Trapani and its surroundings

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Trapani and its surroundings: bagli, sea and salt mines

North-Western Sicily: a mosaic of sun and gold, green brush strokes and the blue sea along the coastline. Between Alcamo and Trapani, in the hinterland, rocky hills and moon landscapes frame the wide plane that stretches towards the sea up to Marsala. The Gulf of Castellamare whose harbour still shows the remains of a Saracen castle looks like a half-moon. In the same Gulf there is Scopello, a tiny village built around a “baglio” – a traditional Sicilian rural construction surrounded by the walls that looks out on a wide internal courtyard that dominates the underlying “tonnara” (tuna fishery). The group of white houses and the paved streets remind the Italian black and white comedies from the ‘50s.

From Scopello you can reach the natural reserve of the Zingaro, the first protected area of Sicily, the shelter of the famous Bonelli’s eagle as well as other forty different types of birds and seven-hundred types of Mediterranean plants. Carob trees and euphorbia stains cover the hills’ sides and a number of hidden coves offer the magic of suspended time. In the reserve of Zingaro the traces being left by human beings are important too such as the cave of Uzzo, the tower of Impiso and the Tonnarella. The beach of San Vito lo Capo is long and sandy and it is surrounded by rocky uplands and each year it is the protagonist of the International “Cous Cous Fest” in September. San Vito Lo Capo, featured by its clear sea was an important sea centre even in the Roman Era as it is witnessed by the remains of the fish-cultivation tanks that were found near the “tonnara”.

Now let’s reach Trapani, laying on a stretch of land that has the shape of a sickle towards the sea, featured by its streets full of Baroque buildings and huge churches. The church of Purgatorio stands out, it keeps the so-called Mysteries of Trapani: twenty wooden sculptures dating back to the XVIIIth century with the characters that are naturally sized and represent the histories of the passion of Christ that have been shown during the Easter procession on the Holy Friday for more than 400 years, it is the most important and felt procession in Sicily. The Trapani harbour is protected by the mythical Mount Erice, 750 metres on the sea level: it can be reached by the cable way, it is a medieval village full of magnetism and offers an amazing view on the underlying valley and the sea. Virgilio compared Erice to the Mount Athos because of its height and the spiritual importance of the place since it keeps a magic atmosphere nowadays too thanks to its narrow streets, votive recesses and secret courtyards”.

Towards the South, the endless flat salt mines that stretch out are featured by white small hills of raw salt and the windmills while the islands and the cliffs stand out. The landscape is charming and the old buildings used for the industry of salt are important too. The visit is a journey through the tanks, the canals, the mills, the ancient “bagli” and if you walk along the banks, you’ll hear the sounds of the sea waves, of the wind and the call of the seagulls. From the salt let’s move on to the wine, in the South of Trapani – in Marsala, very well known for the production of its precious dessert wine – started at the end of the XVIIIth century by the English John Woodhouse – and for the historical landing of Garibaldi and his Thousand Men in 1860. .

Luciana Francesca Rebonato

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