Reminiscing Trip #1 (getting us through the winter with memories of recent trips we haven’t had time to blog about yet)
I was recently lucky enough to squeeze in one last trip to Sicily before we go into what could be a tricky winter*. This was my first time on the not so little island at the end of the boot of Italy, so I was super excited to check out the other half of this country, always said to be a totally different experience, as well as to check out the climbing that the volcanic island had on offer. And boy I was not disappointed!
Where to climb
Let’s start with what we at on the doorstep love to talk about- the climbing. We opted to stay in San Vito Lo Capo, known for being the climbing mecca of Sicily, with an expanse of crags and mountains overlooking the coast. Most of the climbing is at El Bahira, overlooked by a castle and facing the beautiful rugged coast line. The town itself is around an hours drive west from Palermo with a cute selection of restaurants, bars and cafes- not that we had a great opportunity to check them out owing to the latest curfew for Covid measures.
Most of the rock is limestone and sharpened by the costal proximity. This means it’s great for climbers who like great hand holds and not such a fan of the slab life, but of course, don’t expect to come back without your fair share of cuts and bruises!
Climbing Ability and Gear
There are climbing routes available from 3b to 9a, on overhangs, slabs, cracks, chimneys…there is something for everyone. If you could ever tire of the endless sport climbing, there are some pretty awesome multipitch options too- we checked out the Monte Monaco. As the routes are quite long, you need a minimum of 60m route and 15 quickdraws. Take some trad gear for the routes that are a little more spaced out. Most of the routes we followed had been recently bolted by two German brothers (and helpfully detailed in their guide book Sicily Rock) they had rings and the vast majority an anchor.
If you’re fortunate enough to visit when the sea is a little warmer, deep water solo climbing is an option, with some low hanging routes. Not however, for the faint hearted, weak swimmers or inexperienced as it can be quite a risky option.
Okay next favourite topic, or it’s at least up there, the food. Sicily is really the gateway between North Africa and Europe- it’s Tunisian influence is clear in the architecture and cuisine of the island. A traditional dish is couscous and fish, which we enjoyed as a take out, along with Caponata, an aubergine based dish mixed with capers and other ingredients. We enjoyed lots of fish and of course pasta; it is Italy after all. The pastries and famous cannoli’s were everything that could be dreamed of- light, fluffy and far too moreish.
Where to stay
There were plenty of van lifers staying near the crag, which looked dreamy. There are 2 campsites nearby which also have options for tents. As we’d only got the opportunity to do a long weekend, we had a great apartment with a view over the traditional lighthouse. There are lots of apartments & hotels in San Vito lo Capo, which are all a 10 minute drive to the main climbing crag- meaning it’s even walkable. Public transport on the island however is not the most reliable, so a car is highly advisable.
When to go
Sicily enjoys a very Mediterranean climate, with scorching hot summers and mild winters. In my opinion, the best time to travel is between September – November and March- May when the weather is a pleasant temperature for climbing. Most of the crags we climbed were facing the sun for the majority of the day which could’ve been very tricky in the height of August when average temperatures are at 35-40 degrees. The mosquitos we’re still out at the end of October and some sun cream might be needed for the paler humans around.
The island of Sicily has so much to offer, if you’re not a climber or are looking for a rest day, there are plenty of options. Mount Etna and Palermo are both beautiful. Closer to where we were in San Vito lo Capo, there are bike rides and hikes which weave along the coast. One long weekend just wasn’t enough!
Have you got any other Sicilian climbing tips? Drop me a message!
*note this trip was made pre lockdown, writing during, hopefully repeat plan post lockdown!