Cassibile (together with Avola) is now a populous suburb of Syracuse in south-east Sicily.
Best known as a small seaside town Cassibile has an excellent beach at “Fontane Bianche” [White Fountains]; one of the most important prehistoric settlements in Sicily; and places of great scenic interest such as the Natural Reserve of Cavagrande del Cassibile.
The village of Cassibile itself is nothing special though it has quite an attractive church on the outskirts of the town.
The main draw is the nearby beach called Fontane Bianche beach which is a couple of kilometers from the village. It is in a little cove with white cliffs at the edges and lovely white sand. It is popular with locals and tourists. A car park at the edge of the beach is a pay car park and then the beach is free. There is a small beach cafe but its best to bring supplies because you are quite a way from shops etc.
Another big attraction to Cassibile is the Natural Reserve of Cavagrande del Cassibile. Here there is a wonderful canyon cut deep into the golden limestone. The edges are covered in trees including pretty flowering orleanders and with the blue waters of the River Cassibile it is a heavenly spot.
The canyon is 10km in length and there are many popular pools and waterfalls where swimmers gather.
The reserve has a number of historical, archaeological and anthropological aspects of exceptional interest to visitors, among them a cluster of cave dwellings carved into the rock next to each other, and communicating with each other by a system of tunnels and galleries.
To the northeast, there are also numerous ancient necropolis, in which burial items and pottery fragments have been found. Thanks to the peculiar decoration of the items found in the Aeolian Islands and in eastern Sicily, these are the most original product of the historic site of Cassibile.
Ancient villages and funeral complexes of Cassibile
The Sicules, the first people known to have settled here, built two rock villages that are still difficult to reach, since they take advantage of the abundant presence of water and of an inaccessible environment that is well protected from external enemies.
The northern village, called the Grotta dei Briganti ("Cave of the robbers”) features hundreds of pal-Christian graves and tombs carved into the walls and arranged side by side.
In the southern village there are also interesting remains of houses and numerous caves, sites specially chosen because of the difficulty of access and defensive capability. In the sacred area, there are many holes in the floor where jars were placed containing the bones of the dead.
In the Byzantine period and with the start of the Arab incursions these places were occupied by the local population seeking shelter and protection in the villages against external attacks from the sea.
The many funerary complexes located along the length of the river were identified in the late 19th and early 20th century by Paolo Orsi. These graves are almost all of rectangular or elliptical shape, with a short access corridor, and the dead bodies were placed in a fetal position. Known as the Necropolis of Cassible this is one of the most important in Sicily.
Cassibile natural surroundings and wildlife
The territory of "Cava Grande del Cassibile" is also very important from a naturalistic point of view. Along the river there grows a thick woods, characterized by the presence of oriental plane trees, oleander, willow, poplar, hornbeam and ash trees. These tall trees are associated with a bushy undergrowth of herbs, such as rue, sage, oregano, mint, rosemary and in the wettest places the ferns - horsetail and maidenhair.
Nature lovers can also discover some rare plants such as the cyclamen, asphodel, spurge, dwarf palm, and various families of orchids.
Among the animals, in addition to foxes, there are rabbits, martens, porcupines, dormice and weasels, and in the waters we find crabs, frogs and toads, and some varieties of fish.
The fauna of the quarry is also characterized by the presence of the buzzard and raven, while in the lower valley of the river there are warblers, kingfishers and woodcocks. Among the reptiles there are snakes, vipers and lizards.
Local specialities in the Cassibile area include almonds, honey, wine, strawberries, dairy products, oil, pickles, olive oil, fish, and lemons.
Places to visit nearby
The fascinating city of Syracuse lies to the north of Cassibile and contains a historic Baroque centre as well as some important Roman sites. To the south the town of Noto also has some great Baroque buildings.
See also Cassibile history and etymology.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.