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The Province of Trapani: from Salt Works to Nature Reserves

To borrow Homer's words, Sicily is

The Province of Trapani: from Salt Works to Nature Reserves


To borrow Homer's words, Sicily is "the good green island where the Sun-god’s cattle and rich flocks graze."
This description seems all the more fitting the closer you get to the province of Trapani, an area with such a wealth of art, historical evidence and natural beauty that a few days are not enough to experience its full magnificence. An awareness of its special qualities can be felt when taking the road from the capital to the hamlet of Xitta, three kilometres from Trapani on the road to Marsala; a route punctuated by evocative ancient windmills, whose blades seem to cut through the breath of history.

The impressive stretch of coast from Trapani to Marsala follows the so-called "salt routes": roads flanked by salt-works and dazzling white salt piles in the distance. Today the salt marshes are part of a nature reserve inhabited by hundreds of herons, cranes, flamingos and storks.
Once in Marsala, the town whose name is inextricably linked to Garibaldi's famous landing, the power of its heritage is hard to resist: churches, caves, shrines, statues, ancient vases, and the remains of ancient ships and necropolises, all of which testify to a legendary land and a glorious past, a pearl in the heart of the Mediterranean, known throughout the world for its sweet Marsala wine.

Splendid Erice opens its arms to a perfect compendium of art, history and nature. Its medieval centre is virtually intact and in complete harmony with the surrounding nature. The lush Giardino del Balio frames the Pepoli Castle, now transformed into a villa. Erice has more than sixty churches, such as the Matrice, built in the fourteenth century, which contains important works of art. The Cordici Museum In Piazza Umberto I houses the famous "head of Aphrodite", dating from the fifth century BC. While in Erice, a stop must be made at one of the renowned cake shops, to savour the best of local baking. For those who enjoy modern art, a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art near Trapani should not be missed. It holds nearly two thousand works of great artists such as Guttuso and Burri.

Not far from the provincial capital town is Buseto Palizzolo, another noteworthy small town in the province of Trapani. The town's charm is heightened by the presence of the "bagli", ancient constructions set in elevated positions above the surrounding land for the control of agricultural work.  Buseto is also said to be the home of busiati, a typical handmade pasta, excellent served with Trapani pesto made from oil, tomatoes, garlic and basil.

Our journey of discovery in the province of Trapani ends at Castellammare del Golfo, where the entrance to the Zingaro Nature Reserve is found: an area of pristine beaches, and flora and fauna of indescribable beauty. Overlooking the town is the ninth-century Arab Castle, which now houses an interesting museum with exhibits of underwater archaeology and a tuna fishery.
Trapani is a province where nature sets its seal on a seductive range of unforgettable delights, especially if you experience them from an agritourism, which more than any other type of accommodation enhances the pleasures of the area and reveals the truth of Goethe's words:  "Italy without Sicily, leaves no impression on the soul."

Did You Know That…?
On June 24, St. John's Day, it used to be the custom in Trapani to perform the rather curious rite of plunging molten lead into a bowl of water and interpreting the shapes that emerged. According to popular superstition, if the lead took on the form of a human face – presumably the head of St. John the Baptist – the omens were not good; in fact, it predicted hardship and calamity. This tradition has given rise to various sayings in Trapani. For example, if you want to threaten someone, the colourful phrase often used is: "I'll show you the head of St. John

Michela Bilotta


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