Swimming

Here’s our favourite beaches. And a couple of freshwater alternatives. Your’s missing? Tell us. You found the paradise beach in a lonely cove where no-one ever set a step? -- Well, better keep it to yourself.

The closest beach is in Sant’Alessio Siculo, 5 km away from Forza. Drive down to the coast road SS 114, turn left and drive into the next town. Right behind the town entrance, turn right into a small access road passing under the railway to the beachfront. Park there and pick your lido. The first lido probably has the finest view on romantic Capo Sant’Alessio, and sports a small rock island.

One town up the coast, in Santa Teresa di Riva, there is a long beach front with many lidi, not quite as nicely set, but with a bit more upscale beach kiosks.

The arguably finest beach in the immediate surroundings is located along the coast road to the south, so take a right when coming down from Forza to the main road, and keep driving for some 1½ kms until you see a signpost Lido „Sunkisses“ to your left. This built-up sandy beach is the largest and quietest of the bunch, and hosts an o.k. restaurant.

Taormina and offshore Isola Bella — one of the most popular postcard motifs of whole Sicily — are joined by this sandbank, being a publicly accessible beach. Maybe you should visit it just to be able to tell others later on you did. The beach itself is a bit rocky and thus nothing special, but the views are definitely charming.

If you like to drive a little further, or consider combining a visit to Messina with an afternoon on the beach: north of Messina, at the northeastern tip of Sicily, you’ll find at Punta del Faro or in the town of Mortelle some marvellous white sandy beaches. Simply follow the coast road north from Messina. Climb the pylon which formerly provided mainland electricity to the island until 1993 and enjoy the views on beach and stretto.

If you prefer freshwater for a change, the Gole di Alcantara are the right place to go. You can either wade far into this basalt gorge with rental rubber trousers and a guide; or simply follow the many other visitors and splash about in the basalt pools. If thereafter you’re too tired to walk back up to the street, an elevator will bring you back up. Take the motorway towards Catania and turn off at Giardini-Naxos, then follow the signs to Francavilla for some 12km until you see loads of parked cars along the road behind San Cataldo, there turn left into the parking lot.

A very special aquatic highlight is the Cava Grande del Cassibile, quite aptly dubbed the „Grand Canyon of Sicily“. Upon arrival on the high plateau a dramatic panorama of the rugged canyon opens to the visitor’s view. At the parking (3 Euro) there’s a bar where you can stock up on panini and water bottles if you hadn’t had the time to shop for a picknick; and at the entrance to the trail you’ll have to register and have your footwear checked. (Minimum requirements are sandals with heel-straps, flip-flops will be turned away! Rental shoes are available at the bar for 8 Euros.) Then it’s just under an hour’s zigzagging down to the riverbed of the Cassibile where you will be expected by a chain of natural rock pools with crystal clear water, partly overgrown by flourishing oleander bushes — a small paradise which in high season, of course, you’ll be far of having for yourself. Wade and swim the pools for half an hour upstream or laze around on one of the many limestone terraces. If the weather’s not too hot, you can also make this a hike; and the excursion can easily be combined with a visit to Syracuse. Drive the motorway past Catania and Siracusa to the Avola turnoff, then follow the signs „Cava Grande del Cassibile — Laghetti“ for some 15kms into the mountains (Avoid Sicily’s most useless underpass some 4½kms later; turn off immediately before and take the next right.).

And if stormy autumn or cold winter make you crave a warm bath, try the Thermal baths of Alí Terme. ► Hotel Terme Marino has a thermal pool (entrance fee: 12 €) and offers a Kneipp circle (for an additional 4 €). Check beforehand on its website if it’s open; the pool is closed between mid December and beginning of May. Get there by taking SS114 coastal road northbound past Sant’Alessio Siculo, Santa Teresa di Riva, Furci, Roccalumera until Alí Terme. Turn left behind the church into Via Roma, direction of Alí Superiore; the hotel is some 80m further up (20kms from Forza).