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Sicily Guide > Trapani province

ERICE

On the top of Mount San Giuliano, among the silent clouds lies the town of Erice, overlooking Trapani from a superb scenic location. It is a singular synthesis of myth and history, art and culture, landscape and environment, fantasy and reality. Its origins are very old, it would seem to have been founded by the mythical Erice, the son of Venus and Butex, who became king of Elyms, an ancient mountain people who settled the nearby Segesta. Erice is a town of exceptional historical and artistic interest. Its chief features are its paved streets, its particular town planning, created by the practical needs of the population who had to live in a narrow triangular shaped sloping territory. Its torturous narrow streets, its even narrower alleys (so narrow that only one man at a time can pass through), had to protect the town from strong winds and from its enemies.

Erice was inhabited by the Elymians, who erected a temple dedicated to the worship of the goodness of fecundity and love. Successive invaders used this building to adore their own divinities: Tanit-Astarte for the Phoenicians, Aphrodite for the Greeks and Venus Erycina for the Romans. On the ruins of the temple stands the Castello di Venere, fortified during the Norman rule. Next to it there are the Giardini del Balio, overlooked by medieval tower.
The town is surrounded by cyclopean walls of Elymian origin (8th century BC), at whose corners stands the Norman castle, the Spanish quarter and the cathedral (dated 1314), which has maintained its original 12th century Gothic style in the bell tower and the delicate mullioned windows.
In Erice there are more than 60 churches, including those of San Martino, San Cataldo, San Giuliano and San Giovanni Battista, which every summer resound with medieval music.
The Cordici Museum in Piazza Umberto I is well worth a visit: in the hall there is a painting by Antonello Gagini, the “Annunciation”.
Erice has fully maintained the fascinating atmosphere of an old medieval village, with its narrow cobbled streets, the small squares, the tiny flower-filled courtyards, rich handicraft comprising ceramics, confectionery and colourful hand-woven rugs.

The Boundary Walls & Medieval Gates
The boundary walls defended the town in the north-western side, the only one entrance accessible to enemy attacks. Other entrances to the town were naturally defended by rocky cliffs. Today, the walls still stretches for 700 meters and are clearly visible as you approach Trapani. Also, three mediaeval gates still stand: Porta di Trapani, Porta del Carmine and Porta Spada.




The Duomo & the Bell-Tower

In front of Porta Trapani, an imposing bell-tower rises with two orders of gothic mullioned windows and it is crowned by merlons. It supposes that the bell-tower originally has been used as a watch-tower.
The Duomo was built in 1314, principally using stones taken from the ancient Temple of Venus. The façade is graced with a fine rose-window (replicating the original), that is now partly concealed by the Gothic porch that was added a century later. The interior was redone in the 19th c. in the manner of the Neo-Gothic revival.



Castle di Venere
The Norman castle is situated on an isolated cliff and it was built between 12th and 13th century, right on the remains of an ancient sanctuary dedicated to the goddess. In ancient times the castle was connected to the lower floor of the towers by a drawbridge, then substituted by the flight of steps. In the main portal there is the coat of arms belonging to the Habsburgs of Spain. It witnesses the later Spanish domination.

Opening hours:
January 1st - the last Sunday of March / weekdays phone booking; Saturday and holidays from 10:00 to 16:00

Last Sunday of March - May 31st / every day from 10:00 to 18:00
June 1st to July 14th / every day 10:00 to 19:00
July 15th - September 14th /  every day from 10:00 to 20:00
September 15th - the last Sunday of October /  every day from 10:00 to 19:00
Last Sunday of October to December 31st / weekdays phone booking; Saturday and holydays from 10:00 to 16:00

Info: 366 6712832

Balio Towers and Balio Garden
The towers were originally Norman, characterised by strong turreted walls but were partially rebuilt between 1875 and 1885 by Count
Agostino Pepoli, a famous Trapani’s patron. The towers are accessible from the 18th century English style garden, known as the Balio Garden, which extends over much of the area of the antique acropolis.






Spanish quarter
The Spanish quarter stands on a cape facing the Monte Cofano . It’s a massive, square construction destined for the Spanish troops (XVII century), and never finished.

SHORT FACTS

Erice: enchanting medieval village
Area: 47 km²
Elevation: 751 m  
Population: 28 880
Population name: Ericini
Dialling code: 0923
Zip Code: 91016
Geographic Location: North-Western Sicily
Saint Patron: Maria SS. di Custonaci

FEAST DAYS

- Late August or early September: Renaissance Music Festival

The Festival of Medieval and Renaissance Music, a week-long musical event, is held in Erice every summer. The festival strives to bring back to life half-forgotten repertoires of the Medieval and the Renaissance ages and thereby enhance awareness about musical forms and genres that enjoyed great popularity in the Middle Ages and still do. The event attracts artists and musicians as well as music-loving crowds from all over the world.

- Last Wednesday of August: Feast of Maria SS. di Custonaci

The celebration culminates with the arrival of the portrait of the Madonna made in the 15th century and usually kept inside the sanctuary with the same name, which was built by sailors saved by her from a shipwreck.

FLAVOURS AND AROMAS

- Wine of Erice D.O.C. - wines reflect the aromas, notes and colours of an extraordinarily heterogeneous territory
- Extra-virgin Olive Oil D.O.P.
- The marzipan sweets, pastries and the almond biscuits made following ancient recipes


HOW TO REACH

By car: A29 Palermo-Trapani or SS187 Erice SP3

By funicular:
the best way is to take funicular from Trapani (10min). You can travel via the station in the Casa Santa valley.
www.funiviaerice.it

By bus: a regular AST bus service to/from Trapani – Erice (bus station - Piazza G. C. Montalto; 092323222).
www.aziendasicilianatrasporti.it

By plane: the nearest airport is Trapani-Birgi “Vincenzo Florio” (35km)

www.airgest.it/

or Falcone-Borsellino Airport in Palermo (90km)

http://www.gesap.it/


TOURIST INFORMATION

Location: Via Tommaso Guarrasi 1
Info: 0923 869388
Opening hours: Monday - Saturday from 9:00 to 14:00


San Giuliano Church
It was built in 1070 and named in honour of San Giuliano who the Normans gave a merit for the victory against the Muslims who had conquered the citadel.









San Cataldo Church
The church is named in honour of some Irish saint whose cult was brought in Erice, together with that of San Giuliano, by Normans. Inside it holds fine works of art.


San Giovanni Battista Church

Like many other churches of Erice, it was built in Gothic style. This church has existed since 1339, but during the centuries it has gone through many changes and enlargements. Inside there are works from 15th and 16th centuries, like a sculpture depicting San Giovanni Evangelista by Antonino Gagini and a statue of San Giovanni Battista, a work by Antonello Gagini.







San Martino Church
The first church of the Norman period. It was demolished and enlarged in 1682.  Over the centuries further renovations were made and today it a distinct Baroque-Renaissance style.


Antonio Cordici Civic Museum
The Antonio Cordici Civic Museum contains archaeological finds from different Elymian-Punic, Greek, Roman culture, including a fine head of Aphrodite from 4th century B.C. As well, it exhibits  paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries, bronze statues, jewellery and marble sculptures, including  the marble “Annunciazione” from the Carmine church by Antonello Gagini, sculpted in 1525.

Location: Piazza Umberto I  
Info: 0923502148
Opening hours: Monday-Friday from 9:00 to 13:00; Monday & Thursday from 15:00 to 17:00
Ticket: free entrance



Special Thank You for the text to the Erice Tourism Office

 
 
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