The history of Erice is enhanced by the poet Virgil, who cites Erice in his most famous work, the Aeneid, making it a stop in the Trojan hero Aeneas’s journey; the hero is also the mythical founder of Rome.
To discover Erice, let’s begin our tour from Porta Trapani and walk through the alley streets and the squares, bordered by churches and palaces that, in open spaces, reveal majestic landscapes. The village is famous for its numerous churches, indeed it was known as the city with a hundred churches.
However, in reality there are less but many must be visited. Besides the Church of San Martino, in Norman style, and the Church of Sant’Albertino degli Abbati, we will highlight the oldest, the Mother Church, dedicated to the cult of Santa Maria Assunta.
Its quadrangular bell tower is embellished with mullioned windows; it is a structure with the function of defending and sighting. There are nine crosses in the right wall of the church: legend has it that those crosses came from the temple of Venus, carried by Frederick of Aragon, who was a runaway and refugee in the city during the War of the Vespers.
The symbol of Erice is the Venus Castle (Castello di Venere), built by the Normans who used materials from the temple of Venus in Erice, from which the castle takes its name.
The castle was surrounded by towers and beside them there is the Balio, a wonderful garden from which you enjoy an extraordinary panorama.
On one hand, you will look at the Tyrrhenian coast in the Gulf of Trapani and the tip of San Vito lo Capo at the horizon, and on the other, the port of Trapani, salt mines and the Egadi. Under the walls of the castle, there is the Torretta Pepoli.
Let’s taste the famous sweets of Erice.
We have a great choice among historical laboratories of sweets from Erice. There are sweets made from ancient recipes of the nuns of cloistered monasteries.
Decorated like lace, the marzipan sweets are stuffed with preserved cedar. The genovesi ericine are filled with hot custard and sprinkled with icing sugar. Mustaccioli, classic or honey types of cookies, are flavored with a hint of clove.
Finally, the Marzipan fruits, almond based, with soft and natural colors, cannot miss in this list.
We then continue onto the Saltpans of Trapani, where the ancient tradition of harvesting salt from the sea is still practiced.
Later onto Segesta a superb doric temple dated back to the fifth century BC and framed into a scenery, as wildish as evocative; a theatre of Hellenic era, clinging up Monte Barbaro, with its audotorium partially digged in the rock and overlying a cave, sacred and misterious; a more ancient temple!
Sites of extraordinary archeological interest and caves which seems to represent a “factory” of temples: this is Segesta, which holds arabic and normans evidences.
Segesta looks as if it were built yesterday and ancient Greek Temple can make a valid claim to being the best preserved in the world, and its amphitheatre boasts a hilltop position on Mount Barbaro second to none.
The archeological site, about seventy kilometers southwest of Palermo, reflects the presence of several ancient civilizations, beginning with the elusive Elymians. While the magnificent Doric temple, though (strictly speaking) never completed – as the roof was never added and the pillars never fluted – is impressive, it is just the highlight of a large archeological park.
During the afternoon the tour get back to Palermo.