Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 22, 2022

Trapani, a delightful Sicilian surprise

Trapani is a short trip down the mountain from Erice.


We drove through the newer part of town towards the historic centre, on the tip of the crescent shaped promontory, where we were staying. It was a busy Sunday of a long weekend and the GPS tried to send us down various one way streets and limited zones. We drove around the port area for some time before finally getting a car park.

Not really knowing where we were going, we walked one block from the port and found ourselves in a lovely pedestrian area, filled with people enjoying a warm, sunny day at outdoor restaurants and cafes. We decided we liked Trapani immediately.

The city was established as a port for Erice. Like many Sicilian cities it has a chequered past. Carthage seized control in 260BC, making it a naval base. It ceded to Rome in 241 BC. The Normans took over after Roman, Vandal, Ostrogoth, Byzantine and Arab conquests.

The economy still depends on the sea with fishing and canning being the main local industries. Coral, salt, marble and Marsala wine are important exports.

Lunch was our first thought and we had the best meal we had in Sicily. It was in a family run restaurant, Ristorante Hostaria Sette Sapori, in Via Carosio, just one street back from the main pedestrian area. The friendly man who served us proudly told us his wife made the delicious traditional busiate pasta,a specialty of Trapani.She also made the heavenly cassata cake.

We found our accommodation, Fiveplace Design Suites and Apartments. It was a great modern suite in an ancient building. It was a mini apartment, sliding doors covered a well equipped kitchen, perfect for a longer stay.


Directly across the street were stunning balconies.

We had a balcony with excellent views up and down the street. It was mid afternoon, a quiet time in town.

After dropping our bags off we set off to explore.

This wonderful doorway is now the entrance to a bank.

 

Well worn lions adorn the arches.

The Baroque Fountain of Saturn was built in 1342 when the Chiaramonte family built the aqueduct that brought clean water from a source located on the slopes of Erice. The statue of Saturn was added later. It was one of the first fountains built with the idea of getting water to houses.

Sant’Agostino church is beside the fountain.


The clock tower in the centre of town is one of the oldest astronomical clocks in Europe, dating back to 1596. The clock has 2 circular dials, the dial of the sun to indicate the astrological signs of the zodiac, the solstices, the equinoxes, the seasons and the cardinal points. The dial of the Lunario marks the phases of the moon. It was part of the old city wall and is the oldest entrance to the city.

The municipal administrative building. It was built in the 17th century with a Baroque style facade.

There are lots of stunning buildings to be found in Trapani.


I am always amused by the wiring on old buildings in Italy.


There are lots of new settings among these lovely old buildings.

We went for a walk along the boardwalk beside the sea.





Trapani is lovely in the evening light.



Tentazione di Gusto in Via Badia Nuova was recommended by the host of the accommodation for dinner and it was excellent. The setting was elegant and the food delicious. There were outside tables and a cute little enoteca.


It was a cool evening so we chose to eat inside.

He also recommended the famous Trapani pasticceria, Colicchia,  for breakfast.

 

We had already spotted it the day before and lined up for a wonderful granita, one of our favourite things to eat in Sicily. There was a queue each time we went.

Still on food, we could not leave town without a freshly pressed pomegranate juice.


On our way out of the town centre we found the old windmills and buildings belonging to the salt production.



If we return to the west coast of Sicily we will make Trapani the base, and stay there for a few days and do day trips from there. It is a great little town with lots to enjoy.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 13, 2022

Enticing Erice

Erice is a well cared for Sicilian town 751 metres above sea level on top of Mount Saint Julian. From its lofty position it looks over Trapani and the Tyrrhenian Sea. It was populated by the Elimi people and sought after by the Greeks and Carthaginians. Its major development was in the time of the Arab-Norman period. There was little change after Medieval times so it has retained its buildings and character.

A fierce wind blew us in and out of Erice making walking through the cobbled streets a bit of a drag. It is a pity because the town is charming. The winding streets are full of ceramic and rug shops and there is a pasticceria on every corner and in between as well.

We did our best to push against the wind and discovered a few of Erice’s delights. We entered Erice through Porta Trapani, one of 3 entrances to the city. It is so named because it faces towards Trapani.

Turning left after the entrance you will find the Chiesa Madrice, dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption. It was built in Gothic style in 1314 at the time of Frederick III of Aragon. The bell tower was originally a lookout tower during the wars of the Sicilian Vespers in the 13th century. It wasn’t open so I can’t show you the interior.

Come for a walk through Erice.

We stopped for lunch.

A little further on is the famous Pasticceria di Grammatico Maria.

There is another one next door with outdoor space.

I had breakfast at Pasticceria di Grammatico Maria the next morning. I can report that the coffee was excellent and the Genovese pastry delicious. I bought some of the jam as well and it is one of the best I have eaten. I wish I had bought more.


Piazza della Loggia is enormous. The wind seems to have blown everyone inside. There were actually quite a few tourists about.


The next morning it was completely deserted.

The ancient facades of buildings are fascinating. Old doorways are always interesting.

 

There are lots of narrow streets.

 

The church of San Giuliano.


Another one overlooking the sea.

The Venus Castle Castello di Venere, on  the edge of the town is huge. It was built by the Normans with materials from the temple of Venus, which gave the castle  its name.



A carriage waits to take you on a tour of the town.


Below is the Torretta Pepoli named after Count Agostino Pepoli and built in 1870.


There are great views from the castle grounds even on a hazy day.

 



Despite the miserable wind we found Erice quite lovely.

I can’t recommend the place we stayed at. The room itself was fine but the check in experience was probably the worst I have ever experienced. I did spot this interesting place and a signora who was staying there told me the room was as delightful as the exterior and the courtyard. It is called Antico Borgo.

 



Our next stop in Sicily was Trapani. It was a short drive down the mountain from Erice.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 8, 2022

Old things in Palermo

There are lots of old things in Palermo but if you want to see some ancient things visit the Archeological Museum. It is the oldest in Sicily and houses one of the richest collections of Punic and Ancient Greek art in Italy.
It was formerly the property of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, begun in the late 16th century. It became home to the museum in 1866. It is named after Antonio Salinas, a famous archeologist who served as its director from 1873 until his death in 1914. He left his major private collection to the museum.

At the entrance is a fountain with turtles. I thought they were part of the fountain until a couple of them moved.

Once inside we came upon a series of large sculptures of gods and an emperor.

 

Below is Zeus from Solunto dating from 2nd – 1st century BC.

Zeus again, this time from the Augustan age – late 1st centuryBC to beginning 1st AD.

The next one is Claudius, Emperor from 41 to 54 AD.

We moved on to smaller things.  I would wear these earrings happily. They date from the 3rd century BC.


From feet to faces.




The red amphora is from the end of the 5th century.

The pots are from a similar era.

 

The kidnapping of Persephone from the end of the 6th century BC.

The next room is lined with large pieces of friezes. They are spectacular in their size and detail. They come from the Selinunte Temples in southern Sicily. The one below dates from 540 510 BC.




This one is from 460 – 450BC.




Of course there is lots more to see. It is quite humbling to stand in front of such ancient things  and find them in such good order. Will the things we have created fare so well?
Not everything is old. I spotted these modern pieces in the book shop on the way out.

 

We ducked in to get out of the rain and were very happy we did so.

Antonio Salinas Regional Archeological Museum is in Via Bara all’Olivella. Don’t miss it if you go to Palermo.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 3, 2022

Dazzling gold mosaics in the Palatine Chapel

The most impressive place we visited in Palermo was the Palatine Chapel. It is in the Palazzo Reale, Royal or Norman Palace.

We walked through the Porta Nuova, beside the palace, to the entrance.

Palazzo Reale began as a fortress. Its transformation to a palace began around 1072.


 


We entered the interior of the palace through a narrow tunnel.

There was a long queue to get into the chapel so we had plenty of time to look at the decoration under the arches near the entrance. The Palatine Chapel was begun in 1132 and took 8 years to build. It is a mix of Norman, Byzantine and Arab architectural styles.

 

Once inside the chapel you quickly acquire a stiff neck from looking up at the magnificent gold mosaics, trying to take in the detail.  Photos don’t reveal the magnificence of the chapel, you really need to be there. It has been called the most beautiful chapel in the world.




The carved wooden ceiling is incredible.


After the chapel we walked upstairs to the royal apartments. The rooms are stunning.

The oriental room is beautiful.

My favourite was the Ruggero room built in 1170. It is thought to be the work if mosaicists trained in Byzantium with eastern influence, more Persian than Arabic. I was surprised to see a motif I am very familiar with.

 

I have many Ortigia products which feature similar designs. I can understand why they were chosen, I love them!

On the way out we spotted a decorated cart. It is plain to see that Dolce & Gabanna have mined their Sicilian roots for design inspiration.

The Palazzo Reale was the highlight of our Palermo visit. It is worth visiting the city for this alone.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 29, 2022

Palermo

We visited Sicily a few years ago. We drove down from Bagni di Lucca, stopping at several places along west coast of Italy on the way down. In Sicily we visited Taormina, Ortigia, Noto, Ragusa, Scicli, Agrigento, Segesta, Corleone and Monreale. At that point a fierce wind nearly knocked us off our feet and after a brief stop in Cefalu we decided to cut our trip short and head home.

We were sorry to have missed the western side of Sicily so this time we flew to Palermo where we stayed for a couple of days before going to Erice, Trapani and Marsala.

Palermo is the capital of Sicily. The sprawling city is over 2,700 years old. It was founded in 734 BC by the Phonoecians. It has seen Carthaginian rule, had Greek colonies, became part of the Roman Empire, and was under Arab and Norman rule, making for a colourful and interesting city.

These days it has a population of 1.2 million people. The central area houses nearly 700,000 people. We stayed in the gritty historical centre where life seems to be lived outside. There are large markets, ancient and dirty streets lined with vendors and thriving pedestrian areas where people gather.

Our hotel was just around the corner from the Mercato del Capo so it was the first place we explored.

There was one place where you could choose what you wanted to eat and then sit down to eat it or take it away.


 

I would like to say that we tried this excellent looking food, but we did not. We lined up in front of the array of dishes, made our selection and waited to be served. Takeaway customers were given preference and everyone around us was served while we waited. Finally someone spoke to us and we said we wanted a table. He walked off, came back, ignored us and continued to serve other people. We waited for another 10 minutes and gave up. We went to a nearby place where we were served and wished we hadn’t been. The food was awful. It was a huge disappointment.

Not to be put off we wandered down towards the Quattro Canti area past numerous shops with their wares displayed in the street.