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The cliffs at Salinella - San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily
Photo by N. Noè
Salinella - San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily
Photo by N. Costi
Capo Mancina - San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily
Photo by N. Noè
Capo Mancina - San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily
Photo by N. Noè
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San Vito Lo Capo, a climbing introduction to Sicily

Climbing and travel journal 2. San Vito Lo Capo: its climbing, Sicily, the history and sea as seen through the eyes of Nicoletta Costi and Nicola Noè.

San Vito Capo equates to a great holiday and climbing. San Vito, the cape of the world is written on the postcard handed out to all tourists. On the night we arrived our extremely kind host Signor Vito - yes, from San Vito - told us that breakfast would be served on the terrace. Some of us huddled deep into our duvet jackets... we didn't yet know we'd happily abandon them in the cupboard until our return north. So here, in these times of crisis, is a thought: in order to get our economy back on track, we suggest the locals apply a sort of "sun tax" for those who come from less fortunate, more northern countries...

The cattle-track winds its way for various kilometres across the red earth towards the rock bastion which, on closer inspection, turns out to be a real promise. A climbing dream come true on the one side, and the deep blue sea, as smooth as silk, on the other. Sea, sea, sea and even more sea, everywhere, an obsessive presence, a catharsis for those who live on mainland. Yes, the sea is San Vito's philosophical milestone which transforms some cliffs, albeit relatively interesting, into climbing gold.

Cala Mancina, sea limestone. Never sleeping wall, an overhanging face festooned with tufas and "cauliflowers". There's truly something to suit everyone's tastes, colours, rock types, difficulties, and you can even adventure into Cala Firriato for a spot of Deep Water Solo. If San Vito is "the cape of the world", then climbing truly is an integral part of this cosmos.

A vision remains. The dolphins (two, no three, four, five and in the end we lost count) showed off their remarkable acrobatics in and out of the water, just a few meters away from shore, as if inviting us in. And so we went for a swim, despite the fact that a few days ago no one had contemplated packing swimming trunks. On the shore, the seagulls posed on the thousand rocky "penitentes" which lapped in the sea's backwash... the panorama was unique.

Another vision you need to prepare yourself for, so as to avoid "doggy eyes" and a gaping mouth behind the window of the baker's shop, is the immense variety - and tastiness - of the cakes on offer. We can wholly recommend "cannolo scomposto", a typical local sweet filled with ricotta and artistically placed cones which serve as spoons.

Perhaps all of this explains the rest. Such as warmth of the locals, disarming enough to embarrass even a typical person from Milan who changes bars when the owner mentions his name. Just to illustrate the point: as we arrived we saw a tourist thank the policemen who had accompanied him by car to his hotel. Simply unthinkable...

But all of this can perhaps also be explained with history. The Italians should know... San Vito Lo Capo is the sumptuous centre of our cultural roots: Romans in the North, Fenici in the Sud, Greeks and Ottomans in the East. You can feel all of this in San Vito. And how! Even if it's hard to explain in precisely what manner. Perhaps it can be gleamed from the austere elegance of the gothic cathedral in Erice, in the ancient search for authentic white gold, ie the salt mines at Trapani. Or perhaps in the poignant architectural perfection of the headlands of Monte Cofano, the crags at Cala Mancina, the Cattedrale cliffs which plunge into the sea.

Talking of history, climbing has its roots here, too. Nowadays there are the new routes at Grotta dei Santi. 30 years ago Marantonio e Antonioli established Sballo di San Vito on Monte Monaco, while Merizzi, Miotti and partners established the single pitches at Scogliera di Salinella, as recounted by Alessandro Gogna in his Mezzogiorno di Pietra (1982).

What remains of our journey is illuminating... San Vito Lo Capo is another dream which the Mediterranean sea, our Mare Nostrum, has given us. And its close-by, for migrating climbers on the lookout for a mild climate and pure beauty.

San Vito Lo Capo which shouldn't be missed:
The trapanese pesto
The marzipan fruit
Erice and its narrow streets and the gothic cathedral
The Zingaro nature reserve
Bella Susanna, 7a at Never Sleeping Wall
The cous cous

by Nicoletta Costi and Nicola Noè

Guidebooks: Di Roccia Di Sole and San Vito Lo Capo Climbing map

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