Erice – a hilltop wonder not to be missed

Erice is easily accessible from Trapani either via road, walking or by cableway. We decided on the cableway which was 9 euros each return. Erice is a hilltop town or commune located at the top of Mount Erice at around 750 metres above sea level and came recommended to us so with a reasonable cost of the return trip we decided to give it a go and are glad we did. Erice is definitely a hilltop wonder not to be missed!

We boarded the cable car with no queues (which is always a bonus) and started our climb to 750 metres on the cable of 3099 metres slanted up the mountainside. The views were incredible! We could see the Trapani peninsula and sea views were fantastic. The trip lasted around 10 minutes.

Reaching the top we disembarked and entered the Trapani Gate, the main gate to the city thought to have been build in Norman times.

Cathedral of Erice

The first attraction to greet us was the Duomo or Cathedral of Erice. For 6 euros each we purchased a combined ticket which allowed us access to multiple sites of interest in Erice including the cathedral bell tower and the cathedral itself.

The Cathedral was built in the 14th century by King Frederick of Aragon, initially for not only religious but also defense purposes given the views from the bell tower allowing 360 monitoring of the surrounding areas. The cathedral was original built in gothic style; however after a restoration/rebuilt in 1865 many of the original frescoes disappeared. It was still impressive. Next the slow walk up the bell tower.

It was easy to see why this was a defensive structure also given the 360 views from the top. It was a bit of a hike up with several steep stairs. Be warned that if you are there on the hour or half hour you may go deaf as those bells are loud! The views were great; only spoilt by the imposing communication towers which are necessary for Erice to stay connected from the hilltop location.

The town itself is, as you would expect, very hilly. There were several restaurants and shops selling local produce. Looking at the prices of the restaurants we were glad we had already eaten! We had a nice walk following the map to navigate.

Monastero del SS Salvadore

We headed for the Monastero del SS Salvadore or the Ruderi Monastero which was included in our ticket. The monastery was in the process of being restored; I couldn’t find too much history on it really except that it was built over ancient water cisterns and dates back to pre 13th Century. It was interesting enough but due to the fact it was mostly ruins, some imagination was needed to try and figure out what it was in a previous life.

Church of San Giuliano

We continued walking up to the top of the town and passed by the Church of San Giuliano, one of the oldest places of worship in Erice. Dated back to the first centuries of christianity it was rebuilt around 1612. Due to collapse it was closed in 1927 and reopened in 2005 after an 80 year restoration.

Castle of Venus

Our favourite place however was yet to come – The Castle of Venus. The Norman Castle stands on an isolated cliff face on the south-eastern summit of Mount Erice. Built in the 12th century the ancient castle was enclosed by towers and built on the site of an Elymian-Phoenician-Roman temple. What is left now is a Norman style fortress and walls as well as the most amazing views!

The castle is next to the lovely Garden of Balio which provides walkways and different vantage points of the castle. It was a popular spot with lots of coach tours arriving but we loved it!

Unfortunately our time was coming to an end (and our car parking at the bottom) so we had to consider heading back down to the cable car station. We boarded the cable car and I will leave you with a video of our journey back down.

If you visit Trapani don’t miss the opportunity to visit this lovely hilltop town you won’t regret it.

Carol & Nigel x

April 2023

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