Among the Sicilian cities that deserve to be visited there is certainly Trapani, a historic commercial port that also contains history, art and naturalistic beauties. Let’s find out in more detail what this city offers.
Origins of the town
Since it was founded – it is said, by the people of the Elmi -, Trapani has assumed the role of city-emporium due to its strategic geographical position. Between the ninth and eighth centuries it allied with Carthage, also being the site of the battle in which the Carthaginians defeated the Romans (in 249 BC). Later, however, the Romans conquered the city and called it Depranum. Having been one of Carthage’s most faithful allies during the Punic wars, Trapani returned to the censors and went through a period of decline.
The periods passed under the domination of the Vandals and the Byzantines were no better, while with the advent of the Arabs and then the Normans Trapani experienced a period of great development. In particular, its port became one of the most important in the Mediterranean.
After being under the dominion of the Angevins, in 1282 it passed to the Aragonese becoming – between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries – the most important economic and political center of western Sicily. Its greatness was also recognized by Charles V who, when he arrived in the city in 1535, called it the “Key of the Kingdom”.
The following centuries were of decline for the city which, after the brief periods of Savoy and Austrian control, passed under the Bourbon kingdom from the second half of the 18th century. A period in which Trapani grew in terms of urban planning and commerce. In the 1900s the Sicilian city developed a lot in the early years, and then played an important strategic role during the Second World War.
Places to visit in Trapani
Among the buildings of greatest interest that the city of Trapani offers is the Colombaia, a medieval fortress – but of much older origins – located on a small island at the western end of the city’s port. Built in the period of the First Punic War, it was abandoned after the conquest of Trapani by the Romans. Later it was used as a lighthouse by the Arabs, rebuilt by the Aragonese and enlarged under the reign of Charles V to defend the city from the barbarian invasions.
There is no shortage of religious buildings, among which the basilica sanctuary of Maria Santissima Annunziata stands out. It is a church dating back to 1300 which, in addition to its aesthetic beauty both exterior and interior, preserves inside the marble statue of the Madonna of Trapani (venerated throughout the Mediterranean area).
Another interesting building is the Torre di Ligny, an ancient coastal tower erected in 1671 to spot the Barbary pirates. It currently houses the civic museum, which boasts collections of objects found in the area and of prehistoric, Greek, Roman and Punic origin.
What you can do during your stay
To fully immerse yourself in the traditions of Trapani, it is advisable to take a tour of the salt museum. It is located in a baglio, an old 17th century farm-fortress with an adjoining mill, in the Trapani municipality of Paceco. The museum allows you to know how the extraction of this mineral has changed over the years, which is an integral part of the Trapani culture. Once the visit to the museum is over, there is the opportunity to walk inside a real salt pan.
For those who want to immerse themselves in the most uncontaminated nature, the right solution is to visit the oriented nature reserve of the Saline di Trapani and Paceco (protected natural area established in 1995). This environment, at the level of flora, mostly hosts herbaceous and shrub species. As a fauna, however, this reserve boasts 208 different species of birds. Also present is Artemia salina, a particular type of crustacean.
Beaches of the coast of Trapani
Most of the Trapani beaches are not located near the city, but are part of the municipalities linked to it. Among the most famous is that of San Giuliano. With its sandy coast and shallow seabed, it is also ideal for families with small children. Another well-known is that of San Vito Lo Capo, with spectacular and very inviting backdrops for diving enthusiasts.
Many Trapani beaches are sandy, like the one mentioned above. For those who have different preferences, the Cornino Bay, at the foot of Monte Cofano, alternating sandy areas with others dominated by rocks, can be interesting.
Trapani offers typical dishes of Sicilian cuisine, such as the famous arancine or the aubergine caponata. Speaking more specifically of Trapani cuisine, we find the busiate (a form of pasta typical of the area) with Trapani pesto (prepared with oil, basil, tomato, almonds, pecorino cheese and red garlic).
Furthermore, due to the great tradition of this type of fishing, many dishes in the area are based on tuna.
To taste these and other dishes, both from Trapani and more generally from Sicilian and Mediterranean cuisine, some recommended restaurants are: Antica Trattoria Diegolina, Tentazioni di Gusto, FronteVilla and La Pepida da Gianni.
How to come
If you want to reach Trapani starting from Palermo, you can do so by car taking the A29 motorway towards Mazara del Vallo.
Alternatively Trapani can be reached from Palermo through direct bus and train lines. If you arrive at Trapani airport, you can take the shuttle bus to get to the city center. Finally, there is also the ferry option as it is a port city.