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Trapani (population 67,456) is a city on the western coast of Sicily in Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Trapani. Over the centuries, the salt-pans and related salt industries along the coast have created a unique environment of great cultural and economic relevance. This route is called Via del sale (“the salt road”). Several still-active salt mills exist along this road. Fishing also flourishes, especially the famous tuna, or tonnare, which are caught by fishermen who still use the mattanza technique to catch the tunnas. Other local resources include marble and coral, the port exports salt and wine.
The ancient name of Trapani was Drépanon or Drepana, the Greek word for “sickle”, because of the shape of its harbour which curves out into the Mediterranean Sea. The city was built to serve as port of the nearby city of Erice (Eryx), which it overlooks from Monte San Giuliano. Two ancient legends tell of mythical origins for the city. In the first legend, Trapani stemmed from the sickle fallen from the hands of the prosperity goddess Demetra while she was seeking her daughter Persephone, who had been kidnapped by Ades. The second myth features Saturn, god of the sky, who eviscerated his father Chronos with a sickle which, falling into the sea, created the city. In ancient times, Saturn was the god-protector of the Trapani. Today, Saturn’s statue stands in a piazza in the center of the city.
As for the true story of Trapani, Drepanum is known to have fallen to the Carthaginians in 260 BC. Subsequently, it passed to the Romans in 241 BC. It followed the history of southern Italy generally, and Sicily in particular, through the Middle Ages and into the Modern Era. Trapani was heavily damaged by Allied bombardments during World War II.
How to get there
Frequent trains run from Palermo, with a few stopping at Segesta. Local trains also run to Marsala, Mazara del Vallo and Castelvetrano (for the ruins of Selinunte).
Frequent buses run from Palermo. Less frequently they go to Marsala, Mazara del Vallo, Castelvetrano, Sciacca, Agrigento and Segesta.
Trapani is the port for frequent boats and hydrofoils to the Egadi Islands. Nightly boats (and hydrofoils in summer) also run to Pantelleria, with weekly ones to Tunis. See SIREMAR and Ustica Lines.
Sights & activities
Trapani is an Episcopal seat and has many interesting monuments. The main ones are:
- The Church of Sant’Agostino features a splendid rose-window (14th century ).
- The Church of Santa Maria di Gesù (15th century-16th century) .
- The magnificent Basilica-Sanctuary of Maria Santissima Annunziata (also called Madonna di Trapani) was originally built in 1315-1332 and rebuilt in 1760). It houses a marble statue of the Madonna of Trapani, which might be the work of Nino Pisano.
- Fontana di Tritone (Triton’s Fountain).
- The Baroque Palazzo della Giudecca or Casa Ciambra.
- The Cathedral (1635) .
- The main attractions of the region are the Egadi Islands, which are linked to Sicily by ferries going to and from Trapani, the Erice mount, which is reachable by cable car from the city, the old Greek city of Segesta with one of the best preserved Doric temples in the world; and the Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro (Natural Reserve).
- Museo Regionale “Agostino Pepoli”
- Museo delle Saline
That couscous is an immigrant from the Maghreb, or northwest Africa, is beyond doubt. Its origins are Berber, but just when it made the leap from North Africa to Sicily is a matter of debate. However long it has been here, the couscous that is served today in the homes and restaurants of the Trapani area has evolved in its own particular fashion. In the first place, it is almost always served with fish, as opposed to the meat or vegetable versions characteristic of the Maghreb. The rituals of preparation differ as well.
You’ll have to come early or book ahead if you want to enjoy this excellent pizza on location. The locals flock here for take-out. Calvino has a near-century old tradition. They use genuine fresh ingredients, and cut tomatoes into piecesrather than using a sauce.
Address: Via N. Nasi – Trapani
Tel.: (0923) 21 464
Spring and fall are the best seasons to visit Trapani. July and August are the warmest months with temperature up to 104° F. For more information, visit the Weather page.
- The Easter celebrations culminate with the Processione dei Misteri on Good Friday as 20 groups of sculpted figures are carried through the streets all day through the following night. During the year, the wooden statues from the 17th century are kept in the Church of the Purgatorio (in the city center, Via San Francesco).
- Luglio Musicale Trapanese in July
- The “Ente Luglio Musicale Trapanese” promotes young opera singers in July.
- Couscous Festival in September
- Aegadian Islands – The Aegadian Islands are a group of three islands about 10km west of Sicily in Italy: Favignana, the main island, is well known for its beaches; Levanzo is small, quiet and quite pretty; Marettimo is the furthest away from Sicily.
- Erice is a small town of the province of Trapani. The town is located on the homonymous Mount Eryx, religious center of Elimi. Famous for its temple, this is where the Phoenicians worshipped Astarte; the Greeks Aphrodite; and the Romans Venus. Today, Erice is also an important center for scientific conferences. The city hosts important scientific meetings, organised by the Italian astrophysicist Antonio Zichichi. In the northeastern portion of the city there are the remains of ancient Elymian and Phoenician walls indicating different stages of settlement and occupation in antiquity. There are two castles that remain in the city; first, Pepoli Castle, which dates from Saracen times, and Venus Castle which dates from the Norman period, on top of the ancient Temple of Venus. The city overlooks the bay of Castellammare del Golfo on Sicily’s northern coast, and the views are spectacular. The ancient name of Erice was Eryx.
- Selinunte – Located on the south west coast of Sicily in the province of Trapani, Selinunte was founded by the Greeks in the 7th century BC. Its name comes from the word selinon, which means wild fennel, a widely common plant throughout the area. Selinunte flourished for two centuries under Greek domination. Although Agrigento has better preserved Greek temples, Selinunte boasts more temples, all identified by letter. The setting over the Mediterranean Sea confers to the archeological ruins a unique display for a suggestive and breathtaking visitor’s experience.
- Segesta – Segesta was founded by the indigenous tribe of the Elymians. This archeological site, with its Doric temple (430/420BC) and amphitheater, is one of the best preserved to be found anywhere. The temple is located on the top of a slope in a pristine countryside, away from virtually any modern construction. The amphitheater stands on the slopes of Monte Barbaro, a convenient shuttle service takes tourists to the amphitheater.
- Castellammare del Golfo
- Mazara del Vallo
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