Trapani has the shape of a sickle, Drepanon in Greek, and an enviable geographic location: between the two seas, at the foot of Mount Erice, near the archaeological site of Selinunte, in front of the Egadi Islands and the salt marshes. Walking through the old town, the signs of the passage of various civilizations over the centuries are immediately evident, and all left architectural, artistic and monumental evidences.
The Mysteries of the Chiesa del Purgatorio
The eighteenth-century Chiesa del Purgatorio safeguards the “Mysteries”, 20 sculptures made by Trapani artisans, depicting the Passion of Christ.
In this church of Spanish origin, every Good Friday we can witness one of the oldest religious events in Italy: The procession of the Mysteries. The twenty masterpieces are carried through the streets of the city. The grand procession winds through the streets during 24 hours, creating an exciting experience of religiosity, sounds, lights and colours. The sculptures, adorned with precious ornaments and floral arrangements, are carried on the shoulders of “Massari”, who beat the annacata to give the sacred sculptures a movement that follows the rhythms set by the notes of the musical bands.
Count Agostino Sieri Pepoli, patron of Trapani, founded the museum in 1906 on the site of the fourteenth-century former convent of the Carmelite Fathers, next to the sanctuary of Maria SS. Annunziata.
The museum hosts a collection of Sicilian works of art from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries, including sculptures of the Gagini School and collections of figurative and decorative arts of the region. There is an impressive collection of corals, majolica, and gold and silver artefacts. Here the mid-fourteenth century marble statue of the Madonna of Trapani by Nino Pisano is preserved.
Here is the island museum! A suggestive dive into the past of Phoenician sailors and Greek settlers.
The island can be reached by boat, a short ride across the lagoon lulled by the sun, the slight rocking motion and the chatter of the boatman. The pier is next to the salt marshes near Marsala and it is in itself a unique place.
The boat ride takes a few minutes and you can start your tour by following the path of the walls uncovered in many spots, either to the right or to the left. Mozia probably had four doors. At either end of the island, there are the North Gate and South Gate. If we go to the right, towards the northern part of the island, we will enter through the North Door. But, before entering, we can admire an extraordinary work that can clearly be seen during the low tide: it is a road built on the marshy and shallow seabed, which connected the island to Sicily.
If you enter the city through the North Gate, you can find the remains of an interesting monumental sanctuary called Cappiddazzu, maybe named after a scarecrow barn that identified the place. Not far away, near a pottery kiln, you can find the beautiful statue of the so-called Young of Mozia, exhibited in the local museum. Further west, you find the archaic necropolis with the tombs of ashes, and then there is the Tophet, a vast triangular sacred precinct, where the followers of the Phoenician gods celebrated their rites.
Going further to the west and then east, bordering on the walls, or through the pathways between the fields, we reach the southern part of the island where you will find the South Gate and Kothon.This is an extraordinary artificial port, almost a dockyard, built with the typical techniques of the Phoenician-Punic engineers; it dates back to the sixth century. It has a rectangular shape, the bottom is made from natural and smoothed rock and the edges are made of smooth and square blocks. The sea water gets inside the basin through a narrow channel with a single longitudinal groove, built to pull the ships aground. The side wharves were used for docking and maintaining ships.
From here, continuing east, you reach the so-called Casa dei Mosaici, a beautiful house with a peristyle characterized by Doric columns. It has a refined mosaic, made with sea pebbles, depicting some animals and decorative bands.
Within walking distance, there is the small museum of the island, the Museo Whitaker, which houses the famous marble statue of Young Mozia, or Charioteer of Mozia as some like to call it, after its restorations and exhibitions. Presumably it is a mid-fifth century BC marble statue, whose origins, artistic style and symbolic representation are unknown., so that scientists define it as the statues of mysteries. Unique in its kind, it could represent the one who was driving war wagons, a winner athlete, a magistrate, or even a god.
The Museum exhibits the artifacts found on the island, from the oldest to the most recent excavations. The most interesting things are: a sculpture that depicts two lions fighting with a bull, the many examples of steles from the Tophet, grave goods, ceramics, and glass jars for perfumes and ointments. The presence of Greek artefacts in a Punic province, shows that deep cultural contacts were established between the Punic and Greek civilizations. The same young Auriga – the fine pleated tunic that softly veils the body – presents together Punic and Hellenized characteristics.
In addition to the fascinating millenary history, you can also enjoy a lush nature. Mozia is in the heart of the Riserva Naturale Orientata delle Isole dello Stagnone, which includes the Isola Grande, Schola and Santa Maria.
Here, thanks to the harmony between sea, wind and sun, man created over the centuries the salt marshes, an area of tanks, channels, beams and windmills where resident and migratory birds today find shelter.
You do not want to miss one of the most beautiful sunsets on the Mediterranean Sea from this Via del Sale.
La Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro
The Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro covers a coastal strip of about 7 km, between Scopello and San Vito Lo Capo. It is considered a paradise by biologists and naturalists for the great variety of natural environments, thanks to its wealth of endemic plants and wildlife, including several rare species of birds of prey.
The limestone mountains that surround it are the fifth in a series of beautiful bays characterized by a coastline of low cliffs and deep stretches of fine sand lapping a clear and unpolluted sea.
Everywhere you can feel the presence of man in a fellowship that has lasted for centuries. The cave of Uzzo is a witness of the first prehistoric settlements in Sicily.
The turquoise sea, the transparent waters and the underwater landscape, with a prairie inhabited by fauna typical of the Mediterranean, are combined in a unique setting hard to find in other coastal areas.
The Zingaro reserve has three paths: coastal path, middle coast path and the high path, and it has a close connection with the sea, which not only defines its geographical boundary, but, above all, is the constant background of a breath-taking landscape.
This medieval town is an extraordinary synthesis of art, history and landscape.
Here you find all myths of history. The Trojans, who fled from Troy, found here the perfect location, as Thucydides tells us; Virgil says in the Aeneid that Aeneas came for his father’s death and the games in his honour. Virgil tells of the struggle between Hercules and the giant Erix. In ancient time, Erice was famous for its temple, still visible, where sacred rites and pagan cults were held.
This medieval town is perfectly integrated in harmony with its mountain and the surrounding nature. The urban triangle is bounded on the west by cyclopean walls, broken by towers and three doors: porta Spada, porta del Carmine and porta Trapani.
To the southeast of town, there is the beautiful Giardino del Balio and the Norman Castello Pepoli o di Venere.
The view from here is wonderful and it is very likely that you will find yourself amidst the clouds in a fairy-tale atmosphere.
There are more than sixty churches of historical value. The church of San Martino, San Cataldo and San Giovanni Battista, was rebuilt in the 1600s with its Gothic entrance portal. The Matrice, with its unique Gothic portal, safeguards the Madonna and Child in marble by Domenico Gagini, and the fourteenth-century massive bell tower attached to the church, decorated with battlements and mullioned windows was inspired by Chiaramonte.
The Church of San Giuliano, built in 1070 at the behest of Roger the Norman, is one of the first churches built in Erice. San Giuliano, so-called “the liberator”, is the patron saint of the city. The Normans credited him for the victory against the Muslims who had occupied the citadel.
And now the food: let’s start from red shrimp of Mazara del Vallo, ammaru russu in the Sicilian language, caught in Mediterrean sea.
In the Valle del Belice we can taste the vastedda, typical light DOP cheese.
The black bread of Castelvetrano is cooked in a wood oven and has the top coffee-colored and golden yellow in the inner part. Black colour comes from the union of different kind of local flours.
Salt is a very important product: the salt pans in Trapani offer a suggestive panorama with windmills, pyramids of salt and pink flamingos.
One of the typical dishes in which is used is the caponata of eggplants.
The Egadi archipelago, including the islands of Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo and the islets of Formica and Maraone, is an extraordinary synthesis of history and nature. Terrestrial and underwater archaeological finds dating back to the Paleolithic era testify to the persistence of peoples from all corners of the Mediterranean, which gave rise to the history of the Western world.
This is the largest protected marine area in Europe where large prairies of Poseidon, as a large submerged tropical forest, provide a valuable habitat for the reproduction of many species of fish, a great variety of resident and migratory birds, extraordinary cetaceans, Caretta Caretta sea turtles and less sporadically the rare Monk Seal.
CASTELLAMMARE DEL GOLFO
You have to look down at Castellammare del Golfo, from the panoramic terrace that, from the highway, leans over on this exciting view.
The city extends around the Norman Arabic castle, built on the sea, whose charm hasn’t never changed over time.