Guide to Capo d’Orlando

Sunshine, beaches and summer fun in northern Sicily

Capo d’Orlando is a small resort on the northeast coast of Sicily. Easy to get to from Palermo or Catania airports, and with a good selection of sandy beaches, the former fishing village is an excellent alternative to some of Sicily’s busier resorts such as Cefalù. With an attractive marina and a smattering of shops, cafes and restaurants, it’s a great place to grab a week in the sun.

Days at Capo d’Orlando tend to revolve around the beach although there are a couple of cultural attractions that are worth a visit as well as several summer concerts and festivals – mainly food related – which punctuate the calendar. However, when the sun goes down, the bars and restaurants on the beachfront ‘lungomare’ are the place to head for. You’ll also find a couple of nightclubs, mainly located on the beach.

Where is Capo d’Orlando?

Situated on the Tyrrhenian coast, Capo d’Orlando is situated just over an hour to the east of Cefalù and a 2-hour drive from Palermo. The town of Milazzo, the departure point for ferries to the Aeolian Islands is an hour away, and Messina, the gateway to mainland Italy by ferry, about an hour and a quarter.

The town is also a good base for anyone interested in exploring Sicily’s less visited interior, particularly the Nebrodi mountains.

History of Capo d’Orlando

Supposedly named after the famous paladin, Orlando, who served under Charlemagne, the town was first founded by the Greeks on the ruins of an ancient village called Agatirno. As an important trading hub between Sicily and Greece, Agatirno prospered under Greek rule and continued to do so during the Roman period when it was popular with Roman nobility. In common with much of Sicily, the town was subsequently ruled by the Normans and Arabs.

Skip forward to the 19th century and Capo d’Orlando thrived as an important centre for commerce, and a flourishing trading spot for fish and agriculture. Today, whilst still recognised as an important fishing centre, it is essentially a thriving tourist destination.

Best beaches at Capo d’Orlando

If you’re planning a beach holiday, you’ve come to the right place. The town has a 2km long sand and shingle beach with a promenade and cycle path fringed with a row of palm trees.

Capo D'Orlando Lungomare extends to the west of the point of Capo d’Orlando. With clear sea and shallow waters, the proximity of the beach to the town centre means you’re never far from a beach bar or restaurant.

San Gregorio is to the east of Capo d’Orlando town centre, extending over several kilometres. There are fine sandy stretches, backed by cliffs and edged by crystal clear water.

Testa di Monaco is to the east of the Marina, with fine golden sand and a good selection of beach bars and restaurants.

Ponte Naso is a long wide stretch of fine sand with clear water. Although there’s little shade on the beach, the free parking and option to rent umbrellas makes it ideal for families.

Top cultural attractions at Capo d’Orlando

• The Museum Foundation ‘Piccolo Famiglia di Calanovalla. Even if your knowledge of Italian literature is limited, you may still have heard of Tomasi di Lampedusa, author of ‘Il Gattopardo’ (The Leopard). Lampedusa wrote some of ‘Il Gattopardo’ whilst staying with cousins at Villa Piccolo, the historic late 19th century home of the Piccolo di Calanovella family who dominated the Capo d’Orlando cultural scene. Today, the villa has been converted to a museum, still surrounded by beautiful parkland.

• Capo d’Orlando lighthouse. Located at the foot of Mount Madona, the lighthouse was built in the early 1900’s and still remains one of the most recognizable elements of the town.

• The small, square Bastione Castle dates back to the 14th century when it was used as a watchtower to protect the town’s sugar cane crops from invaders. The castle fell into disrepair in the first half of the 20th century following the death of its owner, but has now been restored and is used for cultural events.

• Agatirnide Museum. Opened in 2002, the museum houses the archaeological remains that date back to the Bronze age.

• Bagnoli Baths. Situated near the port area of Capo d’Orlando, the thermal baths belonged to an ancient Roman villa dating back to the 3rd or 4th century AD. The archaeological excavations in the late 1980’s unearthed traditional mosaic-lined Roman thermal baths which formed part of a luxurious seaside villa that can still be visited today.

Food Festivals

If you happen to be in Capo d’Orlando during one of the local festivals, you’re guaranteed a great insight into local life. Festival details are general confirmed fairly late in the day, but mainly involve food! In May, the 3-day Little Sicily spring festival showcases the best local food, wine, folklore and traditions. There are also two fish festivals, the Sagra del Pesce Azzurro in August and the Festa del Mare in September.

Attractions close to Capo d’Orlando

If you’re staying in Capo d’Orlando for a week or two, take time to visit some of its neighbouring towns and villages.

• Aeolian Islands: One of the most popular things to do if you’re staying in Sicily’s north east is an excursion to the Aeolian Islands. Hop on one of the public ferries that depart from Milazzo or look into organising a private day trip that will take in several of the volcanic islands.

• Patti: Around 40km to the east of Capo d’Orlando, Patti has an attractive historical centre, with a 12th century cathedral and several interesting churches.

• Tindari. Rich in archaeological interest, Tindari is a hamlet of Patti. In addition to its Greek and Roman ruins, highlights include a dramatic Sanctuary built on the spot of the original castle, and the stunning Marinello Lake Nature Reserve.

• Nebrodi mountains: Head away from the coast and into the dramatic Nebrodi mountain range for a spot of hiking or to visit hilltop villages such as Montalbano Elicona. 

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