Last updated on February 13th, 2023
Marzamemi is one of my favorite small villages in Sicily. It’s easy to skip by it on your way from one Val di Noto UNESCO site to another, but if you stop in, you’ll love your time in the small seaside village.
Go for a lazy stroll along the water, join in-the-know locals for a fresh seafood meal, or wander around the village and check out the monuments of the village’s history as an important fishing village.
Marzamemi was home to a tonnara (tuna fishery) – tuna fish were caught and processed here. It’s believed the first iteration of the tonnara was built by Arab inhabitants around 1000, and the village grew up around it in the 1600s. The tonnara officially closed in 1969, but you can still see the village’s past in the old buildings, fishing boats, and quiet harbor.
Helpful Tip: Don’t hurry through your visit to Marzamemi. Yes, you could walk around for 30 minutes and ‘see’ Marzamemi, but the true joy of the village is in soaking it all up… slowly. Sip on your glass of wine at aperitivo, walk along the water, dip your toes (or whole body!) in the sea, and laze the afternoon away.
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How to Pronounce Marzamemi
Marzamemi is pronounced mar-tsah-MEH-mee.
Where is Marzamemi?
Marzamemi is a tiny fishing village (population < 500) in southern Sicily, nestled in the very southeastern corner of the island.
Distances from well-known destinations in Sicily:
- Siracusa (Syracuse) – 50 min (55 km)
- Noto – 30 min (23 km)
- Ragusa – 70 min (55 km)
Marzamemi isn’t really ‘on the way’ to any other destination in Italy. You’ll drive out of your way to see it, but it’s worth it for that reason. You’ll find a greater proportion of Italian and Sicilian visitors here than in many other places in Sicily.
When to Visit Marzamemi
Marzamemi is bustling in the summertime. Visitors lounge on the sandy coastline and swim in the Ionian Sea.
The village is also busy in the winter, but mostly for meals at its seaside restaurants and for strolls around town. Most shops and many restaurants (especially those outside of town in the direction of Isola Grande) are closed during the cooler months.
If you want to swim, come between April and October. If you’re seeking a delicious seafood meal and a walk around the center of the small village, you can visit year-round.
You can easily visit Marzamemi in an afternoon or spend a full day and enjoy the town and the beach.
You can also make Marzamemi your base for exploring some of the Val di Noto baroque towns (like Ragusa, Scicli, and Modica), which are about an hour away.
What I Do: I like visiting Marzamemi for an afternoon or full day from the neighboring Val di Noto baroque towns.
11 Best Things to Do in Marzamemi
Hang out in the Main Square – Piazza Regina Margherita
The heart of Marzamemi is in the colorful and charming Piazza Regina Margherita. The square is full of blooming bougainvillea, old stone buildings, and colorful restaurants.
Have an Aperol spritz on the square and check out the buildings that frame the square:
- the tonnara, where salted tuna and tuna in oil were produced
- the Palazzo di Villadorata, once home to the local prince
- the Chiesa di San Francesco di Paola, dedicated to Marzamemi’s patron saint
Good To Know: The area immediately surrounding the piazza is the antico borgo dei pescatori, the old fishermen’s neighborhood. This is where you’ll find Marzamemi’s charming lanes and small streets.
Peek at the Old Tonnara
You can no longer enter the tonnara, as it’s used for events. But, you can enjoy it from the square and imagine it in its glory.
Watch a Movie at the Film Festival
Each summer, Marzamemi hosts the Frontier International Film Festival (Festival Internazionale Cinema di Frontiera). Set in the picturesque Piazza Regina Margherita, the festival takes place outdoors in the evening. Locals and international visitors gather to watch the films.
Good To Know: The 2022 edition took place in November, so check the official site for schedule updates.
Marzamemi is one of the most photogenic villages in Sicily. Some of the best photo opportunities in town and nearby include:
- Piazza Regina Margherita
- The harbor and its fishing boats
- On the beaches near town (see below for our picks)
- The fishermen’s houses in the old center
- The beached boat south of town
Stroll Along the Water
Either walk on the sand along the beach, or stroll along the old harbor from the marina to Isola Grande.
While Marzamemi is known for tonno (tuna), you can find other fish, fried seafood, calamari, shrimp, and more. Don’t forget to try the local pomodori di Pachino.
Church of San Francesco di Paola
Marzamemi’s patron saint, San Francesco di Paola, has two churches dedicated to him. The original church was heavily bombed in World War II and has since been deconsecrated (but check it out for its beauty and character). The newer church was built in 1945 in Sicilian baroque style.
Go To the Beach
Make time for a beautiful beach – choose one that’s in or near Marzamemi. The beach clubs are closed up in the winter, but you can still swim and play at the beach. On a recent January trip, we were playing in the sand and water and were hot in short sleeves!
Our area favorites are:
- Spiaggia San Lorenzo – 10-minute drive north of Marzamemi. Crystal clear, turquoise water, sandy beach, shallow. Umbrellas and services.
- Spiaggia della Spinazza – On the northern edge of town (5–10-minute walk), easiest to access from Marzamemi. Clear water, shallow, plenty of space, even on a busy day. Beach clubs open during the summer, but quiet during the off-season.
- Spiaggia Cavettone – 10-minute drive south of Marzamemi. Gorgeous small beach surrounded by rocks (but the beach is sandy). Clear waters, beach club. Plenty of parking because it’s not in a town. Can be hit-or-miss (crowded, trash on the beach), so you may want to drive by it before you park and unpack your car. In the winter it’s unattended and may be full of algae.
- Spiaggia di Calamosche – 25-minute drive north of Marzamemi (even though it’s only about 5-6 km away as the crow flies), this beach is set in the Vendicari Nature Reserve. It’s a beautiful sandy beach, but you need to walk about 20 minutes along a path to get to it.
Check Our Marzamemi’s Islands
Marzamemi has two small islands – Isola Piccola (aka Isolotto Brancati) and Isola Grande. You can take a boat over to Isola Piccola from the marina, and you can actually walk to Isola Grande. It’s connected to the mainland by a small land bridge.
Shop for Tuna at Campisi
While there’s no longer a working tonnara or a morning fish market, you can still purchase locally-caught tuna products at the Campisi shop on the road between town and Isola Grande.
Campisi processes the fish just a couple of kilometers away, and the shop is filled with canned and jarred tuna, raw tuna, anchovies, and more.
I picked up some for picnics and for our family back in Florence (the tuna with pepperoncino was a big hit).
Visit the Vendicari Nature Reserve
It’s not in Marzamemi, but just north of Marzamemi (20 minutes by car) you’ll find the Vendicari Nature Reserve (Riserva Naturale Orientata Oasi Faunistica di Vendicari), which has beautiful beaches and ruins of an ancient tonnara and salt pans.
Events in Marzamemi
International Film Festival
If you’re in town, don’t miss Marzamemi’s outdoor film festival on Piazza Regina Margherita.
Festa di San Francesco di Paola
Every year, on the third Thursday in August, the town celebrates its patron saint with a procession through town. Locals carry a statue of the saint through town to the sea, and as he travels, the saint blesses the local fishermen and their families.
The festival includes music, food, and games for children.
Where to Eat in Marzamemi
Marzamemi’s restaurants are scattered along the seaside, inside the old fishermen’s neighborhood, and on the main piazza. Whether you’re looking for something romantic, quick, or family-friendly, there’s a restaurant in Marzamemi for you.
Helpful Tip: Fresh seafood is a must as well as the local pachino tomatoes!
Marzamemi restaurants to check out:
- Il Borgo – Set next to the small port; our pick for the best seafood in town
- Liccamúciula – Sicilian cooking; also pick up food treats to bring home
- Taverna La Cialoma – One of Marzamemi’s most popular restaurants, with a prime location on Piazza Regina Margherita; also nice for aperitivo; terrace with sea views; easy with kids because they can play on the piazza
- Ristorante Cortile Arabo – Waterfront dining; romantic option, especially in the evening
- Bar Caffe Al Ciclope 2 – Sicilian sweets and granite
Fun Fact: The area is known for its tomatoes (pomodori). In fact, the pomodoro di Pachino (a nearby town) can only be labeled as so if they’re from the area. They can be cherry tomatoes (ciliegini), salad tomatoes (costoluti), grape tomatoes (grappoli), or a ‘normal’ tomato (tondo liscio). Be sure to try some pomodori di Pachino while you’re in Marzamemi!
Where to Stay in Marzamemi
Book in advance in summer, as the best accommodation fills up quickly. I recommend staying on Piazza Regina Margherita (lively, but avoid if noise bothers you) or in the countryside.
In the village:
Regina Margherita B&B – Set on the main piazza in the village; lovely terrace views; excellent location.
In the countryside near Marzamemi:
Cirera Sicily – Located inland, just a couple of kilometers from Marzamemi. Quiet, tranquil location, lovely swimming pool, spotless property.
Scilla Maris Charming Suites – In the countryside, inland from Marzamemi. Pool and gardens, quiet location. Family rooms available.
How to Get to Marzamemi
You’ll need your own car to get to Marzamemi. The easiest places to rent a car nearby are in Siracusa (Syracuse) or Ragusa. If you’ll be exploring the Val di Noto, you’ll want to flexibility and freedom you get from having your own wheels.
Marzamemi’s closest airports are Comiso (CIY) and Catania (CTA).
Getting Around Marzamemi
You can travel around Marzamemi on foot, but if you want to explore some of the nearby beaches, it’s nice to have a car (but you can still reach Marzamemi’s main beach and others on foot).
In the summertime, you can rent a bicycle and cycle around town and south of town on the SP84.
You can also take advantage of the sea and take boat excursions from town (plentiful during the summer, but there are still locals offering boat trips near the marina and to Isolotto Brancati during the winter).
There are two main parking lots (both paid) near the center of the village – Parcheggio La Diga and Parcheggio Marzamemi Centro.
Good To Know: In the Marzamemi Centro lot, you pay by getting a token (gettone) and when you leave, you place your token on the shelf in the machine and pay based on time spent. After you pay, take your token back. To leave the lot, drive to the barrier, put your token in, and the bar will raise for you to exit.
Marzamemi with Kids
Marzamemi’s pedestrian center is nice for parents but know that there are no barriers to the sea, so you’ll need to keep a close eye on little ones near the marina.
The town is stroller-friendly, and some restaurants have changing tables. You can also change a diaper ‘on-the-go’ in your stroller or on benches.
The town playground is on the marina shore, between the town and Isola Grande. It’s small but has fun toys for children, including a slide, swings, rocking toys, a climbing structure, a rope climbing structure, monkey bars, and more. The ground is padded and there are benches for parents. There isn’t much shade.
Fun things to do with children in Marzamemi:
- Swim and build sandcastles at Spinazza Beach
- Take a boat to Isolotto Brancati
- Play with other kids at the playground or in Piazza Regina Margherita
- Try locally caught tuna at a restaurant or the Campisi shop
- Check out the boats at the Marzamemi Marina (south of town)
Enjoy your visit to Marzamemi, one of Sicily’s most beautiful small villages!