Travel Guide - Marettimo Island, Italy

The second largest among the Aegadian Islands, Marettimo is situated in the Mediterranean Sea, around forty kilometres off the west coast of Sicily. It is the most remote and isolated among the three Aegadian Islands. It is also considered to be greener and more mountainous compared to its neighbouring islands in the Egadi Archipelago. In the island there are a few unspoilt sandy beaches and crystal clear water.

How to get there

Trapani is connected by flights from almost all over Europe. Take the hydrofoil from Trapani to Marettimo. You can also take the hydrofoil from Marsala.

History

Marettimo is an ancient island. It was called “Hiera”. Hiera could be a part of “Hiera Nesos” meaning Sacred Island. Ancient Romans ruins are found on the island. Perhaps future excavations both on land and the nearby sea may throw more light on the antecedents of Marettimo. Some scholars say that it is the original Ithaca, where Homer’s Odysseus is located.

Locals say that its name Marettimo is derived from two words – mare-meaning sea and timo- meaning thyme. Thyme grows wild all over Marettimo. It has always been and is a fishing village and till date you can see the fisherman venture out to sea, return with their catches and upload them on wooden trolleys which are then taken to the village to be sold fresh.

Attractions

Casa Roman Settlement

Casa Romane is the ruins of ancient roman dwellings. It is situated at a height and offers striking views of the Mediterranean Sea. It may have been built for defense purposes. There is a small and ancient Byzantine church dating back to the twelfth century underlining the presence of the Greeks on the island.

Monte Falcone

Monte Falcone is the highest peak in Marettimo and rises 686 metres above sea level. It offers a complete view if the whole island and the surrounding sea.

Punta Troia

Punta Troia is a Spanish castle which now lies in ruins. It was built during the seventeenth century. It was built on the foundations of a sighting tower built by the Saracens in the ninth century. It used to be a prison upto 1844. It is accessible from the town through a fairly rugged and steep trail. It is a beautiful place to watch the sun set or the sunrise.

Scala Vecchio

This is the harbor from which fishing boats generally go out to the Mediterranean Sea. It is situated at the other end of the island.

Scala Nuovo.

When visiting Marettimo, Scala Nuovo is generally the place where the hydrofoil lands. When you look northwards you can see Punta Troia which is a cape with a beautiful castle now in ruins.

Boating to the Grottos or caves

There are many beautiful grottos on Marettimo. These caves nestle amidst the sheer cliffs along the island’s coast. They include the Grotta del Cammello which is the most beautiful grotto in the island. It shelters a beautiful but small and pristine pebbled beach.

The Grotto del Tuono is called the cave of thunder by the locals. Grotto del Percaita is another beautiful cave. In Grotto Perciata the rocks here have been crafted in such a way by the wind and the waves that people liken it to the Nativity Scene. One can swim in these small coves. If you are lucky you may even spot groups of dolphins frolicking in the sea.

Flora and Fauna

It is said there are about five hundred species of plants in the island. Marettimo has a few endangered and rare species of plants including Bupleurum dianthifolum, Brassica macrocarpa, Scilla hughii and Thymus richardii. The forests are filled with Aleppo pines. The wooded hillsides have prickly pear as well as a host of flowering plants including calendula and valerian. In April and May there is a profusion of wild flowers both common and uncommon ones blooming all over the island.

Walking and Hiking

There are walking trails all over the island. There are a series of rugged trails over the hills and the forests and they offer a diverse flora and fauna. The view from many of these trails is simply stunning. There are very many indigenous and wild species of plants along the trails. There also deer, wild boars and a wide variety of birds. The views from atop the sheer cliffs are amazing and though the climb up can be steep the panorama below is definitely breath taking. There are donkey rides and a few mountain bikes available on hire.

Diving

The protected coastline makes the island a haven for diving and snorkeling. One can dive through history as it is till possible to find remnants from various eras on the sea bed. The statue of the Dancing Satyr was recovered close to these waters. As you go deep in you witness nature’s aquarium at her best. You can see many different varieties of fishes, multi coloured algae, corals, sponges etc and the entire sea kingdom is alive and colourful waiting to be appreciated.

The Village of Marettimo

Most of Marettimo consists of rugged mountainous area. There is a small village called Marettimo nestled in the only flatland towards the eastern side of the island, among the sheer limestone cliffs which rise all over the island and deep forests. It has over hundred fifty residents around the year. However as August approaches the numbers increase ten fold. Almost all the house are white washed and have blue shutters. It is mainly a fishing community and you can see nets drying outside the houses. Many of the village residences offer accommodation to the tourists as there are very few apartments or hotels to stay in.

Food and Drink

Marettimo is the ideal place to try all varieties of sea food. One has to try the tuna, sardines and sword fish at their freshest in the few restaurants in the island. Most of the dishes in the menu are sea food based and fish with couscous is very popular.

There are a couple of bars and a few restaurants. There are lip smacking gelatos available at La Scaletta, which is the local ice-cream parlour and also doubles as a bar. One can also pick up fresh fruits and vegetables. There is a pastry shop which also sells sandwiches and

other snacks. There is a pharmacy. Marettimo is the island from where you can also pick up wild honey and many aromatic herbs including rosemary, thyme and yellow and purple heather.

Marettimo is a beautiful spot to visit for a day trip or a short vacation away from the madding crowd.