Thursday 20th October 2016 7am – Aegean Odyssey delivered us to Trapani, a city on the west coast of Sicily housing a population of approximately 70,000 people. This was our base for an excursion to the small town of Erice.
We were docked right next to Piazza Garibaldi in Trapani.
Giuseppe Garibaldi is celebrated in Sicily for liberating the island from the Bourbons (French) in the 1860s and for his part in the unification of Italy.
Our destination, Erice, can be seen in the background on the mountain (in the centre of the above photo).
On the way to Erice we stopped at a windmill that was used to drain water from the salt pans. We were told that while this area still produces salt it is no longer economically competative for large scale comercial harvesting.
From there we headed up the mountain to Erice, 751 meters above sea level.
According to the “locals” I spoke to, Erice is pronounced “e-reach-ay” with emphasis on “reach”.
A prehistoric village on this mountain was founded by the Sicans (who arrived on the island around 6000 BC), Sicans are thought to be the first people to inhabit what we now know as Sicily. Then came the Elymians to Sicily and this site. They recognised the strategic value of the location and constructed various fortifications.
It is difficult to determine how many people now live in the small town of Erice. While the website citypopulation.de states just under 28,000 (2016 census), Wikipedia indicates a population of over 28,000. However I believe both are referring to the “Commune of Erice”, which extends down to the sea. A realistic population figure for the mountain top town is around 560 people (http://italy.places-in-the-world.com).
But what do they all do? There is no obvious agricultural activity in the town, nor are there large resorts to support tourism. Perhaps Erice’s close proximity to Trapani means its people can find work and produce there? However, tourism obviously plays an important role in the life of this town during the warmer months.
The cobblestones shown above are a feature of Erice’s streets.
Maggie is standing near the Pepoli Castle
The Torretta Pepoli is a small villa/castle built in 1870 by count Agostino Pepoli on the slopes of Monte Erice, below Torri Pepoli. It was restored and reopened in July 2014 July.
Captain Andersson is reporting to the passengers of Aegean Odyssey that he rode his bike to Erice. We wondered if he, just might have, slipped into the cable car for a part of the journey? Although, he is obviously a fit man.
I read this note about Erice, “one does not visit Erice for the sights, one visits just to be there”.
Via Vittorio Emanuele is the busiest street in town, “crowded in” by cafes and restaurants with alfresco dinning, souvenir displays, tourists and delivery vehicles.
We purchased glazed ceramic house numbers here.
The locals in Erice were welcoming and the atmosphere relaxed. I felt I could stay a few days and soak in what it means “just to be there”.
Coming soon: Our next destination is Cartagena in Spain. I hope you join us to read more of our “Voyage to Antiquity”.