Historical center of Trapani
On the summit of Mount San Giuliano, as it was called in Punic times, lies hidden the ancient city of Erice. From the valley, in fact, one can imagine nothing but the remains of the ancient temple dedicated to Astarte by the Elymians, a Middle Eastern people who founded and built Erice along with Segesta and Entella some 3,000 years ago. Of the Elymian foundation remains, in addition to the temple, which was remodeled in Norman times and transformed into a fortress, the base of the city walls.
These were later fortified and raised further by the Phoenicians and Romans.
Stepping through the ancient stone gates one is immediately catapulted into a fairy-tale dimension: the cobblestones of the pavement and the mossy stones on the walls of each building are the main protagonists of this endless fairy tale. From time to time one is enveloped by coils of a fine mist that are nothing more than the lowest clouds that fly over the mountain and penetrate the narrow streets adding to the whole town’s charm and mystery.
Erice is now known throughout the world because of the Ettore Maiorana Center for Physics Studies founded by Professor Zichichi. Indeed, the center hosts physicists from all corners of the earth, meeting in study and research groups or in symposia and conferences, specialized courses and other events. Several historical sites are entrusted to the Ettore Maiorana center and often host modern and contemporary art exhibitions.
The medieval imprint of the city is due to the stone buildings and the many churches scattered on every street; there may be as many as five within a 300-meter radius, and this would suggest a very large population or a strong spiritual sense of the few who actually inhabit the city.
As is often the case, however, these are choices produced by contingencies: when still being born first of several siblings made a difference, daughters and cadet sons had little hope for their future if they did not contract a good marriage; this made them opt more easily for an ecclesiastical career and fathers built churches for them to celebrate mass and convents to
meditate possibly under the house or nearby. There are so many tiny churches in Erice: some still open for worship, others deconsecrated or privatized and converted into something else, such as bakeries, garages, archives…
Beyond its intrinsic and explicit beauty, Erice is the ideal place to spend one’s vacation for so many reasons, first and foremost the panoramic position over the entire territory: walking around the perimeter of the city, you are offered glimpses and wide views of the Egadi Islands and the salt pans; of the agro-ericino with its expanses of vine, olive and wheat cultivation; of the reserve of Mount Cofano; of the bay of Cornino and Bonagia; of Macari and Cape San Vito … on days when the air is cleaner, one can see, on one side the profile of the island of Ustica and on the other side of the mountain, even the profile of volcanic Pantelleria, as well as the summit of Mount Etna.
In the hot Sicilian summers, Erice offers the freshest air and soothing scents of boxwood to travelers and hikers who have spent the day at the beach or scouring the treasures of this land. A cable car connects the ancient town to the valley, so in 15 minutes you can reach the town beach. Our long coastline, connected to that of Trapani winds down to San Vito Lo Capo in a suite of sandy coves and rocks.
The downstream station of the cableway is connected by regular buses to the city center of Trapani, and nearby are also bus stops to San Vito Lo Capo.
Erice is practically an “island of peace ” from which one can reach in less than an hour many tourist and archaeological sites, such as Segesta, Selinunte, the Egadi Islands, San Vito Lo Capo, Marsala, and, losing a little more time even Castellammare del Golfo, Mazara, Gibellina and the rest of Belice.
To visit our small town for good without leaving out any detail requires at least a couple of days because there are so many monuments and wonders of nature it offers.