Erice, an ancient Phoenician and Greek city, perched 751 m high on the mountain bearing the same name, crowned by a triangular plateau with a terrace overlooking the sea. Defended by ramparts and walls, the city is a labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets and passages so narrow as to allow the passage of one man. The houses, closed to each other, have graceful and well-kept inner courtyards, defended and protected from the sight of passers-by so that family life unfolds in complete privacy.
Enchanted place difficult to describe for the eyes that are filled with this view that does not seem earthly but celestial or taken from a tale of ancient distant lands and knights errant. The town is a jewel and the more you climb and the vision becomes a fresco, until you get to the castle and look out from the towers from where nature seems expressed in a painting and everything takes on the contours of the fantastic ancient world, to be seen absolutely
Erice has two faces: the sunny and bright of the hot summer days, when the light floods the streets and beautiful landscapes open onto the valley and the sea, and that of winter days when, wrapped in clouds, the town seems to rejoin its mythical roots and gives the traveler the feeling of having come to a place outside of time and reality. The medieval atmosphere, the fresh air, the beautiful pine forests that surround it, the tranquility that reigns there and the local craftsmanship make it one of the destinations favored by tourists.
It is located in a splendid geographical position from where you can admire the most beautiful views of the city of Trapani from above. In Sicily it is one of the most sought after destinations by tourists, and in 2014 it was awarded the red flag of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Its main feature is the medieval structure that allows you to admire small narrow and winding streets, typically medieval arches, decorated courtyards and small shops with the so-called "Balatari" (stone corbels in which to display the goods), where you can buy products rooms like ceramics and carpets. Also not to be missed are the typical Erice pastries including the Genoese, born from the expert hands of the cloistered nuns and now re-proposed according to the original recipe in the pastry of Mrs. Grammatico. Since 1963 Erice has been the seat of the Ettore Majorana Center for Scientific Culture, established by the initiative of Professor Antonino Zichichi, to recall the most qualified scholars in the world for the scientific treatment of problems affecting different sectors. This is why the town has been given the nickname "city of science".
WHAT TO SEE:
CASTLE OF VENERE AND BALIO
The castle, built by the Normans as a fortress, was built on the ruins of a pre-existing sanctuary. The cult of the deity was initiated by the Sicans who raised a small open-air altar in the center of the thèmenos, a sacred enclosure. Later the elimi and the Phoenician-Carthaginians maintained the cult of the goddess and increased the fame of the sanctuary. The Punicians identified the goddess in their Astarte and introduced oriental customs and rites including sacred prostitution, carried out by the priestesses who gave themselves to the pilgrims, and the breeding of doves, an animal sacred to the goddess. With the Roman Empire, a small temple named after Venus Erycina was superimposed on the existing themenos. With the discovery of new defense techniques, the fortress and its village lose all strategic importance. The fortress now abandoned in the 800 is used as a prison and a political prison. With the construction of the castle were built walls and the Balio Towers, once connected to the castle by a drawbridge, now replaced by a staircase, and built as an advanced defense. When Count Agostino Pepoli owned it, he surrounded the English-style public gardens called "del balio", in memory of the Bajuolo, a Norman magistrate. The panorama that is enjoyed from the top of this site is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. On the slopes of the mountain you can see the port of Trapani, on the west the Egadi islands and south Marsala, with the Stagnone Islands. When the conditions of visibility are particularly favorable, the island of Ustica can be seen to the north-west and the outline of Pantelleria to the south.
CHURCH AND EX MONASTERY OF SS SALVATORE
The monastery of the Benedictine nuns arose in 1290, in the palace donated by Count Enrico Chiaramonte. The palace was only part of the current complex, which has been greatly expanded over the years in order to accommodate the nuns from ancient noble ericine families. Adjacent to the monastery, there is the homonymous Baroque church with a single nave, built on the remains of a previous fourteenth-century church.
CHURCH OF SAN MARTINO
Built by Count Ruggero Normanno, on a pre-existing church dedicated to the homonymous saint, it has been rebuilt and enlarged several times over the centuries. The façade is very simple and has a Baroque portal, rebuilt in 1682 and dominated by the effigy of the saint. The interior has a basilica plant embellished with majolica. In the apse, of square shape, there is a rococo wooden choir of 1761, and presents frescoes depicting the Sacrifice of Isaac and the Descent of Jesus in Limbo. Adjacent to it opens the elegant and majestic oratory of San Martino, in rococo style and decorated with stuccos and frescoes.
CHURCH OF SAN GIULIANO
Built at the behest of Ruggero d'Altavilla in 1076, on a pre-existing Church, as thanks to the Saint who helped him to drive the Arabs out of the city. The Renaissance façade of the church is dominated by the majestic bell tower, of a later period (1170), culminating with the "pagoda" spire. The Church has been repeatedly renewed over the centuries, until it takes on its current appearance. The interior has three naves decorated with baroque stuccos and preserves the statues groups of the mysteries that, on Easter Friday, travel through the streets of the medieval village carried on their shoulders. Adjacent to the church, in the square of the same name, there is the marble statue of Sant 'Alberto degli Abati, by the sculptor Nicolò Travaglia from Palermo.
CHURCH AND EX MONASTERY SAN CARLO
The complex was founded in 1617 as an orphanage. The exterior consists of robust walls, decorated with windows with goose-breasted grilles. The church, with a single nave, preserves the original majolica floor, eighteenth-century paintings depicting the Crucifixion and the Miracle of San Carlo. At the entrance is still visible a wheel, used to deliver to the buyers the famous pastries, made with great skill by the nuns.
CHURCH OF SAN PIETRO
The church was built around 1363, with a single nave and Gothic style. The interior, with an elliptical plan, has four altars where the statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul are placed. The exterior overlooks a round-headed portal and a sixteenth-century single-arched overpass, which connects the church to the former Clarisse Monastery, now home to the Ettore Majorana Scientific Culture Center.
CHURCH OF SAN DOMENICO
The complex was erected in the late 15th century and today is Auditorium and home to two museums of the Ettore Majorana Center for Scientific Culture. The Chalonge Museum preserves tools, photos and artifacts that have been used for the study of modern physical reality; the Dirac Museum collects artifacts on the astrophysics of the microcosm coming from the Institute of Physics in New York. The pronaos is still visible from the ancient complex.
Built in 1312, on a pre-existing chapel dedicated to the Asssunta Virgin, by Frederick III of Aragon who lived in Erice for a brief period during the War of the Vespers, using material from the temple of Venus Ericina. Over the centuries, the church has been repeatedly restored and modified. The facade is in Chiaramonte's Gothic style and presents a pronaos at the entrance, added in the 16th century, used for the penitents who could not enter the church. The stucco decoration of the vaults, the marble altarpiece depicting scenes from the life and passion of Christ and the marble statue of the 15th century Madonna and Child, attributed to Domenico Gagini. In the Chapel of All Saints, today dedicated to the Madonna of Custonaci, patron saint of Erice and the Treasury of the church where there are preserved artifacts in gold and silver, such as the monstrance of the goldsmith ericino Pietro Lazzara of 1602 and works of Trapani workers dated from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century.
Ancient tower of the Punic era, rebuilt at the behest of King Frederick III of Aragon during the War of the Vespers, as thanks for the hospitality received in Erice. The bell tower is constituted by a square base, 28 meters high and spread over 3 floors, each of which is characterized by single-light and mullioned windows in the Chiaramonte Gothic style.
CHURCH OF SAN GIOVANNI
The church has uncertain origins, but it is likely that its construction dates back to the twelfth century. Over the centuries it has been repeatedly restored and enlarged. Outside, the majestic mammelliform dome, of typical Arabic inspiration, is visible, and has two entrances: the fifteenth-century portal, in the western part, and the oldest, to the east, represented by an ogival portal, decorated with zigzag elements and preceded from a fan-shaped staircase. The interior, with a single nave, houses the statue of St. John the Baptist, by Antonino Gagini, placed on the high altar and in the right transept an elegant statue of St. John the Evangelist by Antonello Gagini. Today the church is used as an Auditorium.
CHURCH OF SAN CATALDO
The church is dedicated to an Irish saint, who lived in the twelfth century, honored by the Normans who imported the cult into Sicily. The existence of the church is documented in 1339, when it served as a mother church together with the church of San Giuliano. Inside there is a marble holy water stoup from 1474, with the Aragon coat of arms and on the main altar the statue of Our Lady of the Star stuccoed by Orazio Ferraro.
HOW TO REACH MONTE ERICE:
If you are in the historic center of Trapani the fastest and most convenient way is definitely to buy a Trapani Travel Card (available at the offices in Via Torrearsa 69 and Via Garibaldi 120) in it you already find the cost of the cable car and the bus urban line that will take you to it (ATM 21 or 23). You will also have many discounts for the attractions of Erice and an explanatory leaflet with bus timetables. For the hours and rates of the cable car visit the official website www.funiviaerice.it If you are in San Vito, you can reach the top of the mountain by the AST bus that will take you directly to the cableway. Otherwise we at Sanvitolocapovacation can organize a private or group transfer service.