December 2, 2020
Why go rock climbing in Sicily?
Sicily is known for the beautiful sea, the laid-back vibe, and food. Glorious Food.
Climbing here means pulling on golden tufas on vertical or overhanging walls overlooking the sea - don’t forget a refreshing jump in the water at the end of your climb for a full Sicilian experience. Climbers will find more than 50 crags with thousands of sport routes on limestone rock and a stunning sandstone bouldering area.
Sicily is one of the sunniest places in Europe, with over 2500 hours of sun per year, making it a perfect winter destination, while the breeze from the sea makes climbing possible even in warmer months if you know where to go. The locals in Sicily are super friendly: we encourage you to seek them out, learn a little Italian, ask for updated info on the quality of bolts, and let them take you to the yummiest street food kiosks!
The Salinella cliff in San Vito Lo Capo boasts over 600 routes of any grade, making it the perfect place for a day of mileage by the sea © Massimo Cappuccio
Rock Climbing in Western Sicily
The coastline of Western Sicily is a real amusement park for climbers. Nature is still the protagonist here, creating countless possibilities for exploring off-the-beaten-track, and for finding yourself alone on cliffs with extraordinary rock quality and scenery.
Climbing near San Vito Lo Capo
The development of climbing in Western Sicily started with the crags near San Vito Lo Capo, on the Salinella cliff. Multiple bolters, both Italian and foreign, opened routes on this spectacular wall (which now results in many styles and uneven standards). The San Vito Climbing Festival, which occurs every November since 2009, has played a significant role in placing Western Sicily on the international climbing map. However, there is still incredible untapped potential in the area, with hundreds of new routes bolted every year.
Currently, you'll find around 600 routes of any level on the Salinella Cliff, making it the perfect place to warm-up or for a day of gentle mileage. The scenery is pretty breath-taking - a 5-km long cliff facing the sea, filled with tufas and other limestone formations. A few words of caution, though: avoid this area in summer (it gets very hot!) and be wary of the condition of some of the bolts.
The Cattedrale nel Deserto crag on the nearby Monaco peak also offers splendid climbs, mostly ranging from 5a to 8a. This was one of the first areas to be bolted in the 1980s (be wary of old bolts on some of the routes!), and boasts a good range of quality climbs which tend to be long and technical in nature. Right in front of this, you'll find Cala Firriato, the go-to-spot in Western Sicily for deep water soloing. The cliff is not too tall, and the deep waters make the site suitable for beginners.
Another famous spot is the Crown of Aragon, a scenic crag with overhanging walls full of tufas and stalactites. Head here for some sustained, athletic climbing in the harder grades - but avoid this crag in the summer due to it's southern exposition!
A short yet powerful line at the Canyon. The view says everything. This is the place where even the hottest summer won't stop your climbing day. © Massimo Cappuccio
Climbing near Custonaci and Trapani
Just a 30 minute drive south of San Vito Lo Capo, near Custonaci, you will find the impressive tufas of the Never Sleeping Wall. With ultra-pumpy, overhanging routes up to 50m tall, this is a must-visit crag for anyone climbing above 6b. We particularly recommend the route Tears of Freedom (7a+), a 40m long climb following a single tufa, described by PlanetMountain as 'one of the most fascinating 7a+ in the world'.
The nearby Parco Cerriolo crag offers fantastic climbing on pockets and cracks, with routes for climbers of any level. You can choose between challenging overhangs up to 9a (on the left) or more vertical routes overlooking the crystal-clear sea. If you are there in summer, you can head for a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear Cornino bay (which the crag overlooks) when the sun hits the wall around 2pm.
A 10 minute drive south will bring you to the double-roof of Point Break, on the San Giuliano peak. This small crag is ideal for half-seasons and summer afternoons. Get ready for some powerful, cruxy routes navigating crimps, slopers and pockets. After you climb, you must visit the medieval town of Erice (right at the top of the peak) for the best paste di mandorla (almond pastry) in the world.
Matteo Santacesaria in Cala Firriato. © Ilaria OcchipintiCala Firriato is one of the best spots on the island for DWS, with more than ten routes between 6a and 7b, and some harder routes 100m west of the beach. Behind it, Monaco Peak with the scenic crag of Cattedrale nel Deserto.
Bouldering in Western Sicily
A short drive from Erice you will find the real gem of Western Sicily: Scorace Forest and its sandstone boulders. Think huge bowls with perfect holes, slopers, delicate slabs, overhangs requiring surgical heel-hooks... Can you imagine a rock quality like Fontainebleau, but with almost no climbers around?!
Local climber Davide “Cata” Catalano is primarily responsible for the development of this incredible bouldering area. In 2016, he decided to leave his home in Northern Italy, move to Sicily, clean the blocs of this magical forest, and set up his very own climber's B&B - Polvere di Stelle. You'll currently find 200+ blocs from 4a to 8a in the Scorace Forest, and the potential for many, many more.
Cata's motto is "Fatevi salire la voglia!" which means "Get psyched!". It's almost impossible not to follow this in Scorace!
Oli Vyslouzil in Scorace Forest. © Adam Váš.
Oli and Adam visited Scorace forest back in 2017, when there were only 4 cleaned blocks. Today, thanks to the work of the local climber Cata and other volunteers, there are 200+ cleaned boulders. Cata has also bolted a new sport climbing crag right next to the forest, “The Canyon”, with bouldery routes from 5a to 7a.
Rock Climbing near Palermo
A visit to Sicily is incomplete without spending some time in the vibrant, yet laid-back capital: Palermo. If you're looking to squeeze in a quick climb, Monte Pellegrino (near the Mondello beach) is a great place to start as you'll find a high concentration of crags. We particularly recommend Valdesi, a spot with exquisite white tufas lining a red wall and a very short approach from the city.
The Monte Gallo peak also offers impressive crags, like Bauso Rosso, an overhanging wall with an abundance of tufas and awesome views of the city. But climbing in Palermo is not really about the grade: it is a nice activity between “the best pastry shop” and “the-best-seafood-salad-you-cannot-miss.” Love the vibe!
Other things to do in Western Sicily
Western Sicily offers much more than astonishing rock: ancient ruins dot the island’s dramatic coastline, imposing castles tower above hilltop towns and crystal-clear sea calls for a swim for more than half of the year given the low latitude...
The Saline di Trapani national park offers unique views of decommissioned mulini (windmills) and saline (shallow salt pools), which in summer turn rosy pink and make the salt heaps shimmer.
At Trapani, you can hop in the cable car and head up to the medieval hilltop town of Erice for jaw-dropping views of the coastline and the Egadi Islands. Then wander through the town’s maze of cobbled streets to explore its numerous churches and two castles, and, most importantly, stop at one of the many pastry shops for the best paste di mandorla in Sicily.
A 20’ speedboat ride will get you to the pristine island of Favignana, with its glorious crystal-clear waters, relaxed vibe, and lovely coastlines. All this is made tastier by the incredible Sicilian cuisine: you cannot miss the raw Mazara prawns, busiate pasta with pesto trapanese, pane cunzato, cous cous (yes, in Italy!), and of course the symbol of Sicily, the arancine.
You may want to consider scheduling a proper running regime or something like that once you get back home. Climbing in Sicily means more calories in than out :)
There's lots to do aside from rock climb in Western Sicily, like taking a hike through this incredible countryside © Mapo Tapo
Rock Climbing in Eastern Sicily
Drive 3 hours (or fly directly to Catania), and you'll reach the east coast of Sicily. Here you'll find yet another hotspot of world-class crags!
Climbing near Taormina
You should definitely check out the Stockholm crag, situated right ON the beach near the beautiful town of Taormina. Here you'll find perfect limestone rock with views over both Mount Etna and the sea, and routes mostly between 6a and 8a. The crag is east facing (so perfect for the evenings) and stays relatively cool even in summer, given the 700m of altitude.
If you want to climb on the actual volcano, check out the Puntalazzo or Acqua Rocca crags. The rock in these areas is not the usual Sicilian limestone, but gray basalt: truly one of a kind!
Giulia Bernardini enjoying the seaside like a climber does in Stockholm (yes, it sounds weird). South Eastern Sicily. © Massimo Cappuccio
Climbing near Syracuse
Head south from Taormina to Canicattini Bagni, a small town on the outskirts of the ancient town Syracuse. You can’t miss the crags of Contralfano, Cugno Lupo, Cavadonna, and Cava Bagni here. Together, these offer over 400 routes of sustained rock climbing on huge holes, vertical and overhanging walls, and awesome caves.
Last but not least, Scicli and Modica. Picture two baroque towns - UNESCO sites - cobbled streets, eclectic buildings... Combine this with 20km of beach and great food. And add limestone crags of superb rock quality into the mix: not bad eh?
You should definitely check out the Cava d'Ispica and Pandora crags near Modica: good technique is essential if you want to make it up these overhangs! The Wall near Scicli and the stunning canyons of Rosolini are also worth a visit: we recommend the crags of Timpa Rossa, and The Secret Garden, a sector with many different styles that will challenge both your mind and your fingers.
The Local Climbing Community
The development of climbing in Sicily has been carried out by a handful of experienced climbers coming to and from Sicily, who decided to dedicate time and effort to cleaning, bolting and first ascending hundred of routes. Lately the most prolific figure has been Cata, who is running a B&B in the beautiful countryside near Trapani with his partner Giorgia.
Other honourable mentions include Daniele Arena and Ivan Savoi, together with a multitude of Italian and international climbers. It's great to watch the growth of the local climbing community, and we hope that in the coming years it is them who will lead the development and exploration of many untouched walls in the area.
The crew during one of the first Mapo Tapo trips to Sicily © Massimo Cappuccio
Where to stay?
B&B Polvere di Stelle
Polvere di Stelle B&B at night, showing the garden, main room and bouldering area.
Polvere di Stelle is the ultimate basecamp for a climbing trip to Western Sicily!
A charmingly renovated early 20th-century farmhouse, the B&B is perfectly located for those who want to climb A LOT. The Scorace Forest is just minutes away, and many of the region's climbing hotspots (such as San Vito Lo Capo) within a 20-30 minute drive. You'll find everything you need for a successful climbing trip:
- comfortable bedrooms with private bathrooms
- a cozy living room
- delicious home-made breakfasts
- an outdoor bouldering gym/ training area
- hot tub
- a good collection of climbing books
- equipment rental (including crash pads).
Good facilities alone, however, do not make a Mapo Tapo Certified Climbing House. Polvere di Stelle also acts as a basecamp for the climbing community - both local and international. When I last visited, climbers from Germany, Ireland, all over Italy and the UK were staying, and locals would frequently drop in for a meal or chat. Cata and Gio's knowledge of the region is also unrivalled (ask them for crag recommendations!) and they go out of their way to make you feel at home.
Below: An aerial view of the B&B and surrounding countryside.
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If this caught your interest, why not check out some of the Mapo Tapo trips to Sicily?