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A dive into Sicily, where a sea of art, culture and nature will seduce you and become eternal love

A predominantly hilly and mountainous area, but one that wins the hearts of tourists from all over the world with its wonderful sea and rich cities with a charm all their own. Sicily is a picture-postcard island characterised by the indelible marks of the people who have lived there and made it unique, amidst artistic and cultural testimonies of enormous value.

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Art & Culture

Marsala

Marsala, the town of wine and salt Marsala is the name of a town, and also a wine. Both are elegant and rich in history. The town is enclosed within the ramparts of the 16th century, when it experienced its own Renaissance that enriched it with palaces, churches and monasteries. Wine is the product that made it world-famous, thanks partly to the vision of an English merchant who adapted it to British tastes. In the beautiful old town you can visit the vestiges of its past, as well as the historic wine cellars that uphold the prestige of its finest product, while on the coast salt is produced in the spectacular salt pans. Amid Baroque and nature Those who approach from Porta Nuova are greeted by a string of beautiful Renaissance and Baroque buildings, such as the Monastery of San Pietro, which houses the Civic Museum, with an archaeological section and an area dedicated to the Risorgimento. Garibaldi and the Thousand landed at Marsala to accomplish the feat of the Unification of Italy. A little further on you come to Piazza della Repubblica, Marsala's gathering place, with the beautiful Palazzo VII Aprile with its clock tower and Baroque cathedral - although the façade was not actually completed until 1956. Next door is the Tapestry Museum, where eight Flemish tapestries, a gift from a Spanish king, are on display. A few steps away is the Convento del Carmine, now the Museum of Contemporary Painting, with works by various Italian artists including Cassinari, Maccari, Marchegiani, Pomodoro, Sassu, Sironi, as well as temporary exhibitions. To immerse yourself in Marsala's more ancient past, visit the Baglio Anselmi Archaeological Museum, in the building of a former winery on the seafront. Several artefacts are on display, recounting the foundation of the city (then called Lilybaeum) by exiles from the Phoenician colony on the island of Mothia. Don't miss the wreck of a Punic ship that was probably shipwrecked during the battle of the Egadi Islands in the First Punic War; it is located off the Isola Lunga near Punta Scario. There are also Roman mosaics and an extraordinary collection of amphorae documenting trade in antiquity. The museum visit is completed in the Archaeological Park with the Roman Insula, the site of a large Roman villa from the 3rd century AD with baths, cisterns and the remains of an early Christian necropolis. The bustling hub of Marsala is its central Fish Market, which has recently been renovated. By day, it is the place where the catch from the Stagnone and the Strait of Sicily comes in, and by night, it is the centre of nightlife where you can dine and stay up late. The Marsala wine that pleased the English Wine has always been produced in Marsala, since Phoenician times, but it was towards the end of the 18th century that an English merchant, John Woodhouse, sent a few barrels of local wine to England to be tasted by his customers, adding, however, a dose of brandy so that the wine would not spoil during the voyage. This is how the Marsala we know today was born, a liqueur wine much appreciated by the English who imported it in great quantities from then on, making the fortune of local producers: Florio, Rallo, Donnafugata, Pellegrino, whose historic cellars are still located in the centre of Marsala. The Stagnone Reserve and Mozia The Stagnone Reserve is a lagoon to the north of Marsala, 2,000 hectares of shallow and very salty waters with four islands: the Big Island, which acts as a barrier to the lagoon, the island of Santa Maria, a strip of land, the Schola (meaning “school”), because in Roman times it housed a school of rhetoric, where Cicero is said to have taught when he was quaestor of the city of Lilybaetano, and Mothia (Mozia), an island on which a Phoenician city stood from the 8th century BC, which ancient sources describe as rich in beautiful palaces, one of the most important trading bases in the Mediterranean antiquity. Conquered by Dionysius of Syracuse, Mothia was destroyed in 397 B.C. and never rebuilt, so its ruins are “intact”, with no overlays - a true paradise for archaeologists. The survivors in fact founded Lilybaeum, present-day Marsala. The island of Mozia now belongs to the Whitaker Foundation, an English wine producer which bought it and started excavations in the early 20th century, and it is open for visits. The salt pans of Marsala and the windmills On the coast to the north of the city, overlooking the Stagnone, are the Salt Pans of the Marsala Ettore and Infersa Lagoon, one of the most spectacular places on the west coast of Sicily, with stretches of water that take on different colours depending on the season, against which you can see the outlines of windmills surrounded by mounds of white salt. It is a place that is not only very poetic and picturesque, but also of great historical and environmental interest, structured to give visitors the all-round salt experience: here one can take walks along the salt pans, visit mills that are still in operation, enjoy tastings, manually harvest salt with the salt workers and dive into pools that are not in production, but still fed by the hydraulic circuit, where one can float in salt solutions with different concentrations and lie on the salt crust.
Nature
coast in Lipari Island, Sicily, Italy

Lipari

Lipari the sweet, the most placid of the Aeolian Islands At 37 square kilometres, Lipari is the largest of the Aeolian Islands, a World Heritage Site for anyone who has passed through here and, since 2000, for UNESCO as well. The administrative and economic centre of the entire Sicilian archipelago, it is the least “volcanic” of its 7 islands, as evidenced by the weak hydrothermal and fumarole activity in its western part. Take note, however, it is the one that best harmonises the wild Aeolian charm with the convenience of connections and services. The evening nightlife and the flow authenticity of the quarters The urban area stretches between the bars and restaurants overlooking the beautiful Piazza di Sant'Onofrio, also known as Marina Corta, and Via Francesco Crispi, known as Marina Lunga: in between, from May to October, the local nightlife and movida is focused in the evenings. The rest of the island is well-connected to the centre by a network of paved roads, but if you really want to get into its flow of scents, sounds and sights and savour some of that placid sweetness alluded to by its Greek name, Meligunis, we recommend that you go around Lipari by bike or walk around the island, loitering among the dry stone walls of its districts: Canneto, Acquacalda, Quattropani. Like on a film set As well as beach life, if you are planning to delve into the culture and history of Lipari, the advice is to visit sights and monuments by sunset, when the air is cooler and the streets come alive. A must-see is the Chiostro de normanni, part of the first Benedictine monastery built in Sicily at the behest of King Roger II, so well preserved and evocative that you will feel as if you are on the set of a costume film. Equally scenic is the imposing structure of the castle, a veritable acropolis, which stands on a promontory inhabited since the Neolithic period. The city walls ideally enclose the historic centre: in the fortified citadel, an archaeologist's paradise, every nook and cranny in which you stand tells a page of history: it will be like retracing the long list of dominations that have taken place here, leaving an indelible imprint. To explore further, venture through the fifty rooms of the Regional Archaeological Museum, one of the most prestigious in the Mediterranean. Bartholomew's thumb On the other hand, if you are a fan of relics, make a stop inside the Castle at the Cathedral, dedicated to St Bartholomew, the patron saint of the entire archipelago: the church still houses the saint's “sacred thumb”, the only fragment that mysteriously escaped the 833 abduction of the apostle's body by the Beneventois. Now the finger “rests” in a silver reliquary in the shape of a blessing arm, displayed during festivities in honour of the saint. Belvedere hunting For collectors of views, we recommend feasting your eyes on Lipari's most scenic spots, starting from the Acropolis promontory. Worth a souvenir photo, and perhaps even a romantic selfie between sky and sea, the horizon contemplated from Belvedere Quattrocchi, against the backdrop of the Pietra Lunga and Pietra Menalda stacks. Instead, the view from the church of Madonna della Catena in the hamlet of Quattropani, a small, white-plastered Doric-style sanctuary overhanging the sea, is reminiscent of the Cyclades. Finally, the so-called “Semaforo”, the geophysical observatory housed inside a disused Royal Navy traffic light, is worth a hike, from which you will feel as if you are touching both the stacks and the island of Vulcano with your finger. In the mood for trekking... or rather scekking On the other hand, if you pursue the wild soul of the island, one of the most interesting trekking trails is the rather demanding one that leads from the kaolin quarries to the San Calogero thermal baths, along the sulphur fumaroles, a geo-mineral park, up to the 19th-century thermal baths converted into a museum, built on one of the oldest known thermal springs: next to its pools, dating from the Hellenistic period, is a funeral monument of Mycenaean origin. But the most typical experience you can have along these paths is that of scekking, or trekking on the back of a donkey, scecco in Sicilian, proposed by the environmental guides of Lipari: an original way of redeveloping the island's former tenants for tourism, now promoted as guides for slow itineraries, divided into appetising stages where local products can be tasted. Beaches: to each his own stone White and sandy or volcanic and rocky: the coasts and beaches of Lipari satisfy the needs of every bather. You just have to decide which stone to lie on. The entire north-eastern coastline is covered with the dazzling white sand from the pumice and obsidian quarries that descend to the sea: from White Beach, reached by a steep flight of majolica steps, to White Beach, the most fashionable and exclusive establishment, which can only be reached by sea. If you prefer empty and secluded shores, head to the beaches at Pietraliscia or Porticello, or to the Secca della Forbice, in the Cappero area, much loved by the locals.
Nature

Erice

Erice, city of the goddess Venus One of Sicily's most enchanting locations, Erice is like an eagle's nest from which you can enjoy magnificent views over vast areas of the island as far as the Egadi archipelago and the Tunisian coast. Perched on a cliff 750 metres above sea level, its curious triangular perimeter preserves not only monuments and mediaeval churches of great worth, but also a contemporary art centre and a prestigious scientific institution. Erice is a jewel of art and culture with a thousand-year history, that deserves to be visited at least once in a lifetime. A treasure chest of artistic and archaeological treasures The origins of Erice are very ancient and can be traced back to the Elymian people; it was founded by the union of the local population with Trojan exiles. Beyond the myth of its foundation, Erice was also known to the Romans due to a sanctuary built on a steep cliff, dedicated to the worship of the Greek goddess Aphrodite and the Roman goddess of fertility and love, Venus Ericina, where sacred prostitution was practised. To erase that pagan symbol, a thousand years later, the Norman princes of Altavilla had a manor built, which is still called the Castle of Venus: inside, you can visit an exhibition of archaeological finds from the Archaic to the Norman age. From the castle, through the Balio garden, one enters the elegant mediaeval old town with its carpet-like stone pavement and narrow alleyways, because space within the walls has always been scarce. Here, you must see the church of San Giovanni Battista with its round dome and Norman Gothic portal, the Antonino Cordici museum in the former convent of San Francesco where, among the finds from the Erice necropolis, a head of Aphrodite from the 4th century BC is on display; and the museum of contemporary art La Salerniana in the former convent of San Carlo. Continuing towards Piazza Umberto you will find the Centro per la Cultura Scientifica Majorana (Majorana Centre for Scientific Culture) in the former monastery of San Pietro, which hosts symposia and conferences on various scientific disciplines every year. Towards Porta Trapani is the elegant Piazza Matrice with the 14th-century Cathedral of Erice, with a Gothic pronaos and portal and, inside, majestic naves with pointed arches. The nine Greek marble crosses on the south wall were hung in 1685 and also come from the temple of Venus, whose cult is believed to have been still practised at that time. Beyond the Porta del Carmine along Via dell'Addolorata you come to the so-called Quartiere Spagnolo, which is not a real quarter but a building, that was supposed to house Spanish troops but remained unfinished. Today it is home to permanent exhibitions on Erice and the territory. The view from its terrace will leave you breathless. Trekking on Mount Erice The amenity of the place is such that you will yearn to explore the territory of Mount Erice. To do so, there are the Agro Ericino trails, various trekking routes that start mostly from the arrival of the funicular railway from Trapani to cross the state forest, or to discover the three rock churches scattered around the mountain. Above Erice, there is also a CAI (Club Alpino Italiano - Italian Alpine Club) hut, to explore the area and also go to Mount Cofano and San Vito Lo Capo. Genovesi and martorana fruit: discovering traditional sweets If you have worked up an appetite on your walk, there is no shortage of patisseries in Erice. The town has a strong tradition of sweets whose recipes are said to have been handed down by the nuns of the cloistered monasteries of Erice. The most typical are the genovese, a shortcrust pastry morsel filled with cream that is eaten while still warm; mustazzoli, aromatic biscuits made of hard, crunchy pastry; ripostetti, filled with citron conserve and decorated with pastel-coloured icing; almond morsels, quaresimali and martorana fruit. The most renowned pastry shops are those of Maria Grammatico, which also organise cooking classes, and San Carlo, both in the old city centre. The desserts are well matched with a glass of sweet Marsala from the vineyards grown just below Mount Erice.
Region

island of eternal summer, culture and archaeology

A dive into Sicily, where a sea of art, culture and nature will seduce you and become eternal love. A predominantly hilly and mountainous area, but one that wins the hearts of tourists from all over the world with its wonderful sea and rich cities with a charm all their own. Sicily is a picture-postcard island characterised by the indelible marks of the people who have lived there and made it unique, amidst artistic and cultural testimonies of enormous value.

 

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