charter to explore all the fantastic sailing grounds and go see all the impressive historic sites that Sicily has to offer. So let us introduce you to a few of them and tell you more about boat rental in Sicily in detail.
What makes sailing holidays in Sicily so popular?
Sicily is the largest Mediterranean island. Together with the surrounding minor islands it constitutes the Sicilian Region, which is the biggest autonomous region in Italy. With its favourable central location, it serves as a good transit station between the eastern and the western Mediterranean. The large indented coastline is very well suited for safe anchoring and the prevailing north-westerly winds are great for sailing. In addition, you find excellent yachting facilities and plenty of harbours as well as mooring possibilities.
The island is easily reachable due to its 3 airports in Trapani, Palermo and Catania. The main ports are Trapani, Palermo, Messina, and Catania, which are at the same time the capitals of their provinces. Messina is the busiest because of the ferry links to the Italian mainland and other places in Sicily, and as it is a stop for Mediterranean cruises. The distance to the Italian mainland from Messina is only 5 km. Travelling there by ferry from Civitavecchia, the nearest port to Rome, can be much cheaper than flying there. The region of Calabria, which forms the southernmost tip of Italy, can also easily serve as a starting point for an Aeolian yacht charter. It has its three main airports in Reggio, in Lamezia Terme and in Crotone.
Sicily benefits from a mild climate, no significant tides, a rich culture and history as well as great seafood and cuisine. The dramatic rocky scenery due to the volcanic origin of the island is something to behold. There are fertile mountains, beautiful aquamarine waters and many hidden coves to anchor peacefully.
On top of all that Sicily boasts stunning natural attractions like Mount Etna, Europe´s highest active volcano, or the Stromboli volcano in the Aeolian Islands as well as numerous ancient historic sites.
Some relevant info for a bareboat charter in Sicily:
Location: Southern tip of Italian mainland
Total length of coastline: 1,483.9 km (including the smaller islands)
Total surface area: 25,711 km²
Highest point: Mount Etna, 3,329 m
Main airports: Trapani; Palermo; Catania
Population: ca. 5,100,000
Country code: +39
Climate: Mild, Mediterranean
Which main charter destinations are there in Sicily?
The main charter bases are in Marsala, Trapani, Terrasini, Palermo, Sant`Agata di Militello and Portorosa. Terrasini is very convenient to get to as it is situated only 10 km west of Palermo airport. All those ports, however, are located within only 2 hours or less from an airport. They are concentrated in the North as it is very popular for charterers to go to the Aeolian Islands from there. It is also possible to hire a yacht from Reggio Calabria on the mainland and cross the Straights of Messina to go to the Aeolian Islands. The Straights of Messina have a traffic separation system and for pleasure boats it is mandatory to advise the Coast Guard ahead of the crossing.
The Sicilian west corner has a cliffy coastline with many coves, beaches and anchorages.
From Trapani head to the three Egadi islands, which are a nature reserve with mooring buoys and anchorages. Fees apply and the park rangers coming to the boat will collect them and tell you which places to visit.
On a stretch of about 10 NM between Trapani and Palermo on the north coast there are the lovely harbour towns of San Vito lo Capo, Castellammare del Golfo, Balestrate and Terrasini. They all have pontoons to moor up onto. Also on the north coast is Palermo. Better than to go to its slightly unpleasant and smelly main harbour would be to use the Marina Villa Igiea with 379 moorings for boats up to 65 m or the Marina Arenalla with 200 berths for yachts up to 30m. Continue along the north coast and check out the medieval town of Cefalu and the sheltered port town of Portarosa with good facilities, resorts and restaurants.
Sail the beautiful Aeolian Islands. They feature a wonderfully rugged, picturesque coastline. The anchorages are rather exposed, so it is safer to go to port overnight. There is beautiful, touristy Lipari. Then Stromboli that erupts every 20 min releasing ash and lava into the air, which is spectacular at night. The island Vulcano makes for a fascinating charter destination. You can go right up to the lip of the crater and smell the sulphuric acid fumes. Alikudi, Filikudi, Panarea and Salina are the smaller islands.
Cruise down the popular east coast. From Messina, cover the approx. 25 NM to Taormina. Sail along the steep cliffs with coves and sandy beaches and around the tiny Isola Bella, a nature reserve connected to Sicily via a sand bank. About 10 NM further south is the small town of Riposto, where you can stock up at the excellent food market. Ca. 20 NM more to the South you arrive at Catania and it´s about a further 30 NM to Syracuse. This ancient town has a very good marina from where you can walk directly into the lively historical centre.
Harbour towns worth mentioning in the South are Sciacca, Licata with its very sheltered marina and the beach resort town of Ragusa with an 800 berth marina for yachts up to 20 m.
What important weather systems are there for sailing in Sicily?
Sicily has mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Catania on the east coast boasts the highest average of sunshine hours in the whole of Europe with 2,492 per year. This breaks down to a nice 6.8 hours per day. On the island in general, July breaks the record with a whopping 14 hours of sunshine per day.
While the Sirocco brings hot air from Africa, the Mistral moderates and cools down the summer heat. North-westerly winds with a force of 3 – 4 prevail.
There are tidal currents in the Straights of Messina but they are fairly week compared to the ones in the Atlantic or other oceans.
Summary of the weather conditions for sailing a yacht charter in Sicily:
Months with highest average temperature: July, August, 26°
Months with lowest average temperature: January/February, 12°
Month with highest average precipitation: December, 79 mm
Months with lowest average precipitation: June/July, 10 mm
Average wind speed May – October: 8 – 12 knots
Month with highest average water temperature: August, 27°
Months with lowest average water temperature: February/March, 15°
Main season: Mid-April – October
How much is a yacht charter in Sicily and what are the different charter types?
You can rent a 12 m sailboat, for instance, from about 2,000 € onwards. Prices go up according to size, model and equipment of the yacht. Day charter is available, mostly in the form of motor boat rental. The choice is also between a catamaran charter and sailboat or motor yacht hire. Then there is a bareboat or skippered yacht charter and you can opt for crewed charter including a chef as well as stewardess(es) and deckhand(s). The latter will certainly be the case on large luxury yachts. In Italy it is often common to hire a RIB to explore the area or just go for a nice excursion on the water. And flotilla holidays are a very popular type of charter for family sailing holidays.
What activities besides sailing are there on a bareboat charter in Sicily?
If you like regattas, watch the demanding and challenging `Middle Sea Race` in October – an around the island sailing race that starts in Malta and then circumnavigates Sicily.
Visit Cefalu, a lovely medieval town on the north coast with a stunning Duomo dating from 1131.
In Catania, you can admire two Roman amphitheatres. Also check out the open air market that sells amazing fish and the Piazza del Duomo with its impressive cathedral.
A must-see are the Aeolian Islands, an immensely beautiful archipelago and UNESCO world heritage site. There are active volcanoes and quaint towns like Lipari with many dive companies and lovely boutiques and restaurants.
In the hilltop town of Taormina near Mount Etna visit the famous Teatro Antico, an ancient Greco-Roman theatre that is still in use today. Meander through the pretty cobblestone streets and enjoy the great views from the top of the high cliff.
Do a tour of Mount Etna on the east coast between Messina and Catania. It covers an area of 1,190 km² and is permanently active.
Syracuse is a historical ancient town with massive fortifications. It has a slightly faded charm, good shopping and a great baroque cathedral that incorporates parts of a Greek temple built around 500 BC. The near-by Necropolis of Pantalica dating from 700 – 1300 BC hosts thousands of tombs cut in the rock and is a spectacular sight.
In the Valley of the Temples, an archaeological site in Agrigento on the south coast, you find the stunning ancient Greek Temple of Concordia, lit up by night, as well as six other temples. It is one of the main attractions in Sicily.
Visit breath-taking Ragusa with many historic sights, churches and amazing architecture.
To soak up pure, unspoilt nature, head to the Sila National Park in Calabria, which is said to have the cleanest air in Europe.
Check out the nightlife, i.e. Palermo’s in-bar Kursaal Kalhesa in a restored aristocratic palazzo and the Caffe Internazionale. In Taormina live it up in the Daiquiri Lounge or the Morgana Lounge Bar.
Try out water sports like diving, snorkeling, fishing, water-ski, wakeboarding, windsurfing, stand-up-paddling and many more.
Sample the savoury and healthy cuisine that incorporates a wide array of vegetables and seafood. There are also some very famous sweet dishes including ice cream and many pastry specialties – so go ahead and enjoy!