In the island’s far south-east, locals are making the most of wide sands, buzzy baroque towns – and a lack of foreign tourists
Has fear of coronavirus emptied the beaches – or have I chanced upon one of the last unspoiled stretches of coastline in Italy? I am on the sand at Santa Maria del Focallo in southern Sicily. Around me, a few clusters of friends and families are huddled under umbrellas or cooling off in the sea. Dunes coloured green and pink by evergreen shrubs and bougainvillea stretch in both directions: west towards the port town of Pozzallo and east towards Portopalo, Sicily’s most southerly tip, where the Ionian Sea meets the Mediterranean. There’s an end-of-season feel, as if the stragglers are soaking up the final rays of summer. In reality, the season has only just begun.
On 4 June, the travel ban between regions in Italy was lifted and beach resorts began reopening, relying heavily on holidaymakers from their own region and hoping to make ends meet despite the new mask-wearing, socially distanced normal. In this particular corner of Sicily, however, finding space to sunbathe at a safe distance has evidently never been an issue. It has endless kilometres of beach free from the privately run lidos that clutter most Italian resorts, with their tightly packed, uniform rows of sunbeds and parasols.