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Scopello

Villas in Sicily near Scopello

EriceScopello is one of the most fascinating and picturesque sites of the Castellammare del Golfo area.
The name Scopello most likely comes from the Greek scoupelos which means “rock” and refers to the many rocky suggestive stacks in front of the ancient “Tonnara”.
The place has been inhabited since the prehistoric era for its abundance of tuna fish, and actually - at the times of the Elymian and then Roman presence in Western Sicily - the actual Scopello was a Segestan emporium known as “Cetarea” - which means “land of tuna fish”. The emporium was most likely destroyed by a seaquake, and its ruins have been spotted by recent underwater archaeological digs in Contrada Arbe.
In 1235, Emperor Frederic II annexed the “Tonnara” and the surrounding feud to the city of the actual Erice, and later gave its property to a group of settlers from Piacenza, who soon left because of the ceaseless pirates incursions in the area.
The fierce pirates infesting the Mediterranean Sea at that time were using Scopello bay as a home-base for their raids. They moored their ships behind the colossal rocky stacks - which made them virtually invisible in the distance - and suddenly attacked all the unfortunate boats who happened to cross that stretch of sea.
At the end of the 18th century, a few local inhabitants founded a small village, surrounding the already 17th century existent “baglio” and consisting of a few stone houses, a small flagstone square and a limestone drinking trough.

In the wonderful cove below the village - where Scopello stunning rocky stacks rise - protected by two ancient watchtowers, you can see the picturesque "Tonnara" - where fishermen used to desiccate and preserve tuna fish in oil, produced “bottarga” (dried tuna fish eggs used as a condiment for pasta) and lived during the fishing season. The existence of the ancient “Tonnara” is attested by a document dating back to the XIII century. It has been used till 1981, and it's now a national monument, while the beautiful “baglio" and the splendid village are still very popular among tourists from all over the world.

The two watchtowers giving the landscape such a fascinating atmosphere date back to different times, and were part of a defence system distributed along the whole Sicilian coast conceived in the 14th century. The watchmen signalled the arrival of pirates by lighting fires at night and with smoke signals during the day, so that all island could be informed in a short time. The oldest tower is the one rising on the rocky stack once connected to the land through a bridge or a flight of steps carved in the rock.
The Doria tower - from the name of the Spanish nobleman who had it built on the terrace facing the bay - dates back to the 17th century, while the Bennistra tower was erected in the 15th century to the south of the "Baglio" and dominates the whole Castellammare Gulf.
Behind the “Tonnara”, towards the high Monte Sparagio, you can still see Scopello wood – once hosting deer, wolves and wild boars - chosen by the Bourbon king Ferdinand III as royal game preserve.

Today the “Tonnara” warehouse hosts many typical wooden boats and other tools such as cordage, fishing nets and other objects used for tuna fishing. The Tonnara of Scopello is going to become a Museum, like the one already existent in the Zingaro Nature Reserve at the Tonnarella dell'Uzzo, once connected with the Scopello one. After the tuna fishing season, all the stuff used by fishermen in Scopello was carried to the Tonnarella, to be used for fish of smaller size.
The “vicaria” - where the “Tonnaroti” (Scopello fishermen) used to live during the fishing, now hosts events, meetings and guided tours of the “Tonnara”. You can also find a Diving Centre renting canoes, arranging underwater excursions to the archaeological ruins of Cetarea, or boat excursions to the near Zingaro Nature Reserve.
Last but not least, the “Tonnara” also features a little pretty church, where fishermen used to pray for the success of their “mattanza”.

Villas in Sicily near Scopello

Panoramic view of Castellamare del Golfo

Tonnara of Scopello

ancient anchors in Scopello Tuna fishery

The two watchtowers of Scopello

Baglio of Scopello

Tonnarella dell'Uzzo

Zingaro Nature Reserve

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