Stagnone Natural Reserve
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La Riserva Naturale dello Stagnone
Mothia was an ancient Phoenician city located on the island of San Pantaleo and extends over 40 hectares within the reserve of Isole dello Stagnone. It was destroyed by Dionysius of Syracuse, then reclaimed by the Carthaginians and later by the Romans. In the eleventh century it was ceded by the Normans to the Basilian monks of Palermo who renamed it San Pantaleo. But it wasn’t until 1906 that the first excavations began, promoted by Joseph Whitaker, British archaeologist, who bought the island and created the “Whitaker Foundation” in order to bring to light the remains of ancient Phoenician civilization.
The archaic necropolis, the Phoenician-Punic sanctuary of the Cappiddazzu, the House of the mosaics, the Tophet and the areas of South Gate, North Gate and the Casermetta were discovered. The Foundation is home of the Museum with the main findings and the famous marble statue of the charioteer of Mozia.
In ancient times, there was a road connecting the mainland to the island. Today, this road is submerged by the rising water and debris, but navigating inside the lagoon you can spot the boulders of the old road.
It is possible to visit the island and the museum in one day using the Saline Infersa Imbarcadero (Mozia Line, where the Bar Mamma Caura is located) . They organise the round trip to the island of Mothia, the long island and the panoramic excursion of the entire Lagoon of the Stagnone.
THE SALTPANS AND THE SALT ROUTE
The saltpans are located along the road that leads from Trapani to Marsala. These are water ponds divided by narrow strips of land which form an irregular and multicoloured checkerboard surrounded by piles of salt and canals. In the center of the saltpans is a picturesque windmill. This was once used to pump water and grind the salt.
The lagoon is characterized by high temperatures and is beaten by gale force winds, which allow the evaporation of the water in these special shallow ponds resulting in extraction of salt which occurs today.
The show is even more impressive in the summer, at the time of harvesting, when the rosy tints of the water in the various ponds intensify and the innermost ones, now dried up, shine in the sun.
Follow the road along the Lagoon until you reach the old Saline di Ettore Infersa and Genna. Visit the salt Museum (open every day from 9.00 a.m to 8.00 p.m) located inside the mill of Ettore Infersa. Enjoy the sunset overlooking the salt flats with a glass of Marsala at Mamma Caura. Visit Isola Lunga and go to the pans to the take a regenerating bath or just lie on the dunes of salt.
DURATION: 1-2 hours
The natural reserve of the Egadi Islands is an archipelago formed by the islands of Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo and several other minor ones (Islands of Maraone, Formica, Islands of the Stagnone, Galera, di Galeotta, di Prevetto e Faraglione) and is the largest marine protected area in Europe.
Here you will find a wild and untouched nature, crystal clear waters full of fish, rugged coasts, steep cliffs and natural caves, white beaches full of traces of ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean, which used the Islands as bases for trade, military use and lookout points.
The Islands and their unique ecosystems host a Mediterranean scrub which is characterized by a unique flora and fauna and large variety of permanent and migratory birds, since it is on the main migration route of Europe-Africa.
There are daily ferries from Trapani and Marsala that take you to the islands of Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo and once you arrive it is possible to rent bikes or scooters to go around the island.
Favignana is the closest island and also the easiest to visit, instead Marettimo is the farthest and wildest and touring is mainly on foot, following paths with breathtaking views.
If you are a group, from the beach of San Teodoro, you can rent a boat with skipper for the day, thus reaching the coves by sea and visiting the most hidden places of the Islands.
DURATION: daily tour
Erice is an enchanting village with breathtaking landscapes and famous for its sweets and typical ceramics. According to historians, it was founded by Trojan exiles, and along with Segesta, Erice was the most important town and the religious capital of the Elymians. During the First Punic War, the Carthaginian general Amilcare fortified the town and transferred part of the population to the valley (hence the establishment of Drepanum, known today as Trapani). In Roman times the goddess Venus Ericina was venerated. She was the first Roman mythological goddess who also resembled the Greek goddess Aphrodite.
The temple of Venus was a point of reference for sailors and pilgrims. They were led into the Mediterranean by the sacred fire that the maids of the goddess kept burning. On the remains of that temple the Castello di Venere was built in the twelfth century. The Castello di Venere, a charming Norman construction, is today one of the symbols of Erice.
The splendid Church called Matrice and other numerous churches, the small square, the paved streets and the artisan shops, contribute to create a magical atmosphere and immerse the visitor into the Middle Ages.
Today Erice is also known for its handcrafts and gastronomic tradition: Erice pottery, carpets made on old looms, almond and Genoese sweets, prepared according to traditional customs.
The city of Erice is not very large, but requires a rather long visit. Take some time to walk through the narrow streets, visit the castle and taste local sweets.
At sunset, you can watch the sun disappear into the sea in front of Trapani, a warm and colourful panorama.
DURATION: 2-4 hours
RISERVA DELLO ZINGARO
In the stretch of coast from San Vito lo Capo in Castellammare del Golfo, extends the Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro (the first established in 1981 by the region of Sicily), a varied landscape – high cliffs that plunge into the blue and eroded coves toward the sea. The sea here turns to unexpected shades of green and blue and sharp rocks separate the different beaches.
You will be surrounded by a natural wild environment, with paths that wind between clumps of small palm trees and Rosemary shrubs, caves that open suddenly and Caribbean bays paved by white pebbles. Here you will find old farmhouses built on the rocks, and colours and fragrances which all mix together , create a fascinating atmosphere.
The reserve must be visited on foot (there are no roads for cars) because nothing must disturb the native wildlife and the forty species of birds that nest here.
Everyone can walk here, there are three routes: the first runs along the coast by a path and is the least challenging, the second, a little more strenuous, proceeds zig zagging the coast and peaks, while the third is the most difficult crossing the reserve from top to bottom. Along the paths you can even stay overnight in restored old farmhouses.
To admire the beauty of the reserve from the sea, you can hire a dinghy or choose a cruise departing from San Vito lo Capo or Scopello. It is possible to visit the 5 small museums which are located in the reserve (Natural History museum, Museum of maritime activities, Museum of rural life, Museum of Manna and Weaving Museum)
DURATION: half day
SAN VITO LO CAPO
San Vito overlooks the sea and enjoys white sandy beaches and waters with Caribbean charm. The village is nestled between the rocky wall of the Piana dell’Egitto and the high promontory of Monte Monaco, from which you can see unforgettable panoramas. There are many points of interest that undoubtedly deserve more than a few hours of visits:
- The Beach – Almost 3 km long and awarded several times with the Blue Flag, the long white sand beach is also fascinating due to its position, at the foot of the splendid Monte Monaco promontory.
- The Sanctuary – In the heart of San Vito the Sanctuary-Fortress stands majestically. Built around the small chapel dedicated to San Vito martyr, this building was originally a defense by the faithful from pirate raids that were very frequent at the time; today it preserves inside a small but precious Museum of Sacred Furniture.
- Chapel of Santa Crescenzia – Small chapel in Moorish style erected in honor of Crescenzia, nurse of San Vito. Legend has it that, in this place, she died of fright, after turning to take a last look at her village, Conturrana, which collapsed under an avalanche. The district, in fact, takes the name of Valanga. Not far from here, on the edge of a rocky wall, one can see an ancient tower, the Torre dell’Isulidda, one of the many Sicilian watchtowers.
- The Lighthouse – Operating since the 1st August 1959 and wanted by the Bourbons to make the fatigue of passing boats safer. Fate gives a certain charm to the bay is certainly one of the most characteristic symbols of San Vito Lo Capo. A walk under the tower, 43 meters high, is a must and also very romantic.
For those who love to explore solitary beaches, away from the crowd, must go to the Bay of Santa Margherita (10 minutes drive from the village); not to be missed is a visit to the ancient Tonnara del Secco and the splendid Riserva dello Zingaro, also with boat trips, with daily departures from the port of San Vito.
DURATION: half day
SEGESTA AND THERMAL SPA
Segesta is a historical city which is situated in the municipality of Monte Bàrbaro – in the Township of Calatafimi-Segesta, about ten kilometers from Alcamo and Castellammare del Golfo.
The Greek historian Thucydides recounts that Trojan refugees, crossing the Mediterranean, came to Sicily, where they founded Segesta and Erice. These refugees took the name of Elymians . They maintained relationships with neighbouring civilizations, but always maintaining autonomy that led them to oppose the Greeks and form an alliance with the Punics and later with Rome. Segesta soon became a powerful city that had a conflictual relationship with Selinunte, perhaps also because of the contradictory geographical positions. It was for this political-military position that it almost always had friendly relations with the Punics.
But, very wisely, sensing the growth of the Roman power, it soon passed on the side of the Romans, in 260 BC. It was thanks to this political move, and in the name of common origins, that the Romans decided to exempt them paying taxes and also gave them some political autonomy and territorial control.
The most significant places of interest of Segesta are the theatre, the temple and the sanctuary of Contrada Mango. They are obviously places of worship, performance and politics. Other interesting parts of the city are the surrounding walls – with the hinged door (Porta di Valle), some residential areas, monuments of medieval era ( the walls, Castle, Mosque and upper village) The temple is still occasionally used for theatrical performances. A short distance from the beautiful Temple you can visit to the baths, located at Ponte Bagni. The Trojans would have chosen this area for the construction of the city for the warm waters of its territory. Here there are a few pools of sulphurous hot water with a temperature that is around 46-47 °, which emerge directly from the Warm River , in small sheltered coves where it is pleasant to take hot baths. The area is covered with tamarisks and reeds and is surrounded by cliffs of white and rose rock streaked with travertine deposits. On the bed of the stream there are blocks of rock, fallen centuries ago, that have created small beautiful waterfalls.
The presence of very permeable rocks in the area allows the waters of meteoric origin to be absorbed in depth; here, the proximity of the magma warms the thermal waters that rise to the surface in several points along the course of the Warm River.
The landscape that surrounds Segesta and the medieval village of Calatafimi is a perfect place to go hiking, horseback-riding or mountain biking. The magnificent view from here goes from Mount Sparagio to Mount Inici, up to the wonderful Gulf of Castellammare. To admire the archaeological site we recommend to start from the temple, still intact, continue to the theatre of the 2nd century BC, along with the remains of a classical building and a Hellenistic bouleterion. A porch, a paved courtyard and Colonnade mark the access to what was once the Agora in Hellenistic and Roman times. Near the theatre are the remains of a village of the Muslim period and Norman and Swabian settlements, with a castle. In the Contrada Mango you can also visit the remains of a sanctuary dating back to the VI-V centuries BC.
A visit to the Polle del Crimiso is an excellent opportunity to take thermal baths without spending a euro, since the area is free and does not present dangers for those who decide to spend a day outdoors (for the night it is advisable to bring torches).
DURATION: 6 hours
Selinunte was an ancient Greek city located on the south-west coast of Sicily in the municipality of Castelvetrano; today it is the largest archaeological park in Europe. It is situated on a high plain about 30 metres a.s.l., Selinunte takes its name from the Selinon, the celery that still grows wild, and became the symbol of the city’s coin. Selinunte was the westernmost Greek colony of Sicily, in direct contact with the area occupied by the Carthaginians. Its history was conditioned by this border position, until the problem was resolved with the Roman conquest of Sicily. The archaeological area of Selinunte consists of the Acropolis, the Eastern Hill, the Contrada Manuzza plateau, the Malophoros sanctuary in the Contrada Gaggera and two Necropolises (Manicalunga and Galera Bagliazzo). All the materials to build the temples were extracted from the quarries of Cusa. Many buildings have been ruined due to earthquakes which occurred in medieval times. Reconstruction has permitted to rebuild the temple almost completely (the Temple of Hera), and to raise a long part of the wall of Temple C. The majority of the sculptures found on the site of Selinunte are in the National Archaeological Museum of Palermo. The exception is the most famous work, the Efebo di Selinunte, which is now on exhibit at the Museo Civico di Castelvetrano.
There is parking at the archaeological site and there is also the possibility to park in the area near the ticket office. There are ample places to park and you can walk around inside the site. We recommend comfortable shoes and a camera to capture the beauty of the ancient ruins.
- The temples of East Hill (approx. distance: 400 m, time 40 min.)
- The temples of the Acropolis (approx. distance: 2.5 km, time 1:30 h)
- East Hill, the Acropolis, Malophoros and Collina della Manuzza (approx. distance: 5.5 km, time 4:00 h)
PELLEGRINO CELLARS AND MARSALA TASTING
The Historic Cellars of Carlo Pellegrino & Co. Spa were founded in the center of the city of Marsala. in 1880 by Paolo Pellegrino, and specialise in the production of table wines, dessert wines (passito di Pantelleria) and Marsala wine. The Pellegrino family has always personally managed the activities in the vineyard and in the cellar, and even today, the seventh generation, is daily involved in business management. A long family history made of respect, care, love and dedication to values handed down from father to son, make it today one of the greatest families of Sicilian wine.
The Phoenicians introduced the vine cultivation in these territories between the 8th and 7th centuries BC. This area is the cradle of the native Sicilian grapevines: Grillo, Inzolia, Catarratto, Grecanico, Zibibbo, Malvasia, Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese e Frappato, vines which have always been used for the production of great wines.
In the cellars of Marsala and Pantelleria and in the Overtoure of Marsala various wine and food tourism is proposed, as well as guided tastings and cultural itineraries linked to the splendid territory.
DURATION: 1-2 hours
Marsala (Maissala in the local dialect) is famous for the landing of Garibaldi and the Thousand soldiers, on 11 May 1860, and for the production of Marsala wine, for which, since 1987, it is known as the City of Wine. It stands on the ruins of the ancient Punic city of Lilibeo and is located on the Capo Boeo della Trinacria. The origin of Lilybaeum dates back to 397 BC by the Phoenicians of Mozia. It then passed under the rule of the Romans in 241 BC and became one of the most important centers of the Mediterranean. With the end of the Roman empire the city, conquered by the Arabs, was rebuilt and was given the name Marsa-Ali (Port of Alì), from which it derives its current name.
The economic and demographic growth led to important urban development, based on the Arab model. From the end of the eleventh century the Norman, Swabian, Angevin and Spanish dominations followed . At the end of the eighteenth century it was the arrival of an Englishman, John Woodhouse, who “invented” Marsala wine.
Marsala and its territory represent an indispensable starting point in the context of the Mediterranean civilization . Myths and legends, heroes, people, great philosophers, artists and writers have ventured into this territory.
The list below shows the main attarctions of the city:
- Visit the historic center, the heart of the city. Today if you go to Piazza della Repubblica (Piazza Loggia) you will have the chance to admire two of the four remaining gates: Porta Garibaldi (Portamare) and Porta Nuova; from there you can start the journey to visit the historic center (entirely pedestrian area) ; the Duomo, the beautiful Purgatory square with the Baroque fountain and the Purgatory church, the archaeological findings of the old Lilybeo, the Flemish Tapestries museum, the Palazzo and the Municipal Art Gallery and finally the market, an example of the presence of the Arabs evident through the architecture. The Old Market hosts the fishermen selling their freshly caught fish and in the evening it becomes a meeting point with many bars and pubs.
- Visit the archaeological area of Capo Boeo, of the Roman imperial era which rises above a freshwater spring: Grotta della Sibilla Lilibetana; This ancient place of worship, inspired to the worshipping of water became a baptismal and was identified as the dwelling of Sibilla Sicula, a destination for pilgrimage and of prophecy.
- Visit the historic wineries (Cantine Florio and Cantine Pellegrino)
- Take a walk on the Lungomare Boreo and visit the beaches around the town (Lido Signorino)
- Don’t forget to try the traditional local dishes of Marsala: Cous Cous served with fish, pasta with sea urchin (if you don’t find it on the menu, you have to ask), baked pasta, sandwich with panelle, cunzato bread, rianata, and arancine ,the brioscia filled with ice cream, lemon granita, and cassata for dessert.
DURATION: daily tour