Marsala sits on the westernmost point of Sicily. Built on the ruins of the ancient Carthaginian city of Lilybaeum, Marsala has been occupied by many different civilisations from Romans to Moors and is now a bustling tourist city with an incredible cultural heritage. The city is most famous for producing Marsala wine, a fortified wine popular with locals and foreigners alike. Marsala was also the famous landing site of Garibaldi in 1860, the event that kickstarted the unification of Italy in the 19th century.
Marsala’s proximity to Africa means that the town enjoys exquisite weather throughout the year, with highs of 30oC in the summer. Marsala is located close to other major tourist destinations in Sicily, such as Trapani and Selinunte, making it an ideal base from which to explore the rest of Sicily while still offering plenty of opportunities for adventure.
The charming town of Trapani has escaped the eyes of the usual tourist crowds, leaving it an untouched Sicilian paradise on the west coast. Trapani is only 40 minutes from Marsala and train rides to the resort cost as little as €4, making it an excellent location for a day trip. While much of the town’s Phoenician history has been lost over time, the Old Town is a shining example of Trapani’s Renaissance boom. Notable sights include the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, a cathedral built in the 14th century, and the Sanctuary of Maria Santissima Annunziata, a grandiose church housing ancient sculptures and statues. A highlight of the Trapani year is the procession of the Misteri which takes place on Good Friday, where robed figures solemnly carry wooden sculptures depicting crucifixion scenes throughout the town.
The Egadi Islands
The Egadi Islands are a cluster of three small islands off the coast of Marsala. Boat trips regularly run to all three islands from the mainland during the summer months. You can easily visit all three islands in a day, and each has plenty to offer. Favignana is the largest island, an idyllic paradise of its own. Favignana town has plenty of food and drink on offer for tourists, and down by the port you’ll find shops hiring bicycles and scooters for a more convenient way to explore the island. The mountainous island of Marettimo is the least busy of the Egadi islands and is particularly popular with hikers and swimmers looking to escape civilisation for a few hours. Levanzo is somewhere in the middle of Favignana and Marettimo- not too busy and not too quiet, and with some remarkable prehistoric cave paintings hidden away from the main settlement.
Erice is a fortified medieval town situated atop a hill, easily accessible by cable car from Trapani. The minute you enter Erice, you are transported back to the world a thousand years from now. The town’s centre has been left mostly untouched over the last millennium, making it one of the most well-preserved historic settlements in Sicily. The settlement is surrounded by defensive stone walls and was built around the twelfth-century Castello di Venere or Castle of Venus. The castle was built on top of an ancient Roman temple and is open daily to tourists for a small admission fee. A walk through the castle brings visitors to the top of the fortifications, where some of the most breath-taking views in Sicily can be seen looking over the coast. The town is also full of beautiful medieval churches, such as the 14th century Chiesa Madre. After exploring the town, Piazza Umberto I is the town’s principal square and is filled with homely cafés and bakeries for you to relax in.
Explore the ruins of Mozia
The ancient ruins of Mozia are found on Isola di San Pantaleo, a small island just off the west coast of Sicily that is in close proximity to Marsala. A return journey to the island including access to the museum is just €14, a great price to see one of the most amazing archaeological sites in Sicily. Once an important Phoenician colony, Mozia was razed by the Greeks of Syracuse in the 4th century BC. This prompted its inhabitants to found Lilybaeum on the nearby mainland, now the modern-day Marsala. The ruined colony still stands over two millennia later.
Visitors are not just limited to exploring the ruins. The island makes a great spot for a day out with its interesting landscape, and the lagoon is a popular spot for families. The island also has a small café serving light bites and drinks throughout the day.
Tour the winery at Cantine Florio
Tourists looking to taste some great local wines will be happy to know that Cantine Florio, a producer of Marsala wine, offers tours of the winery. On the tour, you’ll learn about the history of Marsala wine, see how it’s made, and finish up with a tasting session of four different wines paired with complementary foods.
Back in the main town, there are plenty of wine bars and shops where you can buy and taste Marsala wines.
Relax on Capo Boeo beach
Capo Boeo is Marsala’s main beach and is the most western point in Sicily. The shore is coated with soft, golden sands and sun loungers, with parasols, are available to hire. Lifeguards are posted along the coast throughout the daytime, making Capo Boeo a popular spot for families to enjoy a splash in the Mediterranean. There are plenty of other beaches along the western coast near Marsala as well, from the white sands of Lido Signorino to the rocky shores of Sibiliana beach.
The food and drink of Sicily are unique in that is draws inspiration from the many cultures that have occupied the island in the past. The cuisine is mostly based on traditional Italian dishes but incorporates elements of Greek, Arab, French and Spanish cuisine as well. Locally-grown fruit and vegetables form the backbone of Sicilian recipes; fresh olives, tomatoes and grapes all feature strongly in the foods of Sicily. Arancini is a particular local favourite, fried rice balls filled with meat and cheese.
The authentic Sicilian cuisine is the main attraction at Marsala’s restaurants. For example, Acqua in Bocca serves mouth-watering Mediterranean foods with a particular favourite being their fresh-caught seafood dishes. Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Marsala without world-class wine bars, and you’ll plenty of those around the town- notably popular are Natura a Tavola and La Sirena Ubriaca, both serving authentic Marsala as well as other delicious Sicilian wines.
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