A day trip to Ustica

30 July 2017

The longer I make these holiday posts last, the longer I can pretend it wasn't almost a month ago now, right?!

One of our favourite memories from our week in Sicily was our day trip to Ustica - an island about 60km off the coast. It's a favourite summer holiday destination for the people of Palermo and there were plenty arriving on the boat with us, although it was nowhere near as crowded as it apparently gets later on in July and into August. 

Look at that shimmering reflection! This was when we first arrived in Ustica in the morning and the chap below captained our boat home in the afternoon - ciao!

If I was planning the trip again, I'd have booked a hotel on the island itself for a night or two because a day really wasn't enough time for this gorgeous place. The water surrounding Ustica is sparklingly clear and it's hugely popular for snorkelling and scuba diving, which I would love to try. So I would definitely recommend spending at least one night here, particularly to make the slightly expensive ferry fare go that little bit further!

I read that Ustica is actually the tip of a submerged volcano, which made perfect sense particularly on the flamingly hot (for me!) day we visited - when you walk around the island, you can see that the land itself is scattered with volcanic rock dotted with all manner of exotic cactus and stunning hisbiscus flowers.

The best way to explore Ustica is on foot. There are several different walking trails and it's only 8.7 sq km around so it's not the longest distance...although perhaps on a slightly cooler day! Apparently a full circuit of the island takes about 4 hours, although you'd want to stop for breaks en route - you could even break it up over the course of two day if you stay overnight, and that would give you a chance to enjoy a swim in the beautiful sea too.

Our guidebook recommended asking at the tourist office for directions/a map of the walking routes but when we Google-mapped the tourist office, there was no sign of it. We did however find the marine reserve information office, which we wandered into hoping they might have maps of the island that would serve just as well. Inside was the loveliest old Italian man! We can speak very little Italian (I've learned how to say "that was delicious", which I say at every opportunity but apart from a few other food-related phrases, that's it) and he spoke absolutely no English. We managed to communicate what we were looking for and he produced a map, pointing to a few routes that he recommended we try and a lot of other things, which I'm sure were all very interesting indeed but were all in very fast Italian! He came out into the street with us and pointed us on our way to our first walk - to the Rocca della Falconiera, a defensive tower overlooking the sea.

It was only a short walk but it was a very very hot day! The trail leads you first to a lookout point at Punta Omo Morto, where we stopped to reapply some more sunscreen and took in the beautiful views out to sea from one window and inland from another, over the island itself.

You then continue walking further up the path to the Torre Santa Maria, a Bourbon-era tower.

After a few hours enjoying a relaxed lunch, we headed towards the other side of the island - we only had an hour or two left on the island before our ferry was due to leave so we decided to follow a trail that passed through some pine woods to the summit of Guardia di Mezzo. We didn't get a chance to finish the trail but apparently if you followed it further, it descended to a part of the coast where you can swim in natural rock pools.

It was so incredibly beautiful - the air was filled with the smell of hot pine needles and the sound of the cicadas in the trees.

I sat on a rock at one point to have some water while my husband walked on ahead. He disappeared out of sight and I felt like I was the only person for miles around, it was wonderfully peaceful.

Where we ate

Between our first and second hikes, we stopped for some food just off the main square at the Ristorante da Umberto (Piazza della Vittoria 7), which could not have looked more inviting to two very hot, bedraggled English folk with its glorious shaded frontage and regularly-supplied chilled lemon ice tea! 

The staff were so helpful, pointing out the various gluten free options on the menu. Apparently all the seafood on the menu is sourced from the water around Ustica itself and so I decided to go with some octopus to start (just simply chopped, drizzled with olive oil and a fresh squeeze of lemon, and sprinkled with fresh parsley) followed by a pasta course (they had gluten free pasta!) - a spaghetti dish with a local fish that I didn't recognise but was quite meaty in texture. My husband (who isn't coeliac) had a fried local cheese to start which came with a pistachio pesto, and followed this up with some swordfish. It was all so delicious and we stayed there for a few hours hiding from the sun high above us, relaxing and chatting over a few chilled glasses of wine - that's what holidays are for, right?! 

If you planning a visit to Palermo, a visit to Ustica is not to be missed! Have you visited the island before? Did you get a chance to swim while you were there? That's the one thing I'm really sad that we didn't get a chance to do at all this holiday. Time to book another one perhaps...


  1. Oh these photos are absolutely gorgeous! I just love how blue the water is there and the sunlight in all of these photos. I can see why you're daydreaming about this place still and hanging onto the photos - I'd be doing the same. I always find it hard to come back home after a good holiday. Adding this place to my list! - Tasha

    1. Thank you so much Tasha! It was such a beautiful place, I think any good photos I took were mostly luck! You must definitely add it to your must-visit list :) C x

    2. More than welcome! Will have to visit it soon and your photos are stunning. Thank you for the lovely comments on my blog too. - Tasha

  2. I'm so glad I found your blog, Cat. Sicily is high on my travel wishlist and your posts are great, so thanks!

    1. That's so nice of you, thank you! Sicily is well-worth visiting, really pleased that the posts are helpful. I have one more to do so will get onto that!

  3. Ahh this looks like a beautiful sunny day! Your photos are so vibrant and stunning. This makes me want to visit Palermo or Sicily or Ustica or just about anywhere there, hahaha. Day tours are always so great, aren't they?
    I really adore your blog! I just came across it and I'd love if we can follow each other on Bloglovin maybe? Do let me know <3 Have a lovely week.

    Joanne | Life in Blue Skies

    1. Thank you so much, what a lovely thing to say. I definitely recommend a visit to Sicily and I think you can't really go wrong with anywhere on that beautiful island!
      Yes of course, that would be good - I'll pop over and find you on Bloglovin now.


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