Best places to visit in amazing Trapani, the city suspenden between myth and history

Trapani is an Italian town of 67.531 inhabitants, the capital of the homonymous free municipal consortium in Sicily.

Trapani has developed over time a thriving economic activity linked to the extraction and trade of salt, taking advantage of its natural position, projected on the Mediterranean, and its port, an ancient commercial outlet for Eryx (today’s Erice), located on the homonymous mountain overlooking Trapani. The economy today is based on the tertiary sector, on fishing (in ancient times that of bluefin tuna, with the slaughter), on the extraction and export of marble, on activities related to trade and tourism.

The urban agglomeration also includes the populous hamlet of Casa Santa, however belonging to the municipality of Erice.

The history of Trapani has its origins in the myth. Founded by the Elimi, it was an important Carthaginian base, then it was one of the Roman civitates censoria. During the Middle Ages it was one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean, and played an active role during the Sicilian Vespers. Between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries it had a remarkable development and after a period of decline in the seventeenth, the city recovered, and almost doubled the population. He was the protagonist of the anti-Bourbon Risorgimento uprisings both in 1820-21 and in 1848-49 and supported Garibaldi during the expedition of the Thousand. During the Second World War it was an important air-naval base and suffered heavy bombing by the Allies.

The origins of Trapani lie in the legend. The peculiar morphology of the geographical area and the proximity to the Eryx elima soon made it a rather sophisticated literary topos. Greek mythology says that this territory was governed by Erix, the Roman one that the city of Trapani originated from the fallen sickle in Ceres while on the cart pulled by winged snakes he ran around the world in search of the daughter kidnapped by the god Hades: the fallen sickle at sea it changed into an arched strip of land on which a city arose, for this form called Drepanon (“sickle” in ancient Greek).

According to another mythological tradition, Trapani would have arisen from the sickle fallen from the hands of Saturn after having emasculated the father Uranus. Saturn was in ancient times the patron god of Trapani and even today you can admire a statue that portrays it placed as an ornament of the fountain located in Piazzetta Saturno, in the historic center.

For still others, Trapani was born from the love that arose between the sky and the sea. For some researchers, including the Englishman Samuel Butler, Scherie, the city of the Feaci described in Homer’s Odyssey, it would be today’s Trapani.

With the nineties the city proposed itself with more conviction, compared to the past, as a destination of tourist, historical, cultural and sporting interest through the redevelopment plans of the historic center, the creation of new urban infrastructures, the increase in accommodation activities, catering and entertainment, and with a more marked attention to the enhancement of its huge historical, architectural and naturalistic heritage.

In recent years, the city has also taken on an international connotation with events of undoubted cultural importance, such as the exhibitions on Caravaggio, Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo’s Rediscovered Crucifix, and sports with some of the stages of the America’s Cup.

Let’s start our journey in this incredible Sicilian city!

Ligny Tower

The Ligny tower is an ancient coastal tower located at the western end of the city of Trapani, between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Sicilian channel.

It was erected in 1671 by order of the captain general of the Kingdom of Sicily Claude Lamoral, prince of Ligne, during the Spanish domination of Sicily, on the rocks that form the continuation of the narrow tongue of land of the ancient city, formerly called Pietra Palazzo.

It was built to defend the city from the incursions of the Barbary pirates. In 1806 the passage that connected it with the land was made practicable. Until 1861 cannons were installed on the roof. During the Second World War it was used by the Navy as an antiaircraft position.

Built on a project by Carlos De Grunembergh. The quadrangular tower, which narrows upwards, was equipped with four masonry boxes and formerly equipped with lanterns. It was restored in 1979.

Inside, in 1983, the Museum of Prehistory and the Museum of the Sea was established by Prof. Francesco Torre, now called Torre di Ligny Civic Museum, with prehistoric finds and a marine archaeological room on the ground floor. The Torre di Ligny is now proposed to visitors in its splendid role as a deputation tower, totally restored inside.

From its terrace you can enjoy an enchanting and spectacular panorama in which the view sweeps from Capo San Vito to Erice, to Marsala and where there is a wide view of the city of Trapani, the suggestive cliff that divides the Tyrrhenian Sea from the Mediterranean Sea, and to the west the Egadi islands and the small islet of Formica.


Èrice is an Italian municipality of 27.317 inhabitants of the free municipal consortium of Trapani in Sicily. From 1167 to 1934 it had the name of Monte San Giuliano.

In the city center which is located on the top of the homonymous Mount Erice, only 1024 inhabitants are resident (population that increases tenfold in the summer), while most of the population is concentrated downstream, in the inhabited area of Casa Santa, contiguous to the city of Trapani.

Erice’s name comes from Erix, a mythological character, son of Aphrodite and Bute, killed by Heracles. This medieval village is perched on a rocky cliff at over 750 meters above sea level, and offers a splendid view of Trapani, the Egadi Islands and San Vito Lo Capo. It is one of the most beautiful viewpoints in all of Sicily.

Once you reach Erice, you can follow the signposted walk. It will allow you to visit all the places of interest in this country, without missing a single one. The most suggestive is certainly the castle on top of the cliff. From there, the view across the Trapani valley and the sea really leaves you breathless!

Inside this village, you will also find many restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and pastry shops. The most famous is that of Maria Grammatico, which offers marzipan, cannoli and naturally the whole range of Sicilian sweets.

Erice is a highly tourist village, you will meet many people between the entrance of the village and the road that leads to the castle. But if you move away from the main road and walk along the cobblestone streets, everything quickly becomes peaceful and quiet. After admiring the main attractions, take a walk through the lesser known streets of the country.


Caves of Scurati

The Caves of Scurati are an ancient prehistoric settlement and a speleological geosite. They arise near the hamlet of Scurati of the municipality of Custonaci, in the province of Trapani. It houses a small village of houses, inhabited from 1819 until the mid-1900s.

The first archaeological studies were conducted by the Marquis Guido Dalla Rosa in 1870 and by the French paleontologist Raymond Vaufrey in 1925. Inside, traces of human presence (flint tools, graffiti) dating back to the Upper Paleolithic have been found. The last excavations have been carried out by the Superintendency of Cultural Heritage of Trapani under the direction of Sebastiano Tusa.

These are a total of nine caves. Some are located within the Monte Cofano oriented nature reserve.

The Mangiapane cave, the largest, about 70 meters high, 13 wide and 50 deep, is also called the Uffizi Cave. The cave was inhabited until the 1950s and belonged to the Mangiapane family. Archaeological excavations conducted in 2004 revealed the presence of prehistoric pottery from the ancient and middle Neolithic. A second cave, also called Mangiapane (Mangiapane II), is located a hundred meters further west, along the same rocky cliff. In this cave, in 1925, an archaeological excavation was conducted directed by the French palethnologist Raymond Vaufrey, assisted by the Italian archaeologist Ugo Rellini. The excavation brought to light the remains of a hearth containing ceramics from the middle Bronze Age (Thapsos culture) and abandoned flint lithic finds referable to the end of the upper Paleolithic (Final Epigravettian phase). Some of these finds are exhibited at the Pepoli museum in Trapani, while the rest of the collection is located in the “A. Salinas” museum in Palermo and at the Ethno-anthropological museum in Paris.

The episode The Snack Thief from the television series Il commissario Montalbano was filmed in the cave.

Since 1983, the event called “Custonaci Living Nativity – The Nativity and Traditional Crafts” has taken place over the Christmas period.

It is a living nativity scene in which the peasant and artisan traditions of that area are revived, and which involves all the inhabitants of the country. About 160 people participate. For this reason, in 2006 it was recognized in the Intangible Inheritance Register of Sicily.

Located in the district of the same name, about 100 meters above sea level, the Romanian cave was explored by Raimond Vaufrey in 1925, who called it one of the most beautiful in the area. Numerous concretions and flints of various kinds have been found inside. The cave has an oven-shaped room, 3 meters wide and 13 meters deep. It was used as a fortification during the Saracen invasions.

The Romanian Grotto was recognized in 2015 as a speleological geosite of worldwide importance, by the Department of Territory and environment of the Sicilian Region and the management entrusted to the municipality. At the base of the shelter in front of the cave are some linear signs engraved from prehistoric times.

Agostino Pepoli Regional Museum

The Agostino Pepoli regional museum in Trapani is one of the most important museums in Sicily.

Born in the early twentieth century (1906-1908) as a civic museum, by Count Agostino Sieri Pepoli, it is located in the ancient fourteenth-century convent of the Carmelites, adjacent to the Basilica-sanctuary of Maria Santissima Annunziata. The first nucleus was born precisely from the private collection of Count Pepoli, and then with the paintings of the Neapolitan school, donated by General Giovanbattista Fardella. In 1921 the collection of Count Francesco Hernandez of Erice (nativity scenes, ceramics, archaeological finds) was acquired. In 1925 it became a Royal museum. After the Second World War it became a National Museum. Finally, since 1977, (when the competences of the cultural assets have passed to the autonomous region), museum of the Sicilian Region.

The layout of the museum was created in the 1960s by the architect Franco Minissi, who won the regional award for his work. 1969 for the realization of the museum arrangements in Sicily.

The Museum houses an important collection of decorative arts, sculptures, including works by Gagini, works in coral, silver, crib sculptures and a picture gallery which includes, among others, paintings by Titian (Stimmate of San Francesco), by Giacomo Balla ( a portrait of Nunzio Nasi), a Madonna and child with angels from the 15th century. of the Valencian school, a Pietà of 1380 by Roberto d’Oderisio and a S. Andrea by the Flemish Geronimo Gerardi. It also contains the “Treasure of the Madonna”, the result of numerous donations to the Madonna of Trapani.

There are also archaeological finds found in the province and, in the Risorgimento section, historical relics of the city of Trapani, including several Risorgimento and Garibaldini relics, testimony of the participation of the province in the unity of Italy, including the banner of the steamer “Il Lombardo”, and a Bourbon guillotine.

In 2009, the large catalog relating to the archaeological collections in the Museum was published by Edipuglia.

Salt Museum

The Salt Mueum, in the Nubia district, municipality of Paceco (TP), was created by the will of its owner, Alberto Culcasi, thanks to the funding of the provincial tourism company of Trapani and the municipality of Paceco and with the collaboration of the faculties of Letters and Architecture of the University of Palermo.

It is located in an ancient windmill, inside the Saline di Trapani and Paceco integral nature reserve. It is a private facility.

Inserted in the official guide of the European Union dedicated to the museums of the Mediterranean, it is placed along the route called the Via del Sale, a tourist-cultural project born with the aim of enhancing that particular wet environment that characterizes with the salt pans and mills the coastal area of ​​western Sicily. Located inside a baglio, an ancient seventeenth-century farm-fortress used for salt milling, with the large windmill attached, the museum collects and preserves the ancient working tools of the salt-pans and many old black and white photos , testimony of a work that with the times has also adapted to new technologies.

Salt Museum Inside, between the stone walls, the terracotta floor and the ancient painted doors, it is possible to admire on display original finds accompanied by numerous information-rich cards and reconstruction panels for stages of the work cycle: the old rolls to compact the bottom of the salt pans, the chairs or the baskets for transporting the salt, the wooden blades of the mills (ntinni), the Archimede coil or screw to suck the water of the so-called “fridda” tank, the wooden strips (tag ) to measure salt, jute bags, the barrel wagon that attached to the mule shuttled between one tank and another to quench the salt workers, the heavy millstone that allowed to refine salt, nets and pots, since fine fish such as sea bream and sea bass are bred in the salt ponds. Working tools now disused and which now constitute a relic of industrial archaeology.

The history of the Trapani salt pans is very ancient and can probably be traced back to the Phoenician people about three thousand years ago. The origin is not certain as material evidence is lacking, however it is the Phoenician landscape itself that suggests that the production and marketing of salt was a fundamental component of their economy, since their settlements were built along the coastal areas and in the East that in the West and in particular in this extreme part of Sicily.

The  Cathedral of San Lorenzo

The protobasilica cathedral of San Lorenzo is the Catholic cathedral of Trapani, Sicily, mother church of the diocese of the same name. It is located in the historic center of the city, along Corso Vittorio Emanuele.  It has the dignity of a minor basilica.

The ancient building stood in the primitive “Palazzo” district inserted in the portion of the territory where the “Consulate of the Genoese Nation”, called “Cappella di San Giorgio” of 1102, the latter patron saint of the Maritime Republic of the Genoese, was installed. The Genoese community is present in Trapani dedicated to trade and maritime activities since the eleventh century, ally of the great Count Roger in the work of reconquering the island to remove it from Arab rule.

In 1280 King James II of Aragon arranged the subdivision of the “Palazzo” district into two further districts called respectively “San Francesco” and “San Lorenzo” because of the presence of the respective places of worship built in them.

1434, By the will of Alfonso the Magnanimous the temple was elevated to a parish. With the patronage of the wealthier families, work began on the construction of the chapels, first of all the one dedicated to the martyr Saint Stephen, a building financed by the Vento family.

1602, The diocese of Mazara del Vallo, a religious institution to which the city of Trapani belonged, issues the permit for urgent restoration work due to the threatened collapse of the structures. In 1603, thanks to the collection of alms, the construction of the apse began.

The first impression of the basilica was due to the work of the architect Father Bonaventura Certo, from Messina,  religious of the Order of the Conventual Friars Minor of San Francesco.

The church was solemnly consecrated by the bishop of Mazara del Vallo Bartolomeo Castelli on 2 July 1705. In 1736 it was elevated to a collegiate church. The title of mother church in the past belonged to the church of Sant’Agostino in the Aragonese-Spanish era, [5] to the basilica of San Nicolò since 1620.

1740, The present appearance dates back to the eighteenth-century restoration, by the architect Giovanni Biagio Amico, who perfected the construction with a beautiful dome, the domes, the prospect with balustrades, the tripartite portico with bell towers and the side chapels. In this context, the choir and choir were built, the high altar with its tribune, the statues and angels above for ornamentation, in the center of the apse the name of God in Hebrew, the organ, the baptismal font, the confessionals, the pulpit.  The complex of works and the numerous restoration interventions determined the establishment of the “Fabbrica del Duomo” in 1788.

In 1794 the interiors were more adorned with very fine Greek-style stuccos, with elegant paintings by Don Vincenzo Manno’s brush, from Palermo, depicting stories from the Old Testament, the Patriarchs, the Prophets, the Acts of the Apostles and the most significant episodes of the Gospels. . Numerous other works were commissioned to the most successful exponents of the Trapani art scene.

In 1844 Trapani was elevated to a bishopric with the establishment of the diocese by Pope Gregory XVI, the temple of San Lorenzo was elevated to the rank of cathedral, ending the long-standing dispute with the collegiate church of San Pietro Apostolo and the protobasilica of San Niccolò .

From 1975 to 1997 the Superintendence of Cultural and Environmental Heritage of Trapani followed the restoration of the church. In 1990 the new gate was built to close the pronaos and, in 1995, the new liturgical furnishings.


Formica Island

Formica is an island in Italy belonging to the Egadi archipelago, in Sicily. It is a small piece of land, almost a large rock, which is located between the island of Levanzo and the coast of Trapani.

It is a private property, belongs to a therapeutic community for drug addicts founded by Father Eligio. Administratively it is part of the municipality of Favignana.

On the islet of Formica there is still an old tonnara once owned by the Florio family, with the remains of two ancient buildings. There is also a fortified building with a tower, on which a lighthouse is built, and a mill. There is also a very old church. All buildings recovered. There is also a small museum which houses various amphorae and a perfectly preserved ancient boat, used once for the slaughter.

The island has a small port, suitable only for pleasure boats or small boats, but the mooring must be authorized in advance by the owners. The stretch of sea that surrounds the island is included in the “B” area of ​​the Egadi Islands Marine Nature Reserve. The closest resorts to the Island of Formica are the Isle of Levanzo (4.4 km), the Trapani coast (a 7.4 km) and the Island of Favignana (7.6 km). About 600 m west of the island is the Maraone rock.

The place is ideal for recovering your humanity also through contact with nature. The old buildings have been restored and are well kept.

For example, the remains of the two buildings of the old trap which belonged to the Florio family. There is also a working lighthouse in a fortified building with a tower.

The small, very old church, called the church of the rais, is located at the end of a path with a beautiful panorama behind it.

There is even a small museum that houses various amphorae and an ancient boat used for the mattanza, perfectly preserved.

The island has a small port suitable for small boats, but the docking must be authorized by the owners.

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