The crystal clear sea strokes the pearly white beaches to the north and the golden sands to the south, limestone and sandstone, a turquoise sea surrounding dolomite and volcanic islands scattered across the Mediterranean; rolling countryside perfumed with thyme, olive trees and capers, streaked with rows of vineyards and dotted with snow white fleeces. The perfect setting for pastoral and epic poems, between Greek columns and theatres clinging to the hillside; the natural backdrop within which to host country fairs dedicated to food and tradition. The historical centre of Trapani underlines Art Nouveau with the perfume of busiate cull'agghia (pasta with garlic), with the freshness of granita and the sweetness of cannoli with ricotta; San Vito promises sun bathing in crystal clear waters, binging on caldo freddo and the multi ethnic couscous festival; Erice brings us into the Middle Ages with the perfume of almonds and cream; Mazara and Castelvetrano are triumphantly known for their Baroque style, blue fish and game; the Egadi islands are mirrored in the waters of the Punic wars; Pantelleria smells of Passito and Malvasia wines; modern and contemporary art revitalises the ruins of Gibellina; the prehistoric caves and fishing villages along the coast are little jewels; the heroic deeds of Garibaldi and the agriculture and food entrepreneurs, along with the Phoenician Mothia are the pride of Marsala; the tradition of tuna fishing is memorialised by the number of tuna fisheries that still remain; the perfumes and colours of Mediterranean scrubland that unfurl along the trails between San Vito Lo Capo and Scopello; the Greek ruins of Segesta and Selinunte reveal an ancient history and culture. At every corner there is the opportunity to discover a new flavour.
The province of Trapani occupies the western tip of Sicily, between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Strait of Sicily. It is a land between seas, but inland it is also full of history and changing landscapes that extend from the Gulf of Castellammare, run along the river Belice and end at the amazing coast of Selinunte. In these areas, nature and history merge together to create countless wonders. Land and sea, sea that stretches out to the patches of earth that are the islands; islands that have always been frequented by the countless civilisations that have inhabited this area.
It is not surprising then that according to an ancient legend, Trapani was born of a love between sky and sea; furthermore, a visit to Trapani city is enough to remove all doubt: a low peninsula stretches out towards the Egadi islands, and while looking in their direction, you feel suspended in a space without dimensions, bounded by the iridescent light of the sun playing with the clouds.
If we pass from mythology to history, we discover that the origins of Trapani are very old, some historians reckon that they date back to 1260 BC. The first inhabitants were the Elymians, the ancient people of Erice, who founded the city to enjoy the advantageous relationship between hill and sea. After this Trapani fell to the hands of the Carthaginians, who from their African dominions, stretched themselves to the Sicilian coasts leaving an expansive port and many other traces of their presence. Even if Greek rule didn’t arrive at Trapani’s doors, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t leave traces on its land; one of the biggest examples of their presence is Selinunte. We have to wait until 241 B.C., when Trapani passed under the control of the Romans to see the name Drepanum, from which the modern name is derived. However, the story of this land doesn’t finish here. The rule of the Romans was followed by that of the Byzantines and consequently by that of the Normans. Through the passage of these ruling powers, Trapani grew to be one of the most important commercial centres of the Mediterranean and the city prospered, more beautiful and stronger than before. The following ruling powers: the Angevins, the Aragonese and the Bourbons, shaped the history of the city until the start of the Italian Reign. Even this brief account is enough to understand that this is not a small provincial town that we are talking about, but a city and land with a rich cosmopolitan past and an immeasurable artistic and environmental wealth.
Moreover, the province of Trapani, starting from the salt pans which characterise the coast line, is full of as much history and natural beauty as its capitol. Erice village, just above Trapani, is another symbol of the richness of Trapani province; here you can see the ancient walls built by the Elymians to protect the city, with a triangular layout they protect churches and houses each with their own long history.
There are countless cities of this province which hold priceless archaeological remains. Perhaps the most famous is the city of Selinunte. The term city is not used casually, having one of the largest archaeological parks in Italy. Selinunte was the most western Greek colony in Sicily and was named after its indigenous wild parsley that can also be found on its coins. If the archaeological site itself appears magnificent, it is even more so when you look down from the temples to the sea and the horizon.
Certainly, Selinunte is the most famous archaeological site of Trapani and for it alone it is worth a visit to the area; but as we said, Trapani’s territory is very rich, for example, just having a glance in the area of Campobello di Mazara you will discover the striking Cusa Caves, where inhabitants of Selinunte procured the material for building the temples and where you can still see the mining areas and extraction holes in the rock.
But witnessing this union between nature and history would not be complete without a quick introduction to the island of Mothia: set against Stagnone lagoon in Marsala, this little island rises up to hold many archaeological treasures and is framed by an environment which is amazing for its natural beauty and for the ever changing colours of the sea and sky, especially at sunset.
This meander through the riches of history, art and natural beauty of the province of Trapani could continue with Marsala and Cape Lilibeo, passing through Belice valley and its villages destroyed by an earthquake and re-conquered by nature, and the vineyards that so characterize this land: and how could one forget the diversity of landscapes of the Egadi islands, the indescribable beauty of Pantelleria island, or the splendour of Zingaro reserve?
Anyway, the lands of Trapani province are not solely embodied by art and nature, there are in fact countless examples of local produce, the result of the careful tilling of the land over hundreds of years, during which the effort and minds of the local people developed grapes and wines, cheeses and meat, in other words, all the good things that the earth and sea can offer.