The drive up to the top of Mount Erice, just over 800 m above sea level, provides great views of the surrounding area. The road snakes up the side of the hill before reaching the car park near the cable-car station. Car parking is charged during the peak season ie from June to September. It’s possible to drive almost as far as the castle but, in my opinion, the main car park near the cable car station, which is near Trapani Gate, is the best location for parking. (Pay and display machines at a rate of 80 cents per hour last time I looked)
From Trapani Gate, there are several paths to explore within the triangular-shaped town. On the right-hand side is Viale Conte Pepoli which leads to the Castello di Venere (Venus Castle), Torretta Pepoli, and the Balio Garden. The view, en route to the castle, overlooks Trapani, the Egadi Islands and, in the distance, Marsala and the salt pans between Salina Grande and Moxia.
Castello di Venere is a Norman Castle that was built, in the 12th Century, on the site of a Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Venus. It houses a museum that contains a history of Erice and numerous artefacts.
Taking the left-hand route, just behind the Trapani Gate is the bell tower and cathedral of Chiesa Madre, also known as the Cathedral of the Assumption. From there, double back a bit and follow via Vittorio Emmanuelle, the road that leads to Erice Town Hall and the small square in front of it.
One of several souvenir shops in Erice
In between these two routes are a multitude of lanes, churches, shops and bars etc. In mid-summer the lanes are crowded with tourists so, if you are not driving, I suggest finding an enoteca to sit in and sample wines!
Near the Torretta Pepoli the view over the surrounding countryside is also well worth seeing. In particular Monte Cofano, a short drive away, looks small but, looking like a giant shark’s tooth emerging from the sea, it is quite spectacular especially from the beach below Custonaci.
Torretta Pepoli was built in 1870 by Count Pepoli.
On the outskirts of Erice, on the way back down, there are places to have a picnic in the shade of pine trees. Best to take in the views while on top since there are only a couple of place to stop on the road back down to Trapani.
A nice day trip – though there are hotels for anyone keen to be based in the heart of this historic town.
Getting to Erice
By plane to either Palermo or Trapani airports.
Car, taxi or bus from the airport to the town. Taxi fares are high – about 140 euros from Palermo airport to Trapani and a bit longer to get up to the top of Mount Erice.
The journey time from Palermo airport to Erice, via the autostrada, is about an hour and 15 minutes to the top of Mount Erice.
Trapani airport to Erice is about half that time.
What to do and see
The upper town of Erice has a museum, the castle, a number of churches and plenty of restaurants and bars, including enotecas – wine bars where one can taste and buy local wines. Souvenir shops sell a wide variety of mementoes and there small almond cakes that are a regional speciality.
Coming soon – the third and final part of the series on Erice. More posts about the region and its food, drink and sights following.
Published from my iPhone