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May 14, 2017

Sicily: Erice

Filed under: Architecture, Europe, Italy, Photography, Travel, Travel, Writing — Tags: , , , , , , , , — anotherheader @ 4:39 pm

A composite picture of two sides of Segesta’s temple

After a twenty-minute search we found the boarding entrance for the Tirrenia ferry in Cagliari Sardinia. This overnight ferryboat would take us from Cagliari to Palermo Sicily. Though we were staying near the port and had walked by the car entrance several times, it was not clear where we were supposed to enter. Oddly the ferry car loading entrance was not well marked in English, Italian, Sardinian, or Swahili. It seems like they only expect regular travelers who know where they are going on this route.

Once in the loading lot we exchanged our online receipt for a boarding pass. Pass in hand we joined the line of cars and trucks loading onto the ferry. Inside were routed down deep into the bowels of ship to a parking place low down on one of the many of the vehicle decks.

Tirrenia’s ferry waits in Cagliari.

The temple in Segesta

Tirrenia’s ship was one of the many large ferries that crisscross the Mediterranean. Ferries such as this are an important part of the Mediterranean islands’ economies. The multiple vehicle decks hold hundreds of cars and semi-trucks. Above the vehicles are decks fitted out as accommodations. It’s a poor man’s cruise ship with well-worn amenities and dated Las Vegas-style glitz. Though the overnight accommodations are basic and the food is marginal, it beats driving, even for the passages where there is a competing land route.

Early the next morning we arrived in heart of Palermo Sicily. Driving through Palermo is something to add to your list of a 1001 things to do before you die. It’s a thrill a second. But take my recommendation; it would be best to put this one near the bottom of the list. It might be the last item that you get to.

The Greek theater in Segesta

Segesta’s Doric temple

Having survived the streets of Palermo we were still too early to check into to our room in Erice, which was a little less than two hours away. With extra time we headed to the archeological site at Segesta nearby.

A settlement was established at the location of Segesta several hundred years before the birth of Christ. Over the years, control of the area passed to the Greeks and then to the Romans. The settlement was in decline when it succumbed to Vandalism: The Vandals destroyed the remnants of the city in the 5th Century AD. Today there are two remaining structures in Segesta, a Doric Temple and a Greek theater.

The temple in Segesta is said to have been built in the 420’s BC. Sitting with a commanding view the area, the temple is unusually well preserved and perfectly situated. If for some reason you wish to artificially restrict yourself to seeing just one Greek temple while in Sicily, the Temple of Segesta would be a good choice.

Narrow streets wind through Erice’s old town.

After wandering the ruins of Segesta we continued on our way to Erice. Erice, dressed in monochromatic stone grays, is atmospheric. It is a place that mirrors its Phoenician, Greek, Sarasin, and Norman past. The village’s meandering street plan that once confused invaders now confounds motorists. Erice, like many of Europe’s best villages, is difficult to navigate by car. Restricted access tends to limit development. Despite being popular Erice has not been overrun by modern tourist infrastructure.

Much of Erice’s appeal comes from its geographical position. Situated on Mount Erice 750 meters (2,460 ft) above sea level, the village overlooks the city of Trapani on the western coast of Sicily. Erice’s location provides two keys to its popularity: There’s a great view from the town’s ramparts and the elevation means that Erice is a place to go to escape the heat during the hot Sicilian summer.

Erice has a nice view


Unfortunately the lower summertime temperatures were not an advantage during our visit at the end of November. Indeed, we had headed south on our road trip with a primary goal of reaching warmer weather. In Palermo, on the Sicilian coast, it was cool but comfortable. On top of Mount Erice, in the breeze, it was uncomfortably chilly. The other tourists seemed to know this; the town was near empty. Much of the tourist infrastructure, including many restaurants, was closed. Pleasant as it was to have the streets to ourselves, late November was not an ideal time to visit Erice.

Erice’s formidable defenses

Chiesa Madre

Inside Erice’s church, Chiesa Madre

Ceiling details of Chiesa Madre


  1. Reblogged this on Site Title.

    Comment by azuremorn — May 15, 2017 @ 9:07 am

  2. […] from Erice to Marsala we paused to visit Riserva Naturale Orientata Saline di Trapani e Paceco. At the reserve […]

    Pingback by Sicily: Via del Sale | Another Header — May 15, 2017 @ 12:12 pm

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