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Erice is a small village near Trapani, about 750 meters above the sea. Once you arrive it seems to take a dip in the Norman-medieval era . It is truly a fairytale place, where time seems to have stopped. To get there you can take the cable car from Trapani and enjoy breathtaking views of Trapani, the salt pans, and the Egadi Islands. Alternatively, you can get in your car and park at the beginning of the village. Let’s start with some history and then list the things to see in Erice.

The city was probably founded as Segesta by the Elymians, and then passed into the hands of poles such as Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs and Normans. For a long time here, already during its foundation by the Elymians, the goddess of fertility, beauty and love was celebrated. The celebration of this goddess continued throughout the centuries, in fact she was worshipped by the Phoenicians as Astarte, by the Greeks as Aphrodite, and by the Romans as Venus Ericina.

Just think that at night, a large fire lit in the sacred area served as a beacon for sailors and his fame and cult thus spread throughout the Mediterranean. Let’s go now to find out what to see and what to eat in Erice.

1. The Duomo and the historic center

Once you arrive you will find yourself in front of the 1300 Cathedral dedicated to the Assumption and the beautiful bell tower used as a lookout tower. Both can be visited (2.50 Euros +2.50 Euros, there is also the possibility of buying a single combined ticket valid for the other monuments of the city) and from the bell tower you will enjoy a magnificent view.

A short distance from the Duomo is Corso Vittorio Emanuele, full of many craft and souvenir shops. Here is also the famous Maria Grammatico pastry shop where you can try many typical sweets. Passing through this street you can also admire the church and monastery of the Savior from the 1300s and the Piazza della Loggia, which overlooks the Town Hall. Nearby is the “Antonio Cordici” Civic Museum with archaeological finds found in Erice.

Further on the outskirts you will find the Norman churches of S. Giuliano, S. Cataldo and San Giovanni Battiste, restored around 1600/1700. Visiting them is an excellent opportunity to walk along alleys and streets little known by many, but really characteristic and fascinating.

Erice Cathedral
b.roveran , CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Entry – Gio the Gamb , CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

2. The Cyclopean Walls and the Spanish Quarter

Also very fascinating Cyclopean walls around the city, which were built in the VII-VI century BC by the Elymians and then remodeled over time by the Phoenicians, Romans and Normans. In some stones it is possible to find some ancient Phoenician writings, clearly visible mainly near Porta Carmine. The best preserved stretch, along a beautiful tree-lined street, goes from Porta Carmine to Porta Spada and near the latter above a fortress, there is the beautiful Spanish Quarter with a fabulous view. It is a building built around the 17th century to house the Spanish soldiers. The inhabitants of Erice did not want the soldiers too close to them and so they chose an isolated place where they could build the stronghold. Inside there is also a small museum of anti-crafts and an exhibition on tuna fishing.

Spanish quarter, Erice
Spanish Quarter – Norbert Nagel, Mörfelden-Walldorf, Germany , CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Cyclopean walls of Erice
Cyclopean walls – Dedda71 , CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Cyclopean walls of Erice
Dedda71 , CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

3. The castle of Venus

Venus Castle, Erice
b.roveran , CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The castle of Venus was built by the Normans in the 12th century BC on the ruins of the temple dedicated to Venus Ericina and is probably the most beautiful monument to see in Erice. In fact, during the excavations artifacts were found from attributes of the ancient sanctuary. Inside there is only an empty clearing, but the external defensive walls are well preserved and are very beautiful to see and the view from here is wonderful. The castle was once connected with a drawbridge to the defensive towers of the Balio, which are located shortly before.

4. The Towers and the Balio Garden

The Balio towers
Panorama Balio Towers, Erice
Panorama from the Balio Towers
Balio Towers, Erice

The Balio Towers were the defensive system of the Norman castle and near them there is an open space from which a magnificent view of the coast opens up. Today we can admire them thanks to Count Agostino Pepoli who at his expense restored the pentagonal tower at his own expense and also built the nearby Balio garden, a beautiful English public garden.

Balio Garden, Erice
trolvag , CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The count was so in love with this place that he had his house built on the north-west side of the castle, the fascinating Torretta Pepoli. After years of neglect it has been restored and houses an interactive multimedia museum. Here, with the voice of the count, the story of the characters who have left a significant mark on the city is told.

Pepoli Tower – Norbert Nagel, Mörfelden-Walldorf, Germany , CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

What to eat in Erice

Genoese dessert, Erice
Enzo Rippa , CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

After having seen what to see in Erice, let’s now think about food. Don’t miss the Maria Grammatico pastry shop. You will find them delicious typical sweets: the Genoese and many other fantastic stuff such as almond pastries, martorana fruit, cassatelle and much more.

The Genoese are so called because at the time the commercial relations between Trapani and Genoa were very intense the shape of these sweets recalled the hats of Genoese sailors. The Genoese, as well as other typical Erice sweets, were created by the nuns of Erice around 1600 – 1700 and the recipe was in danger of being lost forever, when the convents were closed in 1800. Thanks to Mrs. Grammatico, however, who grew up with the nuns, the tradition has been handed down over time and today you too can binge without problems.

Here you will find general advice on what to eat in Trapani and surroundings (Erice is part of the province of Trapani), here instead you find the typical Sicilian dishes.

Interactive map of Erice – Points of interest marked in purple

To locate yourself once in the area, click on the enlarge symbol at the top right.

What to see around Erice

Erice is part of the province of Trapani, here are listed the places to visit in Trapani and surroundings .