Although we were all sad that our time in Sicily was coming to an end, luckily we had our entire last day to explore due to the fact that there was only one 9pm flight departing from Palermo that Sunday (Thank you Ryanair!).
There were a couple of other towns that we wanted to stop in on our way back to Palermo, so we hopped in the car bright and early and took off for our first stop: Erice. Lots of websites and guidebooks that you read suggest a trip to Erice since you can easily get there by cable car from downtown Trapani. Unfortunately, we were a few days early as the funicular does not open until April 1st. Bummer! The good news is, the winding road up the mountain to Erice gave us multiple opportunities to stop and take some great pictures.
Erice is a medieval hilltown that I swear looks exactly the same way it did thousands of years ago. The entire village is still stone buildings, roads, and walkways; it’s hard to believe people still live here in the 20th century. We checked out a map and saw that if we walked a loop around the town, we could pretty much see everything. The first stop being Il Duomo – a beautiful Baroque cathedral with an adjoining bell tower. We couldn’t go inside because Sunday mass was happening, but we managed to stumble upon a small chapel around the corner that was open, so said our prayers there instead! 🙂
We walked along the eerily quiet roads and really couldn’t believe how ancient this place was. I know in many towns all over Europe you can see the medieval architecture still in place, but to have a whole town, down to the streets, still feel like it has been untouched since then, is truly something special. We then stopped by Chiesa Di San Giuliano tucked away in a little square along Via Roma. We took a minute here to sit and look at a map, as the windy roads were pretty confusing and we wanted a game plan for our next stop. Joe also happened to make friends with the town dog here, who proceeded to follow us along for the next 15 minutes. We actually found our first shops nearby here, and went into one owned by a woman who made all of her own ceramics. I asked her why everything she made was such a vibrant red colour, but the only thing I managed to understand was “dirt”. Apparently much of soil of Sicily has a rusty hue due to the volcanic dust of Mount Etna. We learned that Sicily is very much known for their ceramics because of the use of this indigenous soil. I am now a proud owner of a spoon holder (for Sunday sauce!) to help us remember our trip to Sicily by, thanks to my mom.
We continued around to the other side of the village to see Castello di Venere, a 12th century castle perched on the edge of the mountain, overlooking the harbor and city of Trapani. This castle has been the long-standing symbol of Erice, which was originally built by the Romans as a temple dedicated to Venus. Although we did not go in, the surrounding terrace is incredible for pictures of the Trapani coastline, and the surrounding Balio Gardens are also a lush and beautiful place to take a minute and relax. All you see is sky and clouds when you are on a bench in the garden, it really feels like you are suspended high in the air. You can even see in some of my pictures that we are literally above the clouds!
Erice is a place where you truly feel like you’ve stepped back in time. It’s incredible to see how untouched this tiny village is. We were so happy we decided to spend the morning here, but with time running out and a few more places to hit, we were on to our next stop: San Vito Lo Capo.
San Vito Lo Capo is a very small town situated right on the sea. It has a huge beach and port area and is dotted with plenty of resorts, B&B’s, and restaurants – making it the perfect holiday destination for many Italian families. The day we went was pretty warm, so there were lots of people out and about – people eating outside on the street, people hanging on the beach, riding their bikes, etc.. It was so cool to see this little town bustling with locals – it honestly seemed like everyone knew each other! We took about an hour to walk through the streets and of course on to the beach. You know Joe can’t go to a beach without taking his shoes off, so we all had a quick feel for the sand and the water 🙂 We stopped for a lovely lunch at Trattoria Da Mariella, where we sadly ate our last plates of pasta and drank our last glasses of wine on our Italy trip.
We then took off for our last stop, and embarked on our final scenic ride through Sicily. Our last stop was Alcamo, another historic town known for it’s numerous churches and castle. Once we made it to the old town, we almost immediately hit traffic – any way we went it was bumper to bumper (on those super narrow streets) and we couldn’t make any turns in the direction we needed to because roads were closed. Eventually we found a parking spot, and decided to walk towards where all of the action seemed to be coming from. Turns out there was some sort of religious procession happening, and all of the townspeople were there singing alongside it. It was such a surreal moment to literally be a part of this celebration that is so important to the people of this small town. The Catholic religion plays such a huge role in the lives of these people, and it’s amazing to see what an impact it can have on an entire community. This will definitely be a special memory for us; we all couldn’t believe the perfect timing of being there on that day, at that time, and walking up to the crowds just in time to see the Madonna of Miracles statue go by. When the procession was over we were able to quickly walk across the street to see Piazza Ciullo, the main hub of Alcamo. This marble plaza is home to some cafes and gelato shops, as well as the gorgeous Chiesa del Gesu. I loved seeing all of the old Italian men hanging out here in their Sunday best. We certainly had a super authentic Sicilian experience in Alcamo – in such a small town it’s much easier to see the real life of the people who live there.
These four days were some of the most interesting and memorable of my entire life. I never anticipated taking a trip with my family to explore where our family came from. I also did not know much about Sicily, but have now gained a huge appreciation for this area and everyone who lives and comes from there. This was truly an unforgettable trip!
San Vito Lo Capo