What time is it?

1st January, 2020, Erice, Sicily

It is certainly past my time to post a story here. Remiss of me but I have tons of useless excuses.

My last post was published while I was in Sicily. Since then I have been in Edinburgh from mid-July to mid-November, then back here to Sicily to assist my mother who unfortunately cracked a vertebra at the end of October resulting in her spending two months in hospital. I had planned to spend a few weeks over November/December in France before returning to Sicily but my mother’s accident caused me to change my plans.

Yesterday I spent a bit of time in contact with friends and family to wish them a Happy New Year. I grew out of the habit of staying up till midnight to see in the New Year but while I was mulling over the global location of midnight at the time that I went to bed I realised that I had friends and family dispersed across the entire planet’s time zones from Japan, Land of the Rising Sun, to Los Angeles, and multiple points in between.

Having my thoughts with all my family and friends I realised it doesn’t really matter what time of day it is when seeing in the New Year … midnight moves towards me and then past me, washing over and carrying my thoughts to loved ones in the process. I went to bed early but the sound of fireworks, akin to being in a war zone, went on for hours from early evening to well after midnight (though exactly what hour it stopped was unknown to me).

I am in Sicily for one more week before returning to my home base but I plan on being back here in Spring – date not fixed yet. Later this month I shall catch up on my posts, especially covering my activities in Scotland, plus a few more from here. I shall also reorganise my blogs, social media, websites and workflow with a view to publishing with more appropriate regularity. The best laid plans ….

Happy New Year!

Arancina Siciliana

Ragu arancina with kebab

The famous Sicilian rice balls, known as arancini in view of their size, shape and colour that remind one of oranges, have to be on the list of the “must try” treats to experience when visiting the island.

The rice balls made with a filling, coated with bread crumbs and then deep fried. The most common fillings are ragù, mozzarella, or ham and mozzarella.

The best in my opinion are the arancini made with ragu filling (minced beef, tomato and herbs – similar to a bolognese sauce).

It is common to find arancini, regarded as snacks or street food, in bakeries, supermarkets and in cafes.

In some parts of Sicily the arancini are formed into a conical shape. In both cases, round or conical, there are similar looking products served in Brazil where they are known as “coxinha” as a result of their taking the approximate shape of a chicken thigh (that’s another story for when I return to Brazil), ball-shaped but with different ingredients.

It is believed that arancini have been around in Sicily since the days of the muslim occupation of the island ie 1000 years or more.

As with many traditional foods the arancina is considered a meal in itself. Like the cornish pastie, or sandwich, arancini were made to be carried and eaten on the move. The original take-aways.

Tourist disadvantage?

There are many people of my age who are averse to using technology to simplify their lives. I was, at one point in my Marketing days, of the opinion that the more you could put into mobile phone functionality the better.

While I am still of that opinion sometimes the engines of commerce seem to work in favour of the wrong folk.

Currently in Italy, and with my iPhone using a UK sim card with an EU roaming package, I decided to buy a ferry ticket from Trapani to visit the nearby island of Favignana for a day. I did a Google search that took me to DirectFerries, a UK based agent. I could find no other agents, so presumably the UK sim decided I should use someone that it liked. I think it’s nice that AI should be able to select its own friends.

I selected the points of departure and terminus and the travel date. I then chose the available travel times, and paid by debit card with an extra insurance charge in case I needed to amend or cancel the trip (having had such a need on most bookings made this year!). Easy.

Then the email confirmation arrived. Unfortunately, it indicated that my point of departure was Marsala and not Trapani as requested. That’s a bit like booking a flight from Edinburgh and being told it departs from Glasgow.

I hopped onto the agent’s site only to get a “system down, try later” message. Maybe the site was down for maintenance. Try again later. Nothing.

Try the call centre. No answer. Try again. No answer. Try email. Try online and call centre next day. No answer. Monday – try email, call centre and online – this time to cancel. Nada!

I found their Facebook page. Not good. Full of complaints about poor service etc. Some comments quite angry …. including mine. The following is not mine but is similar.

The response that I, and many others, received was similar (simple cut and paste reply), or asked that a personal message should be sent (obviously to keep the ensuing rage offline).

Despite me paying for insurance the agent refused to make a refund (ignoring the fact that the email confirmation stating that full refunds were possible) even having the arrogance to state that they deduct an admin fee on refunds but anything less than £100 it isn’t worth THEIR effort to make a refund!

Blatant profiteering, exceptionally poor customer service, and an unbelievably arrogant approach to commerce.

Needless to say I have told the company that I shall take legal action for the cost of the tickets plus legal fees. They didn’t seem phased but merely sent another cut and paste response. My legal claim is in process and based on the evidence submitted I expect to win. Soon.

Based in my experience and that of those other unfortunate clients I recommend avoiding Direct Ferries. Book direct with the ferry operator (who were sympathetic but unable to assist).

The Direct Ferries FB page is full of apologetic fob-offs. They make reference to their terms and conditions (to avoid liability for refunds) yet these terms are not visible at the time of booking and conflict with what they say, and charge for, elsewhere.

THIS IS A COMPANY TO BE AVOIDED

Post script

I decided to get a local sim-card for my phone. A much better deal than the EE roaming plan that seemed to use data even when the phone was switched off. I recommend the TIM one-month tourist plan. Really good deal even if staying for only a week. It also picks up local booking sites more easily than the UK sim did. Bear in mind that a one-month plan has a fixed data content. If that is exceeded than you need to buy a new sim and, even though the TIM app lets you top up, any top up will not work. I discovered this the hard way and am still trying to get a refund from TIM.

Pps (21NOV19)

Now nearly the end of November and still have not received the refund from TIM. Whike they possibly have the best package for tourists I shall never use them again as they have, seemingly deliberately, tried to avoid making the refund. Despite assurances that they had done so at the beginning of this week there is no sign of it reaching my account.

Cassata

Traditional Sicilian painted wagon

Before having a siesta after lunch last week I came across something on Face Book that a friend had posted.

http://www.custonaciweb.it/i-dolci-piu-buoni-del-mondo-sono-siciliani-ad-affermarlo-e-il-new-york-times/

It’s an article that appeared on the village webpage of Custonaci, a small town outside Erice. The article references a piece published at the end of last year in the Los Angeles Times about the best pastries in the world being made in Sicily.

While in general I would agree, as soon as I saw the article I was struck by deja vu. To finish off our lunch of roast chicken and panelle we had …. one of the very same pastries featured above.

Cassatina Sicilianathe classic mini Sicilian cassata

The ones we bought were from a local pasticceria in Erice, while not the best that I have eaten they were a nice way to finish our meal.

Cassatina is a small cake, that’s how I think it’s best to describe it. The nearest thing in UK supermarkets are the famous Mr Kipling French Fancies – small sponge cakes that are covered in icing.

Selection of Mr Kipling French Fancies

Personally, I like the Kipling cakes though do not feel the sane sense of satisfaction after eating them that I get from cassatina’s.

The Sicilian cassatina, if well made, has that level of satisfaction that only comes with freshly made cakes made with great ingredients and the passion of a good pastry chef.

The traditional cassatine are made with a sponge base soaked in fruit juice (or alcohol, eg marsala), with a layer of ricotta cheese and candied fruit, topped with a thin covering of marzipan. Delicious and possible to make at home (though I will write about this at a later date).

Erice to Erice – the cable car

Funivia – upper station

There are days when the queue to embark the cable car to upper Erice is so full of tourists that you feel like giving up the idea of travelling on it. But the cable car system is on a loop, each car carrying up to 8 passengers, so the queues move quickly.

Although referred to as Funivia Trapani-Erice the lower station is located in the Casa Santa neighbourhood of Erice – or Lower Erice as I refer to it. (I wrote a three-part article about Erice some time ago: first part here)

It costs €9 for the round trip to the top and back. Journey time each way is about 10 minutes. The cable car station at the top is on via delle Pinete across the road from the car park.

Trapani Gate

Up the hill, on the opposite side of the road, is Porta Trapani (Trapani Gate) one of the two arched entrances to the medieval town.

Madre Chiesa

From here you can explore the sights of old Erice, including the Norman castle, the cathedral, numerous churches and chapels, the gardens and the Spanish quarter.

Small chapel near the Cathedral

One of many lanes to explore

How to get there

Taxi, bus (need to check but bus number 23 may take you all the way) or by car.

If you are on a cruise then the cruise line can arrange transport and Funivia tickets (package cost is, I believe, €40). The advantage of arranging this on the cruise boat is that it won’t leave without you!

If you enjoy walking it takes about 45 minutes at a reasonably brisk pace:

To reach the Funivia station from the port of Trapani one heads inland on via Mazzini, past Trapani railway station,

Gardens on the platform, Trapani railway station

turn right onto via Fardella which later becomes corso Mattarella and later still, crossing into Erice, becomes via Manzoni.

Via Fardella, Trapani

Near the end of via Manzoni turn left onto via Cosenza at Cafe delle Rose, where I usually stop for a coffee or glass of wine, or to pop into Ciuri-Ciuri on the other corner for excellent ice cream and cakes. Alternatively, carry on for a couple more street, turning onto via Capua. If taking via Capua, the Funivia station is about three block on the right hand side. If taking via Cosenza, continue along the road for a couple of blocks then turn right onto via Avellino and the Funivia is dead ahead.

Cassatelle alla Trapanese

Cassatelle di ricotta alla Trapanese

You can almost see the calories in this great local dessert from Trapani. Known in the Sicilian dialect as Cassateddi it isn’t so much the calorie count but rather the weight of the ricotta that leaves you feeling you may have over-eaten these delicious half-moon shaped treats. One is usually enough, two cassatelle makes you feel that a bit of exercise may be a good idea to burn the excess energy consumed.

We bought a few cassetelle from a local pasticceria (pastry shop) in Erice, though they are easy to make at home. In my opinion the icing sugar coating was overdone – I prefer a light dusting.

Cassetelle are best fresh since, as with cannoli, the moisture in the ricotta makes the pastry soggy after a time. A damp cannolo is not nice but a cassetelle that is less than fresh is still ok.

Cassetelle with ricotta and chocolate chip filling

Ingredients (non-vegan**):

Pastry:
250 gm plain flour
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
40 gm caster sugar
80 ml white wine
water

a light vegetable oil should be used for frying the cassatelle 

Filling:
300 g ricotta (well drained)**
3 tbsp caster or icing sugar 
1 lemon (finely grated zest)

A few pieces of candied lemon/orange peel or chocolate chips (I like no more than half a dozen small bits per cassetelle, and prefer the fruit to chocolate chip)

Icing sugar for dusting before serving.

** To make a vegan version, try using or making a cashew nut ricotta. I haven’t tried this yet but am confident the cassatelle flavour will be enjoyable.

Preparation

Mix the ricotta, sugar and candied peel in a bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge until the pastry is ready.

To make the pastry, mix the flour and sugar then add the wine. Continue stirring the mixture while adding water until the dough is firm (neither hard nor too soft). Place in the fridge for an hour.

Roll out the pastry until it is 2-3 mm thick (about 1/10th of an inch). Use a cookie cutter to make circles of 8 to 10 cm diameter.

Add a couple of spoonfuls of filling to each piece of pastry, slightly off-centre, then fold and seal the edges.

Fry until golden brown on both sides.

Remove excess oil from the cassetelle by draining on paper kitchen towels. Cover lightly with icing sugar and serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 117kcal
Carbohydrates: 15gm
Sugar: 5g 
Protein: 3gm
Fat: 4gm
Saturated Fat: 2gm
Cholesterol: 10mg
Vitamin A: 1.9%
Vitamin C: 0.1%
Sodium: 21mg
Potassium: 34mg 
Calcium: 4.7% 
Iron: 3.7%

* NB – the nutritional values will vary with actual ingredients used – treat as a rough guide

A long and winding road

04-05JUN19

I left Edinburgh on the 24+hour trip to Trapani that I’d booked on my Kiwi.com app.

The schedule was:

08:00 Edinburgh to Dublin

15:55 Dublin to Luxembourg

02:50 Luxembourg to Frankfurt Hahn

06:40 Frankfurt Hahn to Trapani

The journey began at 5 am with a short walk to the bus stop outside Slateford railway station in Edinburgh. I took the 300 bus. It was a quiet journey as it was still early. The bus left at 05:20 and arrived at the airport at 05:55 – in plenty of time for the 8:00 am flight.

Edinburgh Airport

On entry to the airport I found it difficult to find the appropriate check-in desk since there were no boards indicating to which desk to go. I found the right one by conducting a physical check of all desks.

After check-in I went up to the departure area where there was a long queue for the security check. I joined one of the queues for the automated boarding card gates but when it was my turn all of the gates were turned off owing to the huge crowds waiting to pass through security.

Once I got to the x-ray area I was obliged to separate my iPad from my bag and to remove my shoes and belt.

After this ordeal was over I walked briskly through the Duty Free shop, ignoring the temptation to buy whisky, and headed to Nero’s were I had a coffee and muffin while waiting for the departure gate number to be advised.

Punctually at 07:00 the electronic notice board informed me to go to gate 29. It was not immediately apparent in which direction to head but I found my way. Edinburgh Airport needs to improve its signage generally. Apart from that it is quite a nice airport.

Is Edinburgh a place worth visiting? Absolutely. But I will write about Edinburgh separately.

Hainan Airlines to Dublin

Hainan Airlines didn’t provide the “luxury” of on-line check-in, but the in-person process was quick and easy. Generic local Swissport check-in staff.

Boarding was orderly and timely. First call for business and parents with children. Then the call for Economy passengers. As I was seated in one of the few seats reserved for old or infirm passengers I was one of the first in the queue.

Hainan Airlines boarding card

On boarding I was welcomed by one cabin crew member who politely checked my boarding card and gave directions to my seat while another handed me a sandwich and a bottle of water.

I had been allocated seat 36G on the 787-9 Dreamliner which was located just forward of the wings. Leg room was ample but storage space was limited. The power-points did not seem to function when I tried to charge my iPhone.

The aircraft, perhaps 15% occupied, left the gate at exactly 08:00 as scheduled.

The flight from EDI to DUB was 50 only minutes so we were obliged to keep our seatbelts on, tray tables closed and seats upright for the duration of the flight.

Adequate leg-room but very little space to store anything apart from a book

Not a full flight – plenty of empty seats. I had a row to myself.

We touched down at 08:50, twenty minutes ahead of the scheduled time. It was raining. The aircraft taxied then stopped and sat on apron for 20 minutes while Air Traffic Control decided where it should park. An announcement was made after 15 minutes to apologise for the delay. In the meantime I found a USB jack under the tv screen that charged my phone a bit. A second announcement was made 35 minutes after landing.

Forty minutes after touching down the plane started to make its way to a vacant bridge and another 10 minutes later the plane was parked. We spent fifty minutes waiting to park after a 50 minute journey! Not good but not Hainan’s fault.

Would I fly with Hainan again? I doubt if there would be a situation in which I would go out of my way to use the airline. However, if there was a need to use Hainan again I wouldn’t complain.

Dublin Airport

I didn’t have any hold baggage to worry about so I was able to exit quickly. I tried to follow the Connecting Flights trail but the security guy politely explained that Ryanair flights don’t participate in transit arrangements so I had to go back the way I had come, exit the baggage area and reenter the terminal. Very polite and patient guy👍.

Security was not as bad as that at Edinburgh. Thorough but much shorter queues. I bought a small backpack to replace the cumbersome box (Ryanair regulation cabin bag size) that I planned to use for the trip. It is squishable so hopefully will not cause the Ryanair bandits to give me grief at the boarding gates.

It was close enough to lunchtime for me to decide on having some food. I found the Garden Terrace on the upper floor and chose the Full Irish Breakfast (fried egg, two sausages, two rashers of bacon, half a grilled tomato, baked beans, hash briwn potatoes, a couple of slices of toast and what appeared to be two slices of blood pudding. And a mug of black coffee. €12.50)

Full Irish Breakfast (Vegans avert your eyes!)

I had to try this. Full breakfasts can be quite healthy though some possibly count as heart-stoppers! I have had the Full English, Cornish, Scottish, Vegetarian and Vegan breakfasts, and now the Irish version. The best non-English breakfast I have tried so far was the Full Scottish Breakfast served at the Spylaw Tavern, Colington, Edinburgh. More about that at another time. The Irish breakfast was tasty though didn’t score much on presentation.

Full Irish Breakfast at Garden Terrace:

⁃ 2 sausages

⁃ 2 rashers of bacon

⁃ 2 slices of black pudding (?)

⁃ Baked beans

⁃ Fried egg

⁃ Hash brown potatoes

⁃ 2 slices of toast

⁃ Coffee

The fried egg had been sitting for a while. It had a glazed alert look about it, as though it had been freshly fried, but once I cut into it it proved to be tired and dry ie held under a heat source after it had left the pan.

The coffee was good.

Ryanair planes in the rain at Dublin Airport

My next flight, on Ryanair, was scheduled at 15:55 which left me plenty of time to relax.

Would I visit Dublin again? Yes, and would consider an overnight stay so that I could look around the city. But only en route to another destination.

Ryanair to Luxembourg

There aren’t many people that have a good word to say about Ryanair. Jokes abound about the extent of their extra charges – a darker one for example about having to pay for oxygen in the event of cabin depressurisation. I had carry on baggage which meant I had to have the bag under the seat in front of me. Priority passengers get to take a small suitcase and one item of hand baggage.

I was seated next to a window on the right hand side of the plane (seat 14G) but there was cloud most of the way and nothing to see. It was an uneventful flight apart from a bit of turbulence over France on the approach to Luxembourg. The plane was a bit late.

Would I use Ryanair again? It’s a no-frills budget airline. I don’t like their baggage policy but aside from that I will probably use them unless there is a better option available. Leg room is tight – made worse by having hand baggage stored under the seat in front.

Luxembourg

Luxembourg airport is not very big, though not surprising considering the diminutive size of The Grand Duchy.

Luxembourg Airport

I exited the building with the idea of finding the bus stop for the next leg of my journey and found it right outside. Next plan was to find a way to get into the city. The number 16 bus was the answer. €2 ticket valid for two hours was adequate to take me to the main railway station. The journey took about half an hour. I had a quick look around but the light was fading so no decent opportunity to take pictures other than a couple of record shots on my iPhone.

Luxembourg railway station

I had something to eat at the station (just a granary roll with parma ham and cheese) then caught the bus back to the airport. There seemed to be a few photogenic locations along the bus route that might occupy me in the event of a return visit to Luxembourg, but I doubt that I would come back.

The airport, at 9pm , was pretty well deserted. The silence in the terminal building was broken only by background chatter, the occasional loud phone call (interestingly two separate calls: one, a woman chatting on speaker with her friend in Portuguese; the other a man also on speaker chatting in Portuguese to his wife or I think his lover – she with a Brazilian Portuguese accent – about missing his flight.

Oberweis cafe at Luxembourg Airport

At one point a woman, who appeared to have some problem with the world at large, began talking very loudly in French. She had a good stage voice, catching the attention of the entire terminal but directing her complaints at one woman seated in the cafe! The cafe staff encouraged its patrons to ignore the woman who, it seemed, was a regular visitor. That was the extent of the evening’s entertainment.

The bus to Frankfurt Hahn airport

My bus was scheduled to leave the airport at 02:50. I had somehow managed to keep myself occupied for over 5 hours with just one cup of coffee.

The air outside the terminal was cool, slightly humid and had a pleasant smell reminiscent of woodlands. It had rained lightly for about an hour from midnight. I sat outside the bus stop on a piano stool at 2:30 am. Within a few minutes a bus arrived but it was to another destination. My bus arrived shortly afterwards, driven by a middle aged blond German woman who seemed to like modern rock music.

At the scheduled hour she started the engine and reduced the volume of the music. I settled down with a plan to nap. The first stop on the way to Frankfurt Hahn airport was in the centre of the town of Trier, on the Mosel river, that I remembered from my school German lessons. At 3:30am, after a few minutes waiting, the bus continued its journey. The autobahn was smooth and quiet. We stopped at another town though I was in a sleepy state, taking little notice of the surroundings until the dawn light broke close to Frankfurt. I managed to nap a bit but not nearly as much as I wanted.

Frankfurt Hahn Airport

Frankfurt Hahn, in comparison to the large modern complex of Frankfurt am Main airport is little more than a glorified shed! Considering how Germany is noted for its Teutonic organisation this airport was a bit slapdash.

Frankfurt Hahn airport

It was clearly an old airport and very clearly catered to budget airlines, though it did have a couple of nice cafe/snack bars, a duty free area and a souvenir bookshop.

The departure gates were chaotic! Two lines existed: one for Priority passengers and one for non-Priority. There didn’t seem to be room enough to support a single queue but the two ran in parallel. It seemed to work but I would have relocated some seating to create decent queuing lines.

Once through the boarding process we had to walk a fair distance to the airplane. When I got to the plane there were two long queues snaking away from the fore and aft stairs.

Long queues to board the aircraft at Frankfurt Hahn.

Ryanair to Trapani

The flight was about two hours in duration though scheduled to take 2 hours and twenty minutes. As ever on Ryanair there was applause on landing. I suppose passengers are just grateful to arrive in one piece! Enough said about Ryanair!

Trapani

The airport at Trapani has been in use for decades. It is a compact airport with a runway shared with the Italian Air Force.

It has a small cafe where one can buy coffee, wine, spirits and snacks. I had an espresso and a cannolo. However, despite the sign indicating that cannoli are prepared on request, I was served with a made up cannolo in which the biscuit had become soft. If you want a cannolo insist the it is freshly filled.

Unfortunately, it seems that local politics have obliged airlines to move to Palermo Airport – an hour away from Trapani – with a consequence that tourism in Erice/Trapani has declined significantly. Ryanair still flies to Trapani but the number of flight options has been severely reduced. Hotels, restaurants and taxis have suffered.

Would I visit Trapani again? Absolutely – though primarily because my mother lives in Erice. I have always liked Trapani and Erice and the surrounding countryside. Lots to see and lots to do.

Conclusion

Long journey. Four legs in each direction but it was the cheapest option available. It also enabled me to review a number of aspects connected with the trip.

Erice – by the sea (final part of the Erice series)

The lower part of Erice, known as Casa Santa, is bounded by the beach and Mount Erice, and by the town of Trapani and rural countryside beyond San Cusumano. The lower cable-car station sits under Mount Erice not far from the Trapani boundary.

The area has new and old houses and apartments that form the core of the modern residential area of Erice. There are also certain Regional services under management by the Trapani government. These include a small prison, a couple of hospitals and a sports stadium.

Erice’s San Giuliano beach runs along the bay between San Cusumano and the Parco Urbano* in which are the ruins of the old San Giuliano tuna cannery. The beach is divided, during the summer months, into a number of “lidos” which provide facilities in the form of beach beds, umbrellas, and snacks. The Sun Club, on the junction of Lunghomare Dante Alighieri and via Lido di Venere, is open all year, though in winter the services are limited to dining.

Lower Erice is principally a beach town so there is not much to do there for visitors unless one is keen on general exploration.

In the heart of the lower town is San Giuliano village with its tradional grocery stores, wine shops, butchers and bakeries. Close by numerous churches including Erice’s new, modern parochial church.

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/Erice.

The journey time from Palermo airport to Erice, via the autostrada, is about an hour. Trapani airport to Erice is about half that time.

What to do and see

The beach, the ruins of the old tuna cannery in Parco Urbano* (actually on the Erice/Trapani border), a number of churches and a few restaurants and bars, including enotecas – wine bars where one can taste and buy local wines.

Nature: birds and flowers for those interested in the wild stuff!

More posts to follow about Trapani, Marsala and the region’s food and drink!

Published from my iPhone

* Post script: although labelled as Parque Urbana this area is in reality derelict. A pity since the municipality could create a nice park with simple barbecue / picnic facilities, a place to walk, trees and flowers etc. But the town fails on many counts. A pity.

Antica Erice – part 2 of a 3-part series

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)

Torretta Pepoli

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