Ancient Greek Drepanon
Once again returning to Palermo in Sicily however with a different objective. A year ago this was for properly visiting this incredible city; yet in this occasion the main points were reaching Trapani right after arriving into Palermo’s airport, and the following day for one of the most spectacular cities from the ancient Greek civilization, Agrigento with its Valley of the Temples. All in all, another busy weekend ahead, but no matter how tired I get this all is well worth it and will keep doing it on and on for as long as I can. Also, returning to Palermo will be a reality for sure, with so much more to see west of the island and in the city itself, it’s the perfect gateway.
Often bypassed by tourists, the city has a lot to see and do. Much more that I did originally think and expected. And when saying this, I am also including the nearby mountain top village of Erice which is linked to Trapani by cable car and you can consider another district of the city, and if time permitting, it’s way worth it visit the ancient Greek city of Segesta with its marvellous Doric temple so incredibly well preserved. It’s matter of minutes by train or bus from downtown Trapani, hence as if it would be another city’s district.
The historic city centre in the other hand, is small and easy to navigate, that’s the good news hence why this is a perfect day trip from larger Palermo at the northeast, or Agrigento at the south of the island where tourists prefer to make their main base; myself among them of course by staying in Palermo.
Historically founded by the Greeks at an envious location in a promontory coming out into the Mediterranean Sea as the port for nearby Erice high up in the mountain; then captured by the Carthaginians, the following civilizations and empires were the usual in this part of the world. From Rome to Vandal, Ostrogoth, Byzantine and Norman. Heavily destroyed during the WWII raids, it quickly recovered into a very thriving port city and main gateway to the nearby Egadi Islands. People in search of history, nice beaches and a great escape or even the short ferry crossing to Tunis, this is the place.
Now speaking a bit about food, although it is very rare to struggle in finding good places to eat while anywhere in Italy, anywhere in Sicily itself you have them by the hundreds. Everywhere, anything, but if I have to describe something unique to Sicily’s cuisine then it is the arancini. You will find it everywhere, at any patisserie for sure, or specialised places and restaurants. These are deep-fried rice balls filled inside in the middle with cheese, ham, or spinach, mince beef, and basically, anything. They are delicious, but not something to have every day or more than once a day. Remember it is deep-fried and as such, not the healthiest. But after walking for so many kilometres sightseeing, it is guaranteed you will burn few of them. Pesto alla trapenese is unique to this city, made using almonds instead of the traditional pine nuts in Ligurian pesto. Try any pasta with this pesto, is delicious.
For more information about Trapani check this Wikipedia site. Italy’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Trapani
- Railway Station Perhaps your main point of arrival in the city, and best starting point for your sightseeing tour. It’s right at the beginning of the historic old town.
- Piazza Vittorio Emanuelle North of the railway station, a nice square with great architecture opening towards the sea and one of the beaches along the Mura di Tramontana.
- Mura di Tramontana The entire beach side retains the old medieval walls and make for a great sight of the beach, the wall and the historic buildings behind when seen in the distance.
- Villa Margherita On the western side of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, this public garden is just a street ahead from the train station, and just a street before the historic old town core. The northwest corner has the best buildings as:
-Palazzo della Provincia
-Castello di Terra
-Palazzo delle Poste
- Via Giuseppe Garibaldi Parallel to the beach side and Mura di Tramontana, it is one of the principal streets heading towards the west-end of the city.
- Via Torre Arsa Divides north to south the chaotic maze of streets on the east with the orthogonal grid at the west.
-Palazzo Cavarretta South, middle of the way along this street, is the intersection with the principal and beautiful Corso Vittorio Emanuele that heads to the west-end of the city with this elegant building at its head.
-Church of Sant’Agostino Dating from the 14th century, has a great worth to mention rose-window. Its meters south from Porta Oscura, with the Fountain of Saturn at the front.
-Piazza Garibaldi At the south end of Via Torre Arsa is this square right by the port, with nice buildings around and one of the marinas.
- Corso Vittorio Emanuele The most elegant street in Trapani.
-Cathedral Built in 1421, with the current structure and form dating from the 18th century by Giovanni Biagio Amico. The picture “Annunciation” located inside is attributed to painter Anthony van Dyck.
- Church and Monastery of San Francesco d’Assisi Just 2 streets south from Vittorio Emanuele, occupying a large area also facing the port, is one of the most recognisable structures in Trapani with its cupola and towers.
- Bastione Conca At the opposite side from San Francesco d’Assisi, at the north by the beach. From here you will get your postcard perfect picture of the city, its walls and beach.
- Ligny Tower The very far north-westernmost point of the city is marked by this 17th century watchtower, home to the Archaeological Museum. Great views from here.
- The Lazzaretto and Vilino Nasi At the far south-westernmost point of the city, one is a fort the other a tower, both places offering great views of the port, city and the Egadi Islands.
- Outside of the city With so much to see and do anywhere you go in Sicily, Trapani is not a exception. From incredible beaches, to small beautiful islands just across (the Egadi Islands); from villages on top of the mountains, castles to ancient Greek and Roman cities.
-Basilica Sanctuary of Maria Santissima Annunziata East of the city, not far from the cable car to Erice base station. Built in 1760 in the site of the original construction that was completed in 1332. Home to the famous marble statue of the Madonna of Trapani.
-Erice This mountain top small village overlooking the entire Trapani and the sea below is a great escape and much worth to do for the gorgeous views and the Norman castles perched from the hill. The easiest way to reach it is by taking the cable car.
-Segesta This ancient Greek city very near Trapani, a short ride by train or bus is well worth it for its almost completely preserved yet never finished Doric temple, and the amphitheater among other remains. From the station you will need a bus here. Accessing the site is 6 Euros, plus 1.50 Euros per way if you want to take the shuttle bus to the very top where the rest of the city lies with its perfect theatre.
The city is served by the Vincenzo Florio International Airport, 15 kilometres from downtown Trapani, and it’s a great option with plenty of routes served by low-cost carriers, especially Ryanair, however within easy reach you have much larger Palermo.
If Palermo is your access gate, it is located 32 kilometres to the west of the city or 80 km east from Trapani, and its accessible by buses and trains, in both cases, twice hourly. The price for a single ticket by bus is 6.10 Euros while for the train is 5.80 Euros, taking approximately 50 minutes to reach the central train station in Palermo, where the main bus terminal also is. There is no need to reach downtown Palermo first to then reach Trapani. From the airport there are buses to Trapani directly, 4 daily, not the most frequent though but good enough. For fares and timetable you can check the website here.
Coming by bus from elsewhere in mainland Italy is a lengthily journey, but possible, the same with some train routes from Rome and Naples. The ferry crossing is between San Giovanni in Calabria and Messina in Sicily, where either buses get on-board ferries, and the trains in full get inside special boats and continue the journey from the opposite side at Messina on the rail mainline towards the west of Sicily.
Another option is by ferry from some Italian cities such as Salerno, Genoa, Civitavecchia, Livorno, Naples and some international routes as Valletta, Cagliari or Tunis, although for this you will need to use Palermo’s port as your arrival point.
Within the city and because the small size yet with so much to see and do, the best way to move around is on foot. The old town core is very compact with the sights one after another and majority of the streets pedestrianised.
As we came here as a day trip from our main base Palermo 125 kilometres to the northeast, I can describe, and already with twice the experience, our hotel’s experience there.
Being the largest city in Sicily and major tourist pole in the island, the amount of hotels strongly reflects this facts where you can find hundreds to anyone’s likes. From top of the top, to hostels and anything in between. For us, finding a great deal was as easy as few minutes searching on the usual hotel comparison pages, but we know this was only the case for being absolutely low season in both our trips here. Starting from Easter time and until October the situation changes dramatically, and not only that you will end up spending a fortune for a nice hotel, but the likes of the good ones to be sold out are high. As usual, a good point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engines such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
In the most recent trip we stayed at the Hotel Garibaldi in Via Emerico Amari 146. That’s right next door to the Teatro Politeama in the north of the city, not far from the historic centre. To be honest, a great surprise for having a very nice experience. Comfortable and quiet bedroom, simple decoration, friendly staff and a nice breakfast. Very well maintained, cosy and elegant. Could not ask for more for just a night.
As for the previous time, we stayed at the Eurostars Centrale Palace, in Via Vittorio Emanuele 327. Almost next door to the Quattro Canti, and minutes away from the Cathedral, right by the main street of Palermo where majority of the sights are; location could not be better indeed. In the other hand, as this hotel was a bit behind the main street, was quieter than many others as I could read in the reviews. After all, this is an area with thriving nightlife hence expect some noise. The hotel was beautiful! On a former palace. The breakfast room super elegant and full of history on its walls, ceilings and lamps. Big and nice breakfast by the way. The room was spacious and very comfortable, and so was all the staff, very polite and friendly, listening to the needs of everyone as precious guests and not just numbers. Will definitely not hesitate in returning to the same hotel in the future. Absolutely recommended to anyone.