After a pause to attend a wedding in France, we head back to Palermo, Sicily, to continue our Italian cruise. However, strong winds keep us trapped in harbour for another day before we set sail for Trapani on the western tip of Sicily. We stop here long enough to take the cable car up Monte San Giuliano, on the summit of which lies the Castello di Venere, before heading to the Egadi Islands.
Despite the calm airs we have to push through an unpleasant swell left by the stormy conditions of the preceding few days. To top it off, the starboard engine is now reporting “low oil pressure” – just as our port engine did last year before we eventually solved it by replacing the oil pressure sensor. At least this experience means we now have the confidence to keep calm and carry on in order to reach our destination, a sheltered bay at the northern tip of Marettimo island. Here we pick up one of the visitors’ buoys below the Castello di Punta Troia – a dreamy location surrounded by warm clear blue water. We lower our tender and potter over to explore the caves, one of which is big enough to motor right into. Refreshed and invigorated by these two experiences, we make our way back to Isola di Favignana, another of the Egadi Islands. We get the last available berth in the port of the same name, squeezing on to the end of a shallow jetty amongst the smaller boats. The harbour bubbles with life: ferries come and go, tripper boats vie for tourists and dozens of small leisure crafts drop anchor wherever they can find a space.
From our berth we can see the old tuna factory, the Palazzo Florio, and a pretty little square dotted with colourful stalls. High up the mountain lies the ruined Castello Santa Caterina, which is illuminated at night so that it appears to hover over the port like an alien UFO. But Favignana only reveals its full charm when you wander through its streets, soaking in the atmosphere. The sound of classical arias hangs in the air from singers performing open-air opera on the steps of the Palazzo Florio and it doesn’t take long for us to decide to stay for another day. Our younger guests take the mountain tour to Castello Santa Caterina, while us older ones walk to the local history museum housed in the former tuna factory and learn about the first Punic War (264-241 BC) between the competing empires of Rome and Carthage.
For dinner we treat ourselves to a wonderful meal sitting on the terrace of restaurant L’Alencio enjoying a magnificent view across the sea to the island of Marettimo and the Faro di Punta Sottile lighthouse blinking in the dusk. When we arrive back in Favignana, still floating on cloud nine, we meander through the maze of streets pulsating with the happy vibes of summer and the sounds of medieval music being performed in the park.
The following morning we leave Favignana with a heavy heart bound for Marsala, pausing briefly in the beautiful bay of Levanzo to take a quick dip, but before we even get to the buoy the Policia Municipale come alongside and inform us that we have entered a protected zone and hand us a 51 fine. Charming! We carry on to the approved visitors’ buoys on the south side of the island and catch up on our swim there before entering the port of Marsala. Despite the famous fortified wine produced here, Marsala fails to inspire us and the following morning we move on to Sciacca on the southern coast of Sicily. After dropping off our guests, we head to Licata, instead of Agrigento’s commercial harbour, where a large and well-kept marina welcomes us. Azura’s size appears to be quite an attraction here unlike many of the larger Med marinas, where she’s lost in a sea of superyachts. The next morning, after a sweaty ascent, we visit Castel Sant’Angelo, where we are rewarded with a magnificent view of the harbour and a spectacular mountainside cemetery. With its beautiful stone paths and marble mausoleums, it’s almost a town in its own right.
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