Tag Archives: Trapani

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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Couchsurfing night in Trapani

We got out of the bus, which drove us from the airport and we waited patiently for our host near the Royal Cinema. This moment was like from a gripping movie: who is this guy? Will he turn out to be a pervert? Boring? Desperate? Are we going to escape quickly from his house at 6 a.m. ensuring that we had a wonderful time together? Or maybe it will be this night, which we could not do without a knife under the pillow?
This is the first time, when we are meant to get our accommodation through Couchsurfing. The first time in my life. Although in theory the idea of communities of travellers hosting each other is beautiful, we cannot hide that in fact we agree to spend the night in the apartment of a stranger.
He’s coming. Smiling from ear to ear, forty years old skinny Italian. Dressed in a loos blouse with Inca patterns. Wearing flip-flops and loos, bit broken jeans – you can easily say: a pure hippy. Holds by the hand a tall brunette woman.
Both smiley, they welcome us and guide us to the apartment. At the same time, we are informed that apart from us there will be three other girls in the house – also Polish.
We entered the spacious flat in the apartment house. Decoration was overthrowing. On walls there were flags of different countries, furniture in the Art Deco style covered with antique cameras, appliances, radios. Few paintings standing in the corner, Lilian – beloved woman of the host – turned out to be a painter.
On one side of the living room, on a large table, there were decanters with few types of a local wine. We were treated with a glass. First out of many. Soon afterwards other girls came in.
I don’t know how it happened, that after half an hour we were chatting as if we knew each other for years. A common topic of conversation, which naturally was travelling, Sicily and Couchsurfing guaranteed us a logorrhea until 4 a.m. Gianni, who is a honoured senior member of CS community, brought us some souvenir bracelets, stickers and maps. He gave us professional advice on how to explore Trapani, which we trustfully followed the next day. Gianni is a founder of a tourist company, which provides accommodation and organises excursions around western Sicily. If you are going to this region, I strongly recommend his services to you. Such people are simply worth supporting, worth knowing, worth giving them profit. His website: easytrapani.com

We are back from Sicily

Amazing thing happened to me this morning! I woke up and felt something strange. First of all i felt warm. I was wearing a light t-shirt and I wasn’t freezing! Second thing, I felt soft! Mattress under my back, pillow under my head instead of a backpack.
I inhaled the air with my nose. Closed, but not smelly. Definitely I am in a space larger than 4m2, and me myself …hmmm… I must have been in fresh clothes and after the evening bath. I opened up my eyes. It’s official now: I’m in Cracow!
So that’s it. On 2 May 2013 at 10 p.m. we entered our Cracow apartment and, thus we finished our tour of Sicily.
During the nine days we drove about 2970 km overland including 240 km by buses and minibuses, and 100 km by train. We hitch-hiked 29 times and did it in total 2630 km. Once we took a ferry from Sicily to Italy, stowaways.
We spent two nights in Italian homes (in Trapani and Palermo) found through couchsurfing, two in a tent on a campsite at the foot of Mount Etna, three nights wildly in a tent, and one on the way in trucks. In total i spent 15 euros for accommodation (campsite).
Except from a plane ticket to Trapani (40 euros + 20 euros for luggage (given unnecessarily, cabine baggage would be enough) and travel costs in Poland (bus to Rzeszow and train from Gliwice to Cracow) I spent 93,35 euros in Italy. In the meantime I found 20 euros on the street. So, during the journey I ‘lost’ 73,35 euros, which is 8,15 euros per day. I used to buy a coffee, wine or beer and something sweet from the cafe every day. We had a good dinner every day as well.
To sum up, 9-day vacation in Italy cost me 145 euros!
Neither of us was hurt, no one molested us, no one tried to rape or rob us. Instead, we were offered dinner three times, several times snacks like banana, pizza and wine, and the countless amounts of coffee. Few times people who were giving us a lift, had made extra kilometers (once even more than one hundred), just to help us get to some convenient destinations.
People are good, travelling does not have to be expensive and the world is beautiful. More stories about the trip coming soon.