In the busy summer holiday season the best way to get to Erice would be to take the funicular (cable car) up the mountain from Trapani. Parking is just too limited in the town to drive it during the busy season. The cable car is €6,50 round trip per person. Details and operating times can be found on the funicular’s website (Italian only).
At the top, the funicular lets you off at by the Porta Trapani and Chiesa Matrice on the southwest corner of Erice. This is right next to the bus station as well.
At the top of the mountain as you enter Erice from either side of the mountain is a parking lot. Although it isn’t very large and the other parking we found around Erice was limited to mostly street parking – and not that much of it. The lot we parked at was next to the funicular and during the summer tourist season drivers need to pay to park in this lot. However, during the winter the city is practically shut down and the parking meters were turned off. So we parked for free.
I would seriously consider another means of getting to Erice in the busy season with such limited parking. Travel either by public transportation or the funicular. If you insist on driving and parking, then come early in the day when your chances are better to find a spot.
If getting there is half the fun, then driving to Erice is loads of fun! We drove up the Trapani side of the mountain, which was a narrow and at times scary switchback road. Thankfully, we didn’t meet very many cars on the way down. I didn’t even get photos of the drive up the mountain – my hands were holding onto the door handle (I’m not a very good passenger).
As it turned out, the Trapani side was the most nerve-racking way to Erice; on the way down we drove on the other side and, while it had its turns, it was a wider road (the one the buses use) and the turns were not quite as sharp.
However, the interesting part of the drive is heading up into the clouds. Erice sits high up on Monte San Giuliano which is 721 meters (2,365 feet). We left Trapani where it was warm and sunny and took the road up literally into the clouds, arriving in Erice in the middle of a cold, wet, windy cloud. On our descent, we came out of the clouds and back into the sunshine, having seen very little sun while on top of the mountain.
If you are driving, be sure you have plenty of gas and good brakes. Drive slowly and take the turns carefully; sometimes you have to look for the other cars well before the turn since stone walls can block them on some of the sharper turns.
Take Bus 21 or 23 (from Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, € 1.20, you can get the ticket from the driver ) to the cable car station. Return ticket is € 6,50, about 10 minutes with great views over Trapani and the sea.
In 2005 it has been inaugurated the new cableway that directly gives to the periphery of Trapani to Erice. The last time I was in Trapani, september 2005, it was in function, but I have known from some friends that in the spring 2006 it was already stopped for technical problems….it is always better to inquire before.
I was telling someone about this on VT a little while ago and I just found this photograph. Erice is up a long way up and if you’re scared of heights you may want to know about this bus trip before you depart. The photograph is taken from inside the bus looking out the driver’s window as the bus turns a corner. Yes that is a valley below! It took a few grappa’s to get my wife back on the bus to Trapani the next day.
The best way to get around in Erice is by foot. You will take in more of the town and enjoy its many splendors. The streets are so narrow anyways I doubt some cars ever get through.