Tag Archives: Erice

From Erice to Palermo or licking the northern coast by car

That journey was lucky for us. Hitchhiking was lucky for us. The ride and stress-free decision to spend the night in Castellamare del Golfo were the lucky for us, too.
But let’s start from the beginning…

In Erice we met a super kind couple who was spending their holiday in Sicily. Mark and Danusia, two elderly people from Sopot, whose daughter decided to buy them tickets to Palermo as presents for Christmas. Thus, they booked a hotel room in Castellamare del Golfo and for a week they were visiting the north-western Sicily by a rented car.

They like travelling. We enjoyed listening to some stories about their trips to Crete, Provence and China. Sometimes they travel with an organised group, sometimes in such a manner as now. Danusia is a trekking guide. The magazine Knowledge and Life that she was holding in her hand she knew almost by heart. She wanted to see everything and to experience everything. She was coming into her own there, in Sicily.

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Before returning to the hotel in Castellamare they decided to visit San Vito lo Capo, a small town located on the furthest tip of the island. We were going on as long as we could. After passing San Vito the road reaches Zingaro Nature Reserve in the eastern part of the promontory. And there it ends too, forcing the travellers to return by the same, yet extremely picturesque, route.

We stopped in front of the sanctuary. Riserva dello Zingaro (Gypsy Nature Reserve) is located on the area of 1600 hectares of land hailed as the most beautiful natural landscape park of the island. It’s known for its picturesque coves, abandoned fishing huts and lots of wild birds.

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Oh yes, I was really up for it. My head was brainstorming with ideas, such as grabbing our backpacks and trekking to the place where we’d come up on the other side of the park. The plan was ambitious (the march apparently takes around 10 hours) and at that point extremely difficult to carry out.

Firstly, we were hungry. We didn’t have almost anything to eat with us so if we decided to go through the park, we’d have to stay there for the night (illegally). Secondly, it rained (so the desires were a bit weaker than usually). Thirdly, we reached the gate of the park at 4.30, while the park closes at 05.00. Our entrance with large backpacks might seem highly suspicious, and trust me, Zingaro park is nothing like our mountains, where you can easily bypass the payment gateway. Here, on the left we had a cliff falling into the sea, and on the right almost a vertical rocky wall. The five-metre wide entrance was the only available one.

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A little worried by this lost possibility I meekly entered the car. An hour later we got to Castellamare. But more about it you’ll find in the next note.

Hitchhiking tips:
From Erice to Castellamare del Golfo we were going with a Polish couple met in the town. Luckily, they stopped just in Castellamare. We weren’t planning to go there but we had no regrets at all. We approached them on the bench by the castle and asked whether they could give us a ride. This is one of the proven ways of hitchhiking: the Pole will help another Pole (abroad).

Erice – Fairy Tale Town and a Horde of Tourists

Almost running, we said goodbye to Trapani and moved to Erice, located on the nearby hill. It is one of those places, which can’t be missed in any guide book. At an altitude of 750 meters, above the sea coast, there are compact medieval buildings of the 200 inhabitants town.

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The history of Erice goes back to ancient times, when the hill was a place of cult of the goddess Venus. However, there is no chance to find any ancient monuments there. Today the place is as medieval as you can only imagine. Dozens of narrow streets, stone buildings, two splendid palaces and dozens of churches. All this surrounded by serious town walls.

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I love the medieval buildings. Those still inhabited, alive towns surely turn me more than a dead museal ruins of ancient cities, and the great grand squares of the later years. Erice with it’s atmosphere reminds Provencal villages (Vence, Le Broc, Roussillon) or, sticking to Italy, their Tuscan cousins (San Gimignano, Montefioralle). I have to confess, that no matter how hard i would try to defend, I’m not resistant to the myth of small Mediterranean towns. Widespread through Under the Tuscan Sunidea of buying an old Italian villa or renting a small room for two months runs deeply in my blood. In such place nothing better than just sit on the square, enjoy your cappuccino, then replace it with wine, add some bread with olive oil, newspaper or a book and spend whole blissful day in this way.

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Unless – this city is in the guidebooks.

Because Erice, a beautiful, wonderful Erice is an awful place!

Expensive. Full of kitschy souvenirs. Filled with tourists. The entrance to each church costs 2 euros here, and instead of cheap bars and broken pizzerias we can find luxurious restaurants and four-star hotels. On the streets of thousands of Italian, French and Chinese tourists. And it was still just April.

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It is scary to think what’s going on there during the summer.

And that’s how my admiration for the ‘intimate’, Italian town ended. We spent there maybe around two hours, then in panic – hungry – we run away. The harmony got imbalanced somewhere. The tourism industry reached this point somewhere, where even such place like Erice, not to mention Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice, forced me to delete them from the list of places, where I’d like to go back. That’s a pitty, because they are meant to be the most beautiful.

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So, you know what, i do not recommend it. Better drive further into the island and have some wine in a local ‘hole’. Stray dogs will stick to you, guys at the gas station will be surprised what are you doing here, and in the bar you’ll drink the best wine ever, which vines grew on the hill above. And it will be beautiful anyway.

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Hitch-hiking tips:

From Trapani to Erice we caught a car just next to the funicular railway, which drove tourists to the town. There is a bus stop and taxi rank there. We waited about 15 minutes – a very nice taxi driver dropped us. The road is extremely picturesque. We highly recommend!

You can also get to Erice by foot. I’m sure that this trekking is a great thing to do. Views are really dazzling.

From Erice to Castellamare del Golfo we went with a polish couple met in the town, who just stopped in Castellamare. We didn’t plan to go there, but we have absolutely no regrets. We started a conversation on a bench next to the castle and we asked about the lift. This is one of the best and tested ways of hitch-hiking: while being abroad Pole will help another Pole.

Morning walk in Trapani

We left Gianni’s place. The plan was simple and yet very tight: sightseeing in Trapani, drive to Erice, sightseeing Erice and transfer near the Riserva dello Zingaro. Surprisingly – most of the plan was accomplished.

Excited with the first morning in Sicily we had one main aim above all: the sea! Beautiful, warm, Mediterranean sea! Getting there was not very hard. It was clearly visible from the window of the apartment.

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Do you know those moments, when it seems as nothing really special is happening, but you are just simply happy? When an ordinary walk excites and arouses positive energy of the greatest kind? When the water is cold, beach is dirty, ice cream not so tasty, and the city, in fact, not very interesting, but all these things don’t matter, because you have already decided that nothing will ruin this morning for you? That’s how we felt that day.

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Trapani is a city situated on the north-west strip of Sicily, with 70 thousand inhabitants, with lovely situated old town, which is surrounded  from three sides by the sea. At the beginning it was a port town, created in the need for a nearby Erice. Today Trapani is a constantly growing city, while medieval Erice turned into a tourist museum.

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Trapani is not a city, which could be recommended to the typical tourist. If you arrive in Sicily with the intention of seeing the most interesting places, you should definitely run away from it as soon as possible. Sure, it’s not an ugly city. It has it’s pleasant promenade, several Renaissance and Baroque churches and of course great views on the sea. There is also a port. A. is a big fan of ports. Being a sailor, she could not wait to come to the marina. Unfortunately she was disappointed – it was not the picturesque one.

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In one of the churches we saw an impressive seventeenth-century sculptures of a human size. They represent the various Stations of the Cross. As we found out later, Trapani is famous for the Easter mysteries that take place during the Holy Week. During these days sculptures are placed around the city. The tradition of this procession goes back to 1612.

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And that would be all I guess. No Must See in Trapani.

But there is something else. Something, that i found much more fascinating about Sicily: everyday life. There are dirty markets, kids running around coastal rocks, fishing boats, street cafes, where the city cream of society meets up for lunch. There is a man playing in front of the church and dogs wandering on streets. At the market they treat you with olives and just caught fish. Passers-by ask where are you from and suggest a lift.

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Trapani, through it’s airport as a gate to Sicily, cheerfully welcomes it’s guests. 

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