Located on the western coast of Sicily, Trapani is a fishing port with a long history and a very lively and important tourist port, being the starting point for ferries to the Egadi Islands, the Island of Pantelleria and also to Tunisia . Today the city is known everywhere in Italy for its exquisite seafood and fish cuisine and is a good base for tourists exploring this part of Sicily.
What to see in Trapani
The Sicilian western coast from Trapani to Marsala is one of the most fascinating places on the island, studded with historical salinas and mills.
There are two natural reserves that extend into this area: the Salinas de Trapani and Paceco Nature Reserve , and the Regional Natural Reserve of the Stagnone Islands of Marsala , the largest lagoon in Italy.
From Trapani following the Via de la Sal to the south you can see the first of these reserves, with many of the characteristic tanks , divided according to the degree of seawater salinity. This site is very important for the survival of many biological species and is one of the rare examples in which man with his work has contributed to the preservation of nature.
Although today there are not many traces of the ancient history of Trapani, there is no doubt that the city was a Phoenician commercial port , in an ideal position for trade with Africa, Naples and the entire western Mediterranean. Trapani has been an important city during the Middle Ages, and it is in fact its medieval past that remains most evident in the historic center . After the bombing of the Second World War, much of the city was rebuilt in a style so practical and modern that it is almost depressing, so common in Sicily. But the old town , which expands to the west with the sea on both sides, the Tyrrhenian Sea on the right and the Mediterranean Sea that opens to the left across the Strait of Sicily, is well worth a visit .
A pleasant walk can be enjoyed thanks to the large pedestrian area that offers travelers the opportunity to admire the old buildings and monuments of the city, such as the ancient medieval fortress La Colombaia , also known as Peliade Tower or Castle of the Sea , located in a small island in the extreme eastern point of the port.
Ancient buildings of all shapes and sizes, some in a state of neglect, others marvelously restored, fill with astonishment the central street of the city, Corso Vittorio Emanuele , which crosses the historical center from east to west.
At the western end of the city, out at the tip of the Trapani peninsula, is an old coastal tower called Torre de Ligny , which was part of the Spanish defenses of the seventeenth century and which now houses a prehistoric museum.
There are many interesting churches to visit in Trapani, including the restored San Lorenzo Cathedral which, despite its later baroque transformation, dates back to the 14th century. The Church of the Souls of Purgatory, very suggestive in its name, is the church that keeps the statues for the famous Easter procession of Trapani during the year. Twenty wooden statues, known as the Mysteries, are carried in procession through the main streets of the city on Good Friday according to an ancient tradition of 400 years and of Spanish origin. The parade is made up of 20 religious groups and this event is considered the second longest lasting religious manifestation in Italy.
A bus trip in the modern part of the city will take you to two more of Trapani’s tourist attractions: the Annunciation Sanctuary and the adjacent Agostino Pepoli Regional Museum.
The sanctuary is a work of art majestically decorated and dedicated to the Virgin of Carmen . Built in 1300 and enlarged in the 18th century, it preserves the precious marble statue of Paros of the Virgin of Trapani, a Virgin with child venerated throughout the Mediterranean.
The museum, located in the old Carmelite convent of the fourteenth century, is one of the most important in Sicily and houses an important collection of decorative arts, sculptures, coral objects (the pieces made with the coral from Trapani are renowned in half the world ), silver, representations of births and an art gallery that includes, among others, Titian’s paintings.
Visiting early in the morning, or checking the schedules before going to these two attractions, is ideal: both are closed for lunch and the museum is closed almost every afternoon. The tourist information office of the city , where you can find information and advice on these and other places, is located in the old town on the Piazzetta Saturno.
In addition to the procession of the Mysteries, the major events in Trapani include concerts and events held during the summer months in the tree-lined Villa Margherita park. More religious processions take place on August 7, on the feast day of the Patron Saint of Trapani, St. Albert, and on August 16, when a fireworks display is celebrated with the Feast of Our Lady of Trapani .
Around Trapani there are many other places of interest, such as the walled medieval city of Erice on the homonymous mountain; Marsala , a city famous for its wines, and the ancient Greek village of Selinunte. One of the best excursions – and an excellent base for a few days – is the archipelago of the three islands off the coast: the Egadi Islands. Two of the islands are easily accessible from Trapani in just half an hour and are excellent places to relax, swim, snorkel, cycle and entertain around.
The market square retains a special beauty for the people of Trapani, and not only for them. Although the sale of fish no longer occurs here, due to the restructuring in 2005 in anticipation of the Copa America, it remains one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in the city.
And finally: the beaches of Trapani. For those looking for a good swim, the area north of the city is ideal, with small towns, villas and nature reserves that extend in a scarce way and the coast that offers a certain number of accesses to the water.
In the area there are two very popular tourist destinations, namely the coastal town of San Vito Lo Capo and, a little further south, Castellammare del Golfo. Both are very well located and take pride in having fabulous sandy beaches.