Sicily I – A Boat, Birds & a Beach

8th – 13th October 2017

After a Sunday of slobbing around the van and the pool we got up with a sense of purpose – the Tourist Information office would be open for 4 whole hours. We headed out of camp on our bikes and just stopped dead, all thought of tourist information driven from our minds – out in the bay was the most remarkable sight. It was quite jaw-dropping and we just kept looking, trying to make sense of it. In front of us was something that seemed to be from the another place – the world’s largest and most futuristic sailing yacht had called in to humble San Vito lo Capo. We photographed it. We cycled on and stopped and photographed it again. And again. As was everyone else.


Two small boats circled it continuously – security? A section of the hull was open either side  – the access for the large RIB that appears to be it’s tender.  So there is one gin palace here after all and this one was was flying the red ensign. It is difficult to say what an impact this yacht makes when you see it for real – it’s size and proportions are so distinctly, well, unreal compared to other boats. From every angle it is a remarkable piece of design and construction.

Called Sailing Yacht A (so that it appears first in the shipping lists) it is owned by the Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko, who at only 44 is worth nearly £11 billion (net), the 9th richest man in Russia. Delivered earlier this year the yacht cost a staggering £360 million pounds. We have discovered a  few facts from t’internet – the Daily Mail has finally come in useful…..

  • It is an impressive 468 feet long
  • It’s masts are 300 feet high – taller than Big Ben
  • It was designed by iconic French designer Phillipe Starck
  • It has 8 floors, a swimming pool on the teak deck, and a heli-pad
  • It accommodates 54 staff and 20 guests
  • It has bomb-proof glass & 40 cctv cameras – hmm, guilty conscience???
  • It is controlled via a touch-sensitive sheet of black glass – really cool; you can lower the anchor with a swipe!
  • It’s weirdly beautiful – looks like a ‘stealth’ yacht

Okay, so we also visited Tourist Information who only spoke Italian and were relatively useless. Then we cycled out to the lighthouse which is a Zone Militaire – so no entry – and photographed that yacht again.


Danny fancied some healthy fish-finger sandwiches for lunch so we raided the small supermarket on the way back where we noticed that Captain Birdseye has become Captain Findus – are we just out of date? We beat the rain back to camp which was followed by a day of strong winds so we bought a bit of wi-fi time – painfully slow – and did some research. We finally worked out that all UK mobile companies use software to determine if you are resident in the UK or not using 120 days of calls/internet use – they’ve worked out we aren’t so we get a significant surcharge on all calls and data use. Not very friendly. (No impact on receiving calls or texts though)

On Wednesday we arranged for the site’s small van to take us the 20-minute drive to Zingaro Nature Reserve. The road wound steeply up and down along the coastline and in parts rockfalls blocked half the road, whilst in others cows grazing along the verges wandered in front of us. We were glad we hadn’t tried cycling or driving in the van.

Zingaro is Sicily’s most beautiful coastal nature reserve and fortunately for us all the cliches applied – the sun was shining, the sky was blue, the sea was sparkling, all-in-all a lovely day for a walk. Too hot to scale the heights so instead we took the rough coastal track which runs for 7km down to the southern entrance of the reserve at Scopello.

IMG_2856Along the way were signs with information on some of the reserve’s characteristic plants, including the charmingly named stinking bean trefoil and mediterranean stinkbush, some cork oak, lots of Sicilian spurge, hairy wild cabbage and pretty pink rock carnations. Local green lizards darted everywhere or rested in the sun on top of many of the signs.

At intervals restored old building would contain a display – one was woven goods made from a variety of local plants,


another was farming implements and crops, and another was about the local flora including the flowering ash that is tapped for manna, a sweet fruit sugar with a very low GI making it useful for diabetics. Even at this time of year there were a fair amount of people on the footpath, mostly going to the 5 or 6 small coves the path gives access to the beach. Looking down at the sea, there were also a good number of small boats carrying tourists, for snorkelling or just sightseeing.

We were lucky enough to see a pair of Bonelli’s eagles high above, and closer a trio of peregrine falcons in an aerial battle. The wild boar remained elusive though. The coastline was lovely and it was good to stretch the legs.

We have started re-watching Danny’s favourite films – the Godfather trilogy – and are thinking about visiting some of the places it was filmed. Apparently the real Corleone is an unattractive place that the film-makers decided not to use, but we think we’ll pass through it anyway if the roads allow.

We did manage to fit in a day at the lovely, fine-sand beach and visited a local gelateria for some excellent ice-cream – the pistachio was exceptional. There is a rock climbing weekend in San Vito lo Capo for the weekend and whilst filling our faces with ice cream we watched a gang of rock climbers relaxing – which in this case involved one girl lying on her back balancing another girl on top of her legs in various improbable positions. Quite impressive. We don’t remember ever being that flexible!

Our Swiss-german neighbours left on Thursday evening -we would quite miss having them next door , the kids independent, free-spirited kids, the sing-songs at night with mum playing guitar, and dad practicing his tight-rope walking on a strap between trees. They fit a huge amount into a small VW van. Compare & contrast.

That night we went to a “traditionaI” Sicilian seafood restaurant looking forward to authentic cooking. Which it was. It was fine. The wine was lovely, Kate’s starter of baby squid on chickpea puree was nice, Danny’s of peppered mussels was ok, the local fish on the BBQ was very nice but pricy and the fried seafood was a lot of squid and 3 prawns and very average. Nice enough but nothing to write home about so we will continue our search for a definitive and tasty Sicilian meal. Which means, of course, moving on. We aren’t sure where but somehow we know that Corleone will be involved, for better or for worse.


1 thought on “Sicily I – A Boat, Birds & a Beach”

  1. Stunning yacht. forwarded your post to a yachty friend who replied …
    ‘He’s not one for paying bills, in spite of his £11 billion worth. The yacht was arrested before her first med season earlier this year until he paid the shipyard!’