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Photo taken from the Casa Santa to Erice cable car
Trapani and Erice lie 100 kilometres to the west of Palermo - an easy day's outing if you have your own car. Trapani lies at the foot of Mt Eryx and if I were planning a visit to both towns, I would head for Trapani (autostrada all the way) and find my way to Casa Santa, at the eastern edge of the town, leave the car in the carpark and and take the cable car to Erice, taking in the fantastic views of Trapani and the islands beyond far below as the cable ascends.
The cable car terminates just a few metres from the main gate of Erice and from there the street leads straight into the centre of the little town. Turning right at the gate will take you around to the castle, and a left turn will bring you to the Chiesa Madre with its seperate bell tower and amazing vaulted ceiling that looks for all the world like a fantasy in marzipan. The town is a mediaeval gem, all cobbled streets and historic buildings. There are more than 60 churches and monasteries within its walls. All that picturesqueness naturally means the town is a magnet for tourists. It's full of shops selling trinkets and pretty knick-knacks, but all you have to do is move away from the main street and square and you'll find quiet cobbled streets that look as though nothing has changed here for a couple of hundred years.
When you've had your fill of Erice, make your way back to the cable car. By the time you've completed the descent, enveloped in total quiet, with that marvellous view spreading out before you all the way, you'll have left all thoughts of tourist crowds behind you. If you've timed it right, you should be just about ready for lunch - why not head right the way across town to Trapani's historic old centre and find a table on the terrace of Ai Lumi, an excellent restaurant on the ground floor of the 16th century Palazzo Mellili? An afternoon spent exploring the narrow streets of Trapani, considered to be the most North African-influenced city in Sicily, will reveal Baroque palaces, grand churches and a terrific fish market. You'll find a wealth of interesting architectual details to catch your eye - wonderful doorways, handsome windows and balconies, domes and cupolas. There are plenty of smart little shops too for the retail tragics amongst us.
A short drive out of Trapani on the coast road to Masala opens out a different world again - the strange, watery world of the salt pans where red-hatted windmills stand sentinel over a shimmering, silent landscape whilst Mt Eryx forms a dramatic background.
Updated Jan 27, 2012
Located right in the belly on Palermo’s historic quarter, is the Mercato Ballaro. Ballaro is Palermo at its finest, serving up its best eats, drinks, and fresh produce and seafood in the city. Even though you may feel like you are in an Istanbul bazaar, you are still in Italy, where food remains the key to everything. If you are not in the mood to buy things, and cheap eats is your thing, well you are exactly in the right place! Ballaro is home to the best street food in the city. Try il pane con la milza, which is a sandwich made with some type of cow stomach, or something like that. If you just were completely grossed out with what I just said, try pane panella, a sandwich filled with a chickpea flatbread. Both are true delicacies of this great city.
After a quick and satisfying lunch, you must be ready to explore one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen. Located just off the road from the market, the Chiesa del Gesu' in the Casa Professa, is known around Italy for being an ornate and magnificent work of art. This cathedral is steeped in rich history, and is one of the most important baroque churches in Palermo.
Exploring Ballaro and the Casa Professa can make up a great early afternoon. If you are looking to be relaxed, this may not be your place. The market is usually a bit crowded, but it is crowded with locals, not tourists-this will make you feel like you really are Sicilian.
Updated Dec 13, 2010
Palermo makes a great base for exploring the western part of Sicily. Lots of places are within easy reach for a day trip so whether you have your own transport or are using public transport to get around you could certainly see some more of Sicily before you leave.
If a little bit of Greek Classicism takes your fancy, Segesta's Doric temple and theatre complex is about as good as it gets. Although it was never finished, the temple remains one of the most perfectly preserved in all the ancient world. With its 36 Doric columns, entablature and geisons (gables) all but completely intact and set in a truly idyllic lposition among hills and fields it's beautiful from any angle, but the best views of all is to be had from the road that winds up the hill to the theatre on the other side of the valley. A shuttle bus does the run up to the theatre, which is also in excellent condition.
It's easy to get to Segesta if you have your own transport. Whether you take the autostrada (the A29 to Tapani) or minor roads via Monreale and Alcamo, the scenery along the way on both routes is wonderful. The aurostrada's a bit longer (about 70km), the other route is shorter (50km) but much slower. Doing the trip as a loop you could visit Monreale in the morning and move on to Segesta after lunch - what a nice day that would be.
The isolation of the site makes access by public transport a little difficult, though by no means impossible and, realistically, Segesta would have to be your sole destination that day. There are no direct buses but there are 3 trains a day and the temple's a 20 minute walk from the station. Timetables to and from Segesta may help you decide whether to do it this way or book a day trip. Pack a picnic or eat at the restaurant at the site.
Updated Aug 21, 2008
Tindari is famous for both impressive Greek ruins of Tyndaris and the sanctuary with the black Madonna.
At first go to Patti, from the main square of the city there are buses to Tindari, but it goes quite rarely.
Written Oct 14, 2007
Caccamo - on 521m high -is a day trip from Palermo.
At first you have to go to Termini Imerese (there is a frequent train service between Palermo and Termini), then you can go up by bus. The bus leaves in front of the Termini I. train station. It runs quite rarely, try to cath a morning bus.
From Caccamo there are fabulous views of the surrounding countryside. The castle was built by the Normans in XI.century. The medieval streets are very charming.
Written Sep 29, 2007
If you’re looking for a quieter spot away from the traffic the Piazza Indipendenza at the south end of the Corsa Vittorio Emanuele makes a good stop. Old men play cards, children chase each other, and the cats chase the pigeons. There are several sunny benches and a couple of cafes only a stone’s throw away.
Written Nov 5, 2006
I do not remeber the name of this little restaurant in Via Vittorio Emanuele.
Bur it was wonderful to have dinner just out on the balcony overhanging the street.
So when you are walking, remember to rise your nose up, you can make some funny discoveries.
Written Dec 30, 2005
When you wanna go to swim or just sunbathe... usually everybody goes to mondello... but if you don't like the crowdy beaches then you can go to "Addaura" or "Capogallo"... the sea water is cleaner and you can swim......
Updated Jun 29, 2005
This fine building of 1750 must have originally been a palace, although poorhouses were often lavish in those days. (no further info). This one is used for temporary exhibits as was the case when we went there to catch up with an elusive Antonello which usually is in Cefalu. The show was modest as to quality of content. Anyway it is long gone. Luckily it is near the Catacombe del Cappuccini, so if there is a reason to go here, you can combine the visits. Otherwise this picture is the only sight. The address is Corso Calatafimi 217.
Written May 28, 2005
This is the place on top of Monte Pellegrino where it is said that Santa Rosalia retreated to be a hermit and where you can see the Church built on top of the cave.
It is a place of extreme stillness and religious feeling and unique in the world as the sanctuary where the altar is has been carved in the cave.
Written Jul 23, 2004
Hotel Ambasciatori Palermo
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