Trapani: 38°00’47″N 12°31’03″E
Trapani is the main city on the west coast of Sicily. From here ferries ply their way back and forth to the Egadi Islands, filling and emptying them with tourists. Fishing fleets are maintained in the extensive harbour, along with several marinas that serve the sailing public.
An ancient Greek city, Trapani today, like much of Sicily, appears to be in decline. The old quarter is buffeted by rising seas and streets seem largely deserted now the tourists are gone. Our goals were modest: get out of the way of a coming Mistral and following Scirocco, rent a car, and see some of Sicily.
My daughter Emma had plans to join us, until Covid got in the way. To enter Italy she needed an expensive and hard to get at the last minute negative Covid test. She might have gotten the test when she landed, but then there’s the problem of waiting for results and what would happen in the off chance it came back positive. Then there was the question of a 14-day self-quarantine on her return to the UK. First world problems I grant you, but still a pain in the ningles. That means Marlon is our only chaperone.
ERICE: 38°02’17″N 12°35’18″E
Our first stop was the ancient hilltop city of Erice. Mount Erice, 750m, looms over Trapani. At night you can see the straight line of orange lights marking the path of the cable car heading up the hill. Bundled in our little grey Fiat Panda we took the long and winding road up the mountain and parked just at the entrance to town. Cold winds whipped in from the north and rain threatened from the low clouds. At 11:30 in the morning the town was almost empty. Fortunately, the clouds cleared off and things soon warmed up.
Erice was our first opportunity to delve into Sicily’s history a bit. The executive summary is, every famous marauder in Europe tried owning Sicily at some point in history. All left their marks and their DNA on the island. By example, Erice was founded by the Phoenicians, Hellenized by the Greeks, destroyed by the Carthaginians in the First Punic War, conquered by the Aghlabid dynasty of the Abbasid Caliphate in 831, and finally taken by the Normans in 1167. The Goths probably hung out there at some point, too. Tourists have been flocking to the place for the past 300 years. Here are a few of our pics from our walk.
Agrigento: 37°17’23″N 13°35’34″E
Midway along Sicily’s south coast is modern and unattractive Agrigento. The birthplace of Luigi Pirandello, most people go there to see the 2,500 year old remains of Akragas, one of the largest and best preserved of the ancient monuments of greater Greece. For the pedantic, the seven Doric temples that constitute the Valle de Templi are strung along an escarpment, not a valley. A UNESCO world heritage site, the park has the additional benefit of being dog friendly. Very dog friendly. That meant Marlon not only came along for a good 10.5km walk, but met some very handsome local pups, too.
Sicilian dogs, like their owners, come in many shapes and sizes. But the feral ones, those without collars and hovering owners, are large, docile, and seemingly well fed. Marlon, unimpressed, whined whenever one of the younger ones tried playing with him. Foolishly, neither Carol or I took photos of the dogs. But we did take a bunch of pictures of the temples.