Why you should care
Because this beach has no bars, no loud music, no henna tattoos. Just sand and sea.
Floating on such bright, clear turquoise waters, shimmering under the radiant sun, you’d swear you’re in the Caribbean. But this tiny island is in the south of Sicily, and it’s home to some of the world’s most spectacular beaches.
Lampedusa’s main attraction is everywhere you look: the sea. The island has dozens of gorgeous beaches, but its most famous, Rabbit Beach, looks like a Pirates of the Caribbean setwith its spectacular cliffs and mysterious caves. Each summer thousands of sea-loving Italians flock to the 7.8-square-mile island to enjoy its friendly hospitality and stunning landscape. “There is no place like it,” says Vanna Bortolotto, a tanned woman from Como who’s visiting with her teenage daughter.
Unlike other popular beach locations like Ibiza or Cannes, there is nothing else to detract from the experience of pale sandy shores and bluer-than-blue waters: no bars, no loud music, no henna tattoos. Just the sound of the lazy waves and the excited squeals of seagulls. And from those waters comes a seafood smörgåsbord. Head down to L’Angolo del Mare— Lampedusa’s famed seaside trattoria — for some mouth-watering skid fry, spaghetti ai frutti di mare and grilled fish, fresh from one of the island’s 150 small fishing boats.
Its complete isolation makes it the perfect pit stop for tired sea turtles and roaming whales, as well as for tourists seeking calm.
Granted, getting to this unspoiled corner of the Mediterranean is neither easy nor cheap. The international traveler will need to first fly to Rome, then head down to Palermo (Sicily) and finally, board a small, toy-looking airplane to Lampedusa. And don’t plan a trip in July and August when the beaches often look like human carpets. Go in May, June or September instead. The waters are still warm but you won’t have to fight for a towel spot or an “arancini” — a yummy Sicilian stuffed rice ball coated with breadcrumbs — for lunch. It will also be way cheaper. Off-season, you can rent a small apartment for as little as $30 a night.
If you like quiet solitude, you can take a two-hour boat trip to Linosa, Lampedusa’s little sister island — a patch of cacti and volcanic rock with a handful of tiny colorful houses and sketchy Internet access. That’s just another one of the charms of this remote archipelago: Its complete isolation makes it the perfect pit stop for tired sea turtles and roaming whales, as well as for tourists seeking calm. But when poorer local business owners start suddenly making money off tourists, “that can easily corrupt the spirit of a place,” explains Don Mimmo Zambito, apriest. Indeed, the islanders may be more stressed these days, but for newcomers, the place still feels wonderfully laid-back and unspoiled.
Of course, you can’t talk about Lampedusa without acknowledging the staggering number of asylum seekers who’ve perished off the coast of this tiny island trying to reach Europe by boat from Africa. But tourism may actually help save lives. The island’s mayor, Giusi Nicolini, says the nonstop humanitarian efforts require a strong economy, so “if Northern European countries really want to help us deal with immigration, they should send their tourists.”