Castelvetrano: journey to the “City of Olives and Temples”
If you want to immerse yourself in the most ancient history during your stay in Sicily, Castelvetrano can be a highly recommended destination. An area in the province of Trapani that, more than others, allows you to travel back in time and discover some of the first important settlements that were in Sicily.
The origins and the first settlements
The first evidence of human presence in Castelvetrano dates back to the Paleolithic, with traces of a village that housed prehistoric huts. Other more modern finds belong to the Bronze Age and correspond to bell-shaped tombs and glasses. The real turning point in the history of this town takes place, according to what the historian Diodorus Siculus tells us, in 650 BC: the year in which the Greek colonists arrived. Here they founded Selinunte, which reached its maximum splendor between the sixth and fifth centuries BC. and expanded to 100,000 inhabitants.
Later the Carthaginians arrived in Sicily and conquered the city, which then passed under the control of the Syracusan commander Hermocrates. The city then experienced a new dominion by the Carthaginians and, after the First Punic War, it was annexed to the Roman territories.
A second important turning point took place in 1130, with the conquest by the Normans who actually gave life to the city today. The name Castelvetrano comes from Castrum Vetranum, used before the founding of the city probably to indicate the intersection between two streets present in it.
In 1500 Castelvetrano experienced the period of Spanish domination, passing to the rank of county and being enriched with public works and monuments. The following century was very difficult for this area which, on the other hand, played an important role during the Risorgimento. Some of its inhabitants, including Giovanni Pantaleo, followed Garibaldi in the expedition of the thousand.
Time travel: what to see
Castelvetrano hosts several very interesting buildings to visit. Among these is the Selinuntino Civic Museum which, although not large in size, houses significant evidence of the presence of the Greeks in Sicily. mong the various works preserved, the statue of Efebo stands out: made of bronze, dating back to the 5th century BC. and coming from the Selinunte area.
Obviously there are also religious buildings in this town, such as the Mother Church of Castelvetrano. We are talking about one of the most important monuments of the city, which inside houses works of art and decorations that date back to the 17th and 18th centuries.
Also very interesting is the church of San Domenico, built in late Gothic style and which represents the mausoleum of the Aragona-Tavaglia family. Another historic building in the city is the Bellumvedere Castle: built as a hunting residence for Emperor Frederick II of Swabia and – after so many years in which he had no particular attention – restored in 2004 by three architects from Trapani.
Visit to the Archaeological Park of Selinunte
Among the highly recommended activities once you arrive in Castelvetrano, there is a visit to Selinunte. This is the largest archaeological park in Europe, which stands right next to the ancient Greek city. The park is divided into seven areas: the Acropolis, the Manuzza Hill, the Eastern Hill, the Gaggera Hill, the Craft District, the Byzantine Baptistery and the Cusa Quarries. Much of the original city has been destroyed, but it still remains a park full of history and still has buildings that have been preserved or rebuilt. Among these is Temple E, also known as the Temple of Era.
If you prefer some naturalistic attractions to history, then we recommend the Mouth of the Belice River Nature Reserve and neighboring dunes. It is located between the municipalities of Castelvetrano and Menfi and is home to a wide range of flora and fauna species.
Among the flora present we can mention the sea lily, the rush, the bunting and the acacia. In terms of fauna, on the other hand, there are many birds such as the gray heron, the coot and the refectory.
What and where to eat
Castelvetrano is also known as the “city of olive trees and temples”: a qualification which, for the first part, is due to the cultivation of the Nocellara del Belice variety. This type of olive contributes to the production of Belicino, a typical Sicilian cheese produced in Castelvetrano and in other neighboring municipalities. Another specialty of the area is black bread, to be enjoyed alone or together with dishes such as ricotta meatballs with tomato sauce or local cheeses and meats.
To taste these and other typical dishes of the area (as well as others more generally of the Sicilian tradition), some of the best restaurants in terms of value for money are: Case di Latomie, Dimina and Baglio Vecchio.
How to come
To reach Castelvetrano you can choose to use the car, train or bus. Opting for the car (starting for example from Trapani), take the A29 motorway towards Mazara del Vallo and take the exit for Castelvetrano. Taking advantage of the Castelvetrano station, well connected with the rest of Sicily, it is possible to reach the desired destination by train. The third option is represented by the bus, with various lines that allow you to get to the town of Trapani.