SCOPELLO, Italy — The Zingaro Nature Reserve is a wild and rugged stretch of land that runs along the coast of northwest Sicily. Mountains rise above sandy beaches with views of the sea in two distinct bands of color: translucent aqua in the shallow waters near the shore, and a deep, dark blue beyond.
Cars are not allowed and neither are new buildings. The park is dotted with old stone structures, and families who lived and farmed in the area before the reserve was created in 1981 use pack mules to bring goods in and out.
The park is located outside Castellammare del Golfo, about an hour west of Palermo. My partner and I drove there from our agritourismo — a farm with guest rooms — through the pretty little town of Scopello. We parked in a lot just outside the reserve. A short tunnel connects the parking lot to the trail, and when you emerge, you just can't believe how instantly beautiful it is, requiring just the smallest effort to see the stunning landscape.
The main trail splits into a few others, but they're well-marked. We kept it simple and just stayed on the route that hugs the coast. It's a relatively easy trail with some ups and downs, but no real climbing other than some stairs. Now and then, a spur from the trail heads down to several small, pretty beaches.
On our trip, at the end of May, the park was quiet, with wildflowers everywhere. We only occasionally met other people as we walked. There was no shade on the trail at midday, but the sea breeze kept us cool and the air was fresh.
We spent just a few hours at Zingaro, but we hope to return on another trip to spend a whole day, free of the motorized world, watching the light change as the day wears on and exploring this gem of a place.
If You Go... ZINGARO NATURE RESERVE: Located in Italy about an hour west of Palermo, Sicily, outside Castellammare del Golfo near the town of Scopello. Adults, 5 euros; children up to age 14, 3 euros. Open daily 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Detailed directions, itineraries and places to stay: http://www.riservazingaro.it/index.php?lang=en .