Where to go in Italy: Escape to Ustica

When deciding on , world travelers may want to check out the the tiny island of Ustica. Situated off the beautiful coast of Palermo, Ustica was closed to tourists until the 1960s, but now offers a fascinating escape from the traditional confines of Italy.

A quick review of the nation’s history will prove that while Ustica is only 9 miles long, it has a large, fascinating past. The ancient Italians named the land after the word “ustum,” which means “burned” due to the island’s volcanic nature. However, the ancient Greeks had a completely different name for the area. They called it “Osteodes,” or “bone island” because of the human remains that were found there. According to Greek mythology, these were the bodies of sailors who were too enchanted with the voices of the island’s sirens to keep their ships from crashing against its shores. The mysterious island has also been home to many pirates in its history and rumors say that it still hides buried treasure and plenty of ghost ships.

Since its romantic, mythological beginnings, the island has been used for many purposes. During the time of Ferdinand IV, it was surrounded by forts that aimed to protect Sicily. Later, the Bourbons used the island as a prison for political rebels. However, due to the island’s intrinsic beauty, locals demanded that it be opened for tourism in 1961. About 20 years later, it became a booming attraction and home to Italy’s first marine reserve.

The shores of Ustica are home to some of the most amazing sealife in Italy, as the volcanic activity has created caves and wondrous underwater formations. This has made it a popular retreat for tourists who are interested in scuba diving. These divers will have the chance to swim through tunnels, float over reefs and spot ancient artifacts hidden beneath the sand. Divers can also expect to see creatures like barracuda, crayfish and groupers.

In order to escape to the breathtaking island of Ustica, travelers can take a ferry service that runs out of Palermo’s main harbor. For a higher fee, visitors can also take private boats or helicopters there. While many tourists visit Ustica for the day, those who can’t get enough of its mysterious charm can also spend the night. However, since the island is so small, space is limited and hotel reservations should be made well in advance.