Another easy overnight trip from Palermo is to the tiny volcanic island of Ustica, which became Italy’s first marine reserve in 1986. This island (8.7 sq km) is actually the tip of a submerged volcano and, as a result, the surrounding waters are a feast of fish and coral, ideal for snorkelling, diving and underwater photography. In July the island hosts the International Festival of Underwater Activities, which draws divers from around the world. The best months in which to visit, however, are June and September when the wild coastline and dazzling grottoes can be appreciated without the crowds.
The best dive sites are the Secca Colombara to the north of the island and the Scoglio del Medico to the west. Note that Zone A of the marine reserve is a protected area. Fishing, diving and even swimming are forbidden here without permission from the Marine Reserve Visitors Centre, which can organise diving excursions into the zone. For landlubbers the rugged coastline can be enjoyed from a series of coastal paths, the most scenic of which passes through pine woods up to the summit of Guardia di Mezzo (248m) before descending to the best part of the coast at Spalmatore, where you can swim in natural rock pools.
The Marine Reserve Visitors Centre (Centro Accoglienza;
Profundo Blu (