Ustica – is the small island of about 9 kilometers squared and located in the Tyrrhenian Sea about 67 km north-west of Palermo and characterized by the wild beauty of nature and of the turquoise sea color and deep color of its volcanic rocks.
The population in the island is relatively small of about 1.300 inhabitants but is a favorite summer destination for relaxing holidays. It’s a magic place that reflects thousand colors and its have been inspiring painters and artists for generations.
It is very interesting to enjoy a view from Cala S. Maria over the urban agglomeration of Ustica and admire a series of vividly painted houses and murals, works by prominent painters, and the bell tower of the Mother Church or to reach the enchanting Chapel of San Francesco by a pathway.
Renting a scooter can be the perfect way to make excursions to Calvary, to the Saraceno Castle and to the Fortress on the Colle della Falconara – an ancient Roman archaeological site and one of the most scenic spots on the island. Ustica is well set up for divers and explorers which may be interested in panoramic views as is for example “Guardia dei Turchi” – Ustica’s highest point (248m).
The central point of Ustica is definitely Piazza Umberto I, overlooking the Church of San Ferdinando from 18th century.
In the houses or the village’s small osterias, you can eat incredibly fresh seafood and don’t forget to bring home the smallest lentils of Italy grown right here on the island and from 2000 included in the Slow Food list.
THE BEACHES AND CAVES:
From 1987 Ustica was established as Marine Nature Reserve and the most famous caves are the Grotta della Partizza, Grotta Segreta, Grotta Azzurra – with the secular stalagmites, Grotta del Tuono, Grotta Verde and Grotta delle Barche many of them accessible only by boat. wonderful small beaches as Punta dello Spalmatore, the Cala Sidoti and the Cala Acquario where bathing is allowed only at the Cala Sidoti and Cala Acquario, definitely an unforgettable experience.
THE CIRCLE’S ISLAND:
Speaking of history, Ustica represented a strategic place for anyone: the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Saracen pirates. It is known to be the Circe’s island, the one who turned into pigs Ulysses’ friends. The Greeks used to call the island Ostodea, i.e. charnel house, because of the bones of so many castaways. The Romans used to call it Ustum, i.e. burned, for its volcanic nature that makes it similar to Etna mountain or Hawaii islands. The first actual colonization came with the Bourbons, in 1759, by Ferdinand IV. It was a long struggle, against Saracen pirates devastating and threatening the land for years. But after all it ended in an agricultural paradise.
THE FAMOUS LENTILS FROM USTICA:
The Italian intellectual Antonio Gramsci was imprisoned here in Ustica for a while during Fascism. He used to mention this place a lot in his letters to his wife and sister-in-law. He mentioned also the local lentils, famous to be the smallest in the world. The lentils from Castelluccio di Norcia in Umbria are slightly bigger and multicolored, while the ones from Ustica are uniform brown. Certified by Slow Food, these lentils are rich in iron, proteins and essential amino acids. You don’t need to soak them in water before cooking, because the peel is extra thin and gentle. Thanks to the rich soil and the Mediterranean weather. Other local products are the fava beans, the chickpeas and the beans. Reason why one of the most famous local dish is the so called macco di fave, made with dried fava beans and wild fennel. Walking across the island, vegetable gardens are all around, from tomatoes to pumpkins. I loved so much the agricultural inland! The island is quite small, less than 9 hectares wide, and it is a real place, with 1200 people actually living there. Tourism is its first aim.