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Riserva dello Zingaro
Castellammare del Golfo
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Riserva naturale orientata dello Zingaro


The 1.620 hectares of "Lo Zingaro" extend in one of the most evocative landscapes of Sicily, in a piece of land which, advancing in the south Tyrrhenian sea, closes on the west side the Gulf of Castellammare. It is the first natural reserve instituted in Sicily (6 May 1981), it is more than seven kilometers long and spreads along the coast. It is situated in one of the few still integral places in all the Island.
It includes mountains which rise from the sea, covered by paths which lead the visitor to the discover of landscapes of incomparable beauty, in which the particular light makes the vegetation's and rocks' colors brighter, in opposition to the various bleu-sea tones of the coast. Inaccessible precipices on which "Pistacia Lentisca" and heathers, brooms and "Euphorbia", Oleasters (Olea Oleaster) and "Terebinti", survivors of that Mediterranean bush that once covered all the territory, give shelter to Hawks, Buzzards, Kestrels, Swifts and Imperials Crows.
In the reserve there are more than 800 species of plants of great naturalistic and landscape interest. Among them the "Limonio Flagellare" (typical of the north west coast of Sicily) and the "Sea fennel", which take root among the cliffs near the sea, the "Dianthus", the "Bluebottle of Sicily", the "Snapdargon" and the "Rocky starlet", which give color to higher zones.
On the less accessible cliffs do live the most important species: a very particular flora, represented by a limited number of plants, which is still integral for the inaccessibility of the places in which it grows: the "Erba Perla", the "Vilucchio Turco", the "Perlina di Boccone" and the rare "Limonio di Todaro". But the most widespread plant is the "dwarf palm", which reaches here remarkable dimensions: in addition to "Ampelodesma" (the "DISA"), in some zones it is so thick that the landscape has got the typical aspect of the praierie. It is the "Gariga", an area, which is the result of the millenarian man's action, originally populated by thick mediterranean bush. Numerous are the "Orchidee Terricole" that together with "Iris", "Zafferani", "Poppies" and "Ranuncoli" give color to the various zones of the reserve in spring. An isolated aspect are the valley depressions of Monte Acci (the zone of "gorghi tondi", where the vegetation, mostly composed by rushes and sedges, creates an ideal atmosphere for the "Discoglosso" - a small amphibian which is typical of Sicily and it's similar to the frog - and the "river crab").
Interesting are the northern slopes of "Monte Passo di Lupo", where there is a wall covered by a plurisecular plant of "Ivy" and some fragments of an ilex and a cork-tree forest, survivor of a wood, which was anciently extended on an immense area of the High "Zingaro". In the reserve, more than 40 species of birds nidificate, others hibernate or stop for a while during the migrations. Here the most present bird is "the Bonelli Eagle" (one of rarest italian bird of prey), whose presence has been one of the main reasons for the institution of the reserve. It is regularly reproduced nidificating on the high walls of the high zones.
Another inhabitant of "Lo Zingaro" is the "Greek Partridge of Sicily" - an endemic species nearly extinguished in the province of Trapani - which from the reserve has begun to repopulate the neighbouring areas. There can also be met the "Wren", the "Occhiocotto", the "Sparrow Hermit", the "Nightingale", the "Bunting" and the "Stonechat". Frequent is also the "Porcupine" whose presence is testified by the pricks that can be found along the less attended paths.
Other representatives of the reserve's fauna are the Fox, the Weasel and the Owl (night bird of prey, typical of the forests that has perfectly adapted to this area), the Wild Rabbit, and some reptiles such as the Viper, the "Saettone", the "Biacco" and the Sicialian Lizard. The predators' presence carries out a balancing function keeping under control the increment of the species that live in the reserve, especially of the rabbit and the snakes. The undersea landscape is a continue sequence of colors and shapes. In the rocky walls covered by algae, anemones and madrepores, small fish having the most colorful liveries of the undercoast swim. Deep, where the sponges are more frequent, it is possible to find some isolated red coral colonies, while clouds of shrimps similar to crystal splinters hover in the numerous submarine coves.
The human presence has always been something constant in "Lo Zingaro". Here, man has always lived becoming integrated in the natural atmosphere. Hunter and binder at the beginning, he has developed, during the millenia, an agricultural activity in harmony with the atmosphere, testified by the presence of isolated settlements and of structures linked to economic activities. Endemic plants as the "DISA" (Ampelodesma tenax) and the "dwarf palm" (Chamaerops humilis) called "scupazzu", have been used until few decades ago, to make brooms, ropes and hampers, while the Almond tree, the Carob-tree, the Olive-tree, the Vines, the Ash-tree (extracted through transversal cuts on the bark and sold all over the island as sweetener and for its light laxative effect) and the Sumach [Rhus coriaria] (from which the tannin for the skins' tannery is obtained) have been introduced in various periods.
The first human settlements go back to the Superior Palaeolithic (60.000- 15.000 b.C.) when small groups of hunters-binders had founded here a place which was rich of game and plants, and settled down in the many coves, which formed thausends of years before for the erosion of the sea when, during the several phases of the glaciations, the sea level was higher. These coves had already been shelter for the big mammals that inhabited Sicily, at that time: Elephants and Rhinoceroses, but also Lions, Deers, wild Oxes and Boars. Between them the big Cove of "Lo Zingaro", inhabited until few decades ago by shepherds who used it as ovile during the transhumance periods. During the prehistoric era, it was probably a cult place where magic or religious rites were carried out and where, along the inner edges, the dead men were buried. In its inside one of the most important funeral structures in Europe belonging to the Mesolithic period (12.000-8.000 b.C.) has been found. Moreover, fragments of ceramics of various type going back to the neolithic age (5.000-4.000 b.C.) have been found. During this period, agriculture borns and the sheep-farming activity starts to be practised. Other finds belong to the age of bronze (2000 b.C.), to the VI century a.C. and to the Roman-byzantine period.
The presence of the houses and other buildings are the symbol of the human evolution: "Borgo Cusenza", a group of rural houses near "Monte Passo del Lupo", and some scattered structures which are in C/da Sughero and C/da Zingaro, were inhabited until some decades ago and were used for agricultural works and jobs regarding the sheep-farming field; the Tower of Uzzo, along the coast of the area having the same name, built in the XVI century with military functions, to which later on small structures of agricultural use have been added; the Tonnarella of Uzzo, which worked until last century having a function of support to the more important tunny-fishing structure of Scopello.