"From Lilybeo to Marsha Allah"
Marsala, a city of approximately 80000 inhabitants, is located on the west coast of Sicily. Its history dates back to the 4th century BC, when the Phoenician settlement of the nearby island of Mozia was destroyed after a siege by the Greek army of Dionysius the Elder, tyrant of Syracuse.
The survivors moved to the mainland and founded the city of Lilybeo. In the following centuries this land was dominated by the Romans, the Arabs, the Normans, the Suevi and the Spanish. During the Arab period its name turned to “Marsha Allah”, the port of God, which later became Marsala. More recently, on May 11th 1860, general Garibaldi landed here with his thousand volunteers, the legendary “Mille”, to sparkle a popular insurrection against the Bourbon Kingdom which led to the unification of Italy.
"Marsala sweet wine"
The name of Marsala is world wide known for the sweet wine produced here, a proud competitor of Porto and Madera.
But the history of this wine is the outcome of a particular chain of events, of brilliant business people intuitions and the great potential of a long hidden treasure.
The first to find out about this potential was the Liverpool merchant John Woodhouse. In 1773 he was sailing along the coast of Sicily when a storm forced him to stop in the port of Marsala.
In one of the city taverns, he was offered the best wine produced here, the one which peasants kept for the big events: the perpetuum.
Woodhouse was impressed by the taste and he begun its trade.
He invested in the area buying wine from the farmers, building factories and using huge amounts of capital for the construction of the port.
Other businessman followed: Corlett, Wood, Payne, Hoppes, Benjamin Ingham and his nephew Joseph Whitaker, the brilliant pioneer of archeological excavations in the island of Mozia.
Finally came the Florio, a rich Italian family of businessmen and ship-owners who brought, in the second half of 19th century, a period of wealth and prosperity to the city of Marsala.
Until today the brand Cantine Florio is well known for the production of fine Marsala wine.
The old town, bordered by gates and ramparts, contains noteworthy museums and palaces, churches and monuments. The Archaeological Park, located in Capo Boeo, hosts a museum with the Callipygian Venus, the Punic Ship, the restored mosaics of Insula Romana (due to re-open in summer 2009) and the grotto of Sibylla Lilybetana. Other points of the artistic and cultural itinerary are: Convento del Carmine (art gallery), Piazza Loggia with the Cathedral (Chiesa Madre) and Palazzo VII Aprile which hosts the Museum of Dutch Tapestries.