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Sicily Guide > Trapani province


The coast line from Trapani to Marsala is characterized by the salt-pans. Large pools of salt water, divided by narrow strips of land, form an irregular and multicoloured flats, where for centuries the salt has been produced. This route is called la Via del Sale (the Salt Road) and is remarkable for its numerous Dutch-style windmills, used for pumping sea water and grinding salt, and for the mountains of salt covered with terracotta tiles. A panorama is very impressive at sunset, when everything becomes tinged with red.

The Nature Reserve Salt-pans of Trapani & Paceco

The Nature Reserve Saline di Trapani & Paceco, which spreads along 987 hectares, was established in 1995 by the Sicilian Region and entrusted to the Italian Association of the WWF. The reserve, created to protect the last wetlands of western Sicily, also protects the salt-pans, where it is still practiced the thousand-year-old salt culture.
The salt-pans were probably established by the Phoenicians, who set basins in which to collect the salt. After the Phoenicians there are no reliable source of information about salt-pans around Trapani until the Norman era, when Idris, a famous Arab geographer, reports his testimony on the salt-pans. During the centuries salt-pans were monopolized (by Frederick of Swabia) and again returned to the private property (under the Aragon’s rule), but it was under the Spanish crown when the activity of salt production reached its peak and the port of Trapani became the most important in Europe for the export of the precious salt. Just before the Unity of Italy, salt-pans were set up in Cagliari marking the beginning of a ruthless competition, made worse by the advent of World War II and many salt-pans had been abandoned. But after the establishment of the Reserve has been a significant boost in productive activities and processing of salt, mainly by the Sosalt - largest producer, followed by the approval of restoration and recovery of the abandoned salt-pans. Trapani sea salt is now added in the list of traditional Sicilian agro-foodstuffs, recognized by the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forests Policies, under the denomination of "Trapani sea salt".
The Saline di Trapani & Paceco is one of the most important reserve in Sicily where migratory birds can stop to feed and rest, before crossing the dangerous Channel of Sicily, to land finally in Africa. During the spring and autumn up to 200 different species can be counted, among them: avocet – symbol of the reserve, spoonbill, flamingo, egret, glossy ibis, widgeon, teal and etc. There are also thousands of ducks, which number increases because of the great protection provided by the Reserve.
Besides the birds, the Reserve houses many amphibians and reptiles as well a different types of vegetation. Among the characteristic species of the
Reserve is the Calendula Maritima - a plant that does not exist anywhere else in the world, just in the area of the coastal stretch between Marsala and Mount Cofano. Another rare plant which is known in Sicily only in the Reserve and in the island of Lampedusa, is Cynomorium coccineum. It has no chlorophyll and looks vaguely like a mushroom, so much that it is called "Malta mushroom". Other species hosted in the Reserve are: Limoniastrum monopetalum, Limonium densiflorum, the wild wallflowers, the steppe sparto and etc. There are no trees inside the Reserve, because trees would slow down the evaporation process by stopping the wind.
WWF, as Managing Institution, in agreement with the owners of the salt-pans, prepared some itineraries inside the reserve, to give people the possibility to experience personally the charm, the scents and the colours of this unique environment. It is always open to visitors and you can find the reception area with information at Mulino Maria Stella on the SP21 that runs from Trapani to Marsala.

Museum of Salt at Nubia

The history of this place has its roots back in 1488, when Ferdinand the Catholic, King of Spain, ordered the construction of the mill and the surrounding saline. The Museum of Salt was established by its owner, Alberto Culcasi, thanks to funding from Trapani Province Tourism Office and Paceco municipality. It is housed in 300-year-old salt-working house with the windmill attached, used to grind the salt.

The museum collects and preserves the ancient tools used for extracting and gathering the salt. The information panels on the walls and the white/black photographs of the salt-workers testimony of a craft that were handed down from father to son and now with the time is also adapted to the new technologies. Inside, between the walls of stone, terracotta floors and antique painted doors, you can admire original findings: the gears of the mills, shovels, cogwheels, taps, pinion, Archimedes’s coils.
Location: Via Chiusa - Nubia Paceco - 91027 Trapani
Info: 0923 867061
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday from 9:30 till 19:00

The Nature Reserve Islands of the Stagnone

The Nature Reserve Isole dello Stagnone di Marsala was established in 1984. It extends on the west coast of Sicily in the municipality of Marsala and covers an area of 2000 hectares between Cape San Teodoro and Cape Lilybaeum. The Reserve includes the whole lagoon, separated from the open sea by the four islands: San Pantaleo (Mozia), Isola Grande, Santa Maria and Schola. The first one is the most important because it was a Phoenician settlement.
In the lagoon the water is shallow and in some spots the maximum depth is three metres. The temperature of the water can get to 34°C. The water exchange of the basin with the sea is ensured by two “mouth” of Isola Grande: narrow and shallow one on the North and another
wider and deeper on the South.
The Reserve of Stagnone is favourable for different species of vegetation like oceanic Posidonia, Calendula maritime, salt-wort, prickly asparagus, dwarf palm-tree, reed, fennel, caper and others. Taking the advantage of favourable environmental conditions many species of fish, molluscs and crustaceans inhabit this stretch of water, also, it is a true nursery for migratory fish species (sea bream, sea bass, red mullet look, etc.). Their youth populations, finding optimal conditions of life, remaining in the lagoon until weaning, then they return the open sea. The lagoon is also in the route of a lot of migratory birds, among them the heron, the common spoonbill, the diving duck, the pink flamingo and many others.
The characteristic of the Reserve is surely the presence of the salt-pans. They are still active and worked with traditional methods. The cycle of salt production normally starts in March and finishes in September.


Mozia (also known as Mothia, Motya), today San Pantaleo, is an island of the Lagoon of the Stagnone. It was founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th century  B.C. and, thanks to its location, Mozia soon became a very rich commercial town that represented a strategic port in the Mediterranean sea. Through the 6th and 5th century the city had a period of great prosperity, but in 397 B.C. it was destroyed by Dionysius the Elder from Syracuse. The destruction of Mozia forced the survivors to move on to the nearby Sicilian coast, where they founded the city of Lilybaeum, today known as Marsala.
At the end of the past century, a rich businessman - Giuseppe Whitaker, bought the island of Mozia and organized first archaeological excavation campaign. His house on the island, now the Whitaker Museum, became a small antiquarium where the excavation findings were exhibited.

This museum, founded by Giuseppe Whitaker, houses many object of Phoenician origin. Here one can admire grotesque mask of the “Laughing Man”, bowls, glasses, objects with metal decorations, pieces of ceramics, weapons, jewels amulets and scarabs, objects with original inscriptions. The jewels are mostly of silver and bronze, some are of gold, of good quality, and are dated between the 7th and 4th century B.C. At the entrance of the house is placed the statue of two lions assaulting a bull. The museum houses one of the most remarkable archaeological finds of the last few years, the Giovinetto di Mozia, a statue of a young boy dated to the 5th century B.C. The statue is of marble, of a coarse crystalline grain, with colour traces and it is 1,8 metres tall.
Info: 0923 712598.
Opening hours: All days; November – February from 9:00 till 12:00; March – October from 09:00 till 19:00
Ticket: the entrance to the museum is included in the island admission ticket. Full price – 9,00 €; Reduced price (children & students) – 5,00 €


By car: A29 Trapani-Birgi, exit the motorway at Birgi and drive along the SP21 towards Mozia-Marsala. From there take a ferry boat.

By bus:
there is a regular bus service from Piazza del Popolo in Marsala to the Mozia jetty. From there take a ferry boat.

By ferry:
there are two spots where you can board one of the boats running regularly to and from Mozia. Two companies run this service - "Arini e Pugliesi" from Salina Ettore and "Mozia Line" from Salina Infersa. Boats depart every 30 min and the ride is approximately 15 min.

"Arini e Pugliesi" - 347 7790218

"Mozia Line" - 0923 989249

consisted of a wide open courtyard surrounded by arcades with columns. The floors are made from white and black pebbles representing fights between realistic animals like the feline and the bull and imaginative creatures like the griffon attacking a deer.

In the southern part of the island there is the Cothon, a small rectangular dock with stone walls. Probably, it was used as a dry dock for repairing ships.


Tophet is the name of a sacred area, where the Phoenicians placed urns containing remains from human and animal sacrifices. It was long believed that sacrifices has to be offered to the goddess Tanit, the goddess of Life and Death, Fecundity and the Sea. The Tophet was linked to the coast through a road that has been submerged by sea, but is still visible from above.


Marsala is an ancient town, rich in Carthaginian, Roman, Arab, Norman and Spanish monuments, but above all, it is known for its liqueur-like sweet wine of the same name, and for its tradition in cultivations and wine-making.
It was founded by the Phoenicians who escaped from Mozia after it was defeated by Dionysius the Elder of Syracuse. The ancient Lilybaeum was fortified by an impressive boundary wall, of which traces still remain, to ensure the safety of the town. In 241 B.C. the town passed to the Romans and became a centre of trade and commerce. After the Romans came the Vandals of Gaiseric and then the Byzantines. In the 9th century A.D. it was conquered by Arabs, who gave it its present name Marsa-Allah, Port of God (according to others, Marsa Ali). In 1072 the Normans conquered Marsala and rebuilt the castle, constructed churches and convents. Under the Spanish rule Marsala was benefiting a period of development and prosperity, thanks to the port and fertile land. But at the of the 16th century Carlo V ordered to burial the port in order to avoid the pirate attacks and the city lost its marine importance.
In Italian history Marsala’s name is linked to the landing of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the leader of the movement for Italian unification, and his famous “I Mille”. He landed at Marsala on May 11, 1860 and started here the unification of Italy.


The Cathedral of Marsala, located in Piazza della Repubblica, was built in 1628 on the site of a pre-existing Norman church and dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury. It has the façade developed on two levels: the bottom is a Mannerist-Baroque, the top is a later period. Inside, it contains numerous fine works of art like marble icon from by Berrettaro and Antonello Gagini, la Madonna del Popolo by Domenico Gagini, the statue of San Tommaso by Antonello Gagini and the painting by Antonello Riccio depicting the Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple.


The Archaeological Museum is located in an old wine factory. It houses the Marsala Punic Warship as well the archaeological remains illustrating the history of Lilybaeum and its environs, from Prehistory to the Middle Ages.
The Punic Ship was discovered in 1971. It is supposed that it sunk at the end of the First Punic War during the Battle of the Egadi Islands. The ship had an estimated length of 35 metres, a width of 4.80 m, and a weight on the order of 120 tons. The letter of the Phoenician-Punic alphabet, marks and guidelines visible on the planking have allowed to understand the construction method used by the Punic shipwrights. The long, narrow proportions of the hull and a band of deflectors strakes which break the smoothness at the waterline, have led experts to identify this ship as a war galley.

Location: Via Capo Lilibeo
Info: 0923 952535
Opening hours: Monday from 9:00 to 13:30; Tuesday-Saturday from 9:00 to 19:00
Ticket: Full price - 4,00 €; Reduced price - 2,00 €


The museum houses eight splendid Flemish tapestries sewn in Brussels (1530-1550) and gifted by the Spanish King Felipe II to the archbishop of Messina, Antonio Lombardo (1523-1595), who was born in Marsala. The tapestries representing episodes of the war Titus and the Jews.

Location: Via Garraffa
Info: 0923 712903
Opening hours: Monday closed; Tuesday-Saturday from 09:00 to 13:00 and from 16:00 to 18:00; Sunday from 9:00 to 13:00
Ticket: 1,50 €


- Marsala wine DOC - Pignatello Calabrese, Nero d'Avola, Nerello Mascalese
- Squarato – a particular type of bread, before being baked, blanched in boiling water


By car: A29 Palermo-Trapani, direction Trapani – exit Marsala or SS115 Trapani-Marsala

By train: there are regional trains running from Palermo or Trapani to Marsala

By bus: Palermo-Marsala / Autoservizi Salemi

Trapani-Marsala-Agrigento / Autoservizi Lumia

By plane: the nearest airport is Trapani-Birgi “Vincenzo Florio”


Location: Via XI Maggio
Info: 0923 714097

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