2.7 Sicily coast

The Sicilian coasts exceed 1000 km in length. The northern Tyrrhenian coast extends from Capo Peloro, near Messina, to Capo Lilibeo near Marsala, and it is generally high and indented. Proceeding from Messina to Trapani, the promontory of Capo Milazzo stretches out towards the Aeolian archipelago and the Gulf of Patti closes towards the west by Capo Calavà and Capo d’Orlando. The coast continues straight to Cefalù where the Gulf of Termini Imerese opens, separated from the Gulf of Palermo by Capo Zafferano; Capo Gallo forms the western end of the aforementioned gulf. Some tens of kilometres away from Trapani there is the Gulf of Castellammare, deeply engraved and bordered to the east by Punta Raisi and to the west by the pronounced promontory of Capo S. Vito.

The territory of Gela is partly flat, the famous plain of Gela, the second of Sicily by extension, and partly hilly. The coast is low and sandy and is characterized by typical dune formations covered with Mediterranean vegetation. Furthermore, the coast is at times strewn with clay walls and rocks or limestone formation always preceded by the beach (Fig.1_Ses.2.7).

FIG1_SES2.7 Montelungo, Gela. By Mjrko Gelous – Opera propria, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48914998
FIG2_SES2.7 Gela Goulf. By fab. – gela, uploaded by Markos90, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27366242

The Gela Gulf (Fig.2_Ses.2.7) is wide and not very pronounced and is the largest in Sicily. It is between Punta Braccetto to the east, and Licata to the west. It takes its name from the city of the same name. Several courses of water flow into the gulf: Salso, Comunelli, Gela, Dirillo, Ippari, the torrents of the two Rocche, Rabbito, Gattano and the Rifriscolaro stream.

On the shore of the Gela Gulf there are several dune areas which have become habitat for the rare Leopoldia gussonei, a priority species to be protected. The vegetation of this area is known as mediterranean brush, although it’s becoming more and more fragmentary because of anthropic exploitation.

2.7.1 The conservation of Sicilian habitats: natural reserves, an overview.

Protected natural areas, or natural oases, are those areas of particular naturalistic, or historical and cultural interest, that meet certain criteria established by law. The Natural Reserve is a place where they are protected in the natural state of animal and plant species, therefore they consist of terrestrial, fluvial, lake or marine areas that contain one or more naturalistically relevant species of fauna and flora, or present one or more ecosystems important for biological diversity or for the conservation of genetic resources.
In our territory there are many natural reserves and marine areas, which have become wildlife sanctuaries and protected areas of scientific, ecological and cultural interest due to their beauty and uniqueness. The waters, seabeds and stretches of coastline are protected by rules and regulations dictated by the Ministry of the Environment which limit human activities such as fishing, scuba diving and entry into polluting means of transport and which prohibit the abandonment of waste or take sand, shells or flora. Each reserve offers beautiful and untouched beaches where you can swim respecting the environment. Here are some suggestions and some tips for reaching them.The Zingaro reserve covers a coastline of about 7 km, formed by a rocky coastline of Mesozoic limestone, interspersed with numerous coves and characterized by overhanging cliffs that from a maximum height of 913 m (Monte Speziale) and quickly lead to the sea. The land constituting the reserve is the result of the intertwining of human activity and the evolution of nature; in fact, until recently, every surface, even if small, was cultivated for agricultural purposes.The karst phenomena are remarkable, with the formation of summit plateaus and dolines where the erosion favors the accumulation of red earth interspersed with diffused lituosols and rocks outcropping in slabs and spikes.

2.7.2 The conservation of Sicilian habitats: an example of a protected area.

The Sicilian Region was one of the first Italian regions to adopt a specific legislation on protected natural areas according to regional laws n. 98 of 1981 and n. 14 of 1988.
The Sicilian protected natural areas system is important in terms of number, extent, wealth and diversity and is made up of 5 regional parks (Etna, Madonie, Nebrodi, Alcantara, Monti Sicani), 71 established natural reserves, 6 protected marine areas, 238 Nature Sites.

The first resolutions to establish the Parco dell'Etna were born in the sixties when it began to assert the need to protect nature from mass tourism.
But only in the eighties the Sicily Region established three Regional Parks, including that of Etna with the law n. 98 of May 1981, which was actually established six years later, in March 1987.
The purpose of the Park is to protect the forest heritage and the development of specific species of flora and fauna and to coordinate the development of tourism activities.

In the summit area of ​​the volcano there is no vegetation due to the presence of lava. Going down from 2500 meters we can meet the Sicilian astragalus, the camomile of Etna, some chestnuts and olive trees. Together with this vegetation coexists the broom of Etna that, with its yellow flowers, creates a beautiful color with black volcanic lava.
Important are the vineyards of Nerello, from which Etna DOC wine is produced , that of "cola" and "frozen" apples and pears of various types and peaches, including the "Tabacchiera dell'Etna".

Following the disappearance of wolves, wild boars, fallow deer and roe deer, which remained only in the popular imagination, the porcupine, the fox, the wild cat, the rabbit, the hare, the hedgehog, the dormouse, the rats and snakes have developed, and the varieties of birds of prey, such as the peregrine falcon, 'golden eagle and owl.

2.7.3 Mediterranean Brush: the main characteristics.

Writing about the Mediterranean area is a difficult undertaking, not only for the vastness of the area, but also and especially for the various endemisms (is a certain number of species of plants and animals that can only be found in a limited territory and are therefore absent in surrounding and far away).
It is possible to divide the topic, describing the vegetation bands.
- The first strip of vegetation that we can meet is that of the Arenili, with all those plant species called Halophytes and among these are the sand plants such as: the spiny calcatchable, the solfa in the Marina, the violaaciocca and the rare lily of the sea.
- Other vegetational band are coastal rocks. Among the plants that live in this environment, we can find marine fennel, the beard of Jupiter, the caper plant, but the most spectacular plant is the crystalline grass.
Near the coast, there are also three pine trees, which characterize the belt of coastal conifers: the Aleppo pine, the maritime pine and the umbrella pine.
Among the vegetation that can be observed on the slopes we find:
- Broad-leaved evergreen tree
- Leaves deciduous forest
- The spot
The first band is made of cork oak, holm oak, thorny oak and olive tree.
The second band is composed of chestnut and rovella.
The scrub is a characteristic plant complex of the Mediterranean area. It was formed by the work of man, mainly for the picking of timber and due to pastoralism. Heather, brooms, cysts, hypocyst, lavender and many other species flourish here.
Among the classical vegetation that can be observed inside the coast we find:
- The garigue
- The steppe

2.7.4 Mediterranean Brush, home of the Spartiumjunceum(description and characteristics).

The broom odorosa (Spartium junceum L.) is a plant of the family Fabaceae, typical of the environments of garigue and Mediterranean brush. It is the only species of the genus Spartium. It is a shrub-bushy plant, and has long stems. They are green, cylindrical, compressible but resistant.
The ramifications in the first year of formation are called "vermene", and from these the fiber can be extracted. Their section is roundish, they are also ascending and scattered on the stem.
Older branches are not suitable for fiber production. This is because, over the years, they change color and structure. The leaves of the broom are simple and deciduous, spaced apart and sparse. The surface is glabrous, of deep green on the upper page and features trichomes in the lower one. The form is obovate-oblong, whole and linear margin.
The flowers of broom instead are of hermaphrodite type, gathered in axillary racemes placed at the ends of the vermene. They are very large, with a typical golden-yellow corolla.
Pollination is entomophilous, that is, performed by bees and other pollinating insects. The broom is in fact a mellifera plant and with which one can produce an excellent monofloral honey.
The fruit is a small legume, with a flattened and elongated shape, black or dark brown. The broom because it is a typical plant of the Mediterranean, in regions such as Calabria and Sicily, can reach high altitudes. It bears strong winds, but in the presence of these the growth slows down and the plant becomes more compact. It is a plant that, after having colonized and improved the bare or degraded land, leaves room for other species, which alone would not be able to develop. It therefore covers an important function in the forest area.

2.7.5 Mediterranean Brush, home of the Capparis spinose(description and characteristics).

The Capparis Spinosa is a small shrub or branched suffruticose with a prostrate-hanging habit. The buds, called capers, and, more rarely, the fruits known as “cucunci” are consumed in the plant. Both are preserved in oil, in vinegar or in salt. It is perennial. It grows well only in conditions of perfect drainage in full sun. The vegetation of this species, during the winter period (November-February), disappears completely; the root system remains vital, allowing the plant to regenerate again in spring. Botanical characters : suffruticose plant, with oval leaves, large decorative flowers, fragrant and white petals. It loves the dry, in fact it is born in the splits of the walls and prefers poor and sandy soil.
The caper begins to bloom in spring until September. It has a beautiful white flower with purple stigmas. Contrary to what many believe in the caper do not eat the fruit, but the flowers, or rather the buds of flowers not yet bloomed. The best and tastiest capers are those of smaller caliber, while the larger ones are less tasty and have a lower commercial value.
The flowering of the caper lasts about three months and during this period, the harvesters return to the same plant every week to collect the best buds. Once collected, the capers are placed in a wooden vat with 40% of sea salt compared to the weight and are stirred every day. With the settling the salt gradually melts and becomes a liquid brine. In this way the capers absorb the salt and undergo a fermentation process. At the end of the process, which lasts about a couple of weeks, the capers are drained, dried and again placed in another vat with 20% of salt in proportion to the weight.Then the capers are ready and can be put in the jars with the coarse salt where they are kept for a long time.
It should be remembered that the best capers are those preserved in salt, while those preserved in vinegar are generally of inferior quality and with a very strong aroma. Best quality found in Pantelleria

2.7.6 The Sicilian Sea, home of the Thunnusthynnus(description and characteristics).

The Thunnus Thynnus, also called the bluefin tuna is a big pelagic fish belonging to the Scombridae family. It has a massive, fusiform body, with a thin caudal peduncle, with about 10 pairs of pinnules and a longitudinal hull. It has got two dorsal fins, close together, the first quite long and tall in the front, the second triangular, short and symmetrical to the anal fin. Its pectoral and ventral fins are short. Its caudal fin is wide and stride. The even fins and the ventral ones during swimming are kept closed and housed inside recesses, allowing the fish to maintain a perfectly hydrodynamic profile. Its teeth are small but arranged throughout the mouth. It has got very small flakes, but they cover all the fish. Its colour is dark blue steel on the back, sometimes it is almost black. The belly and the sides are silvery-white, sometimes with lighter spots indistinct in the lower part. The pinnulae are yellow, the other ones are grey, except the second dorsal which is of a colour between red and brown. It is one of the largest fish in the Mediterranean, because it exceeds 3 m in length and records a record of weight, 725 kg. The bluefin tuna was originally distributed in the Black Sea, which has a salinity of 17‰, about half of the average salinity of the Mediterranean Sea. The Black Sea is well-known among the marine scientist for the peculiarity of its water masses, because a large volume, about the 87% are anoxic, so they contain high levels of hydrogen sulphite and they are characterised by the relevant activity of various sulphur bacteria, this huge anoxic watermass is separated from the surface sea water by a interface layer of “red water”, fluctuating at a depth between about 100 to 200 m. A natural "model in scale" of the Black Sea system exists in Sicily, so this is the reason why the Sicilian Sea is home of the Thunnus Thynnus.