My plan had been to hike Zingaro Park the day before, but I found out at the entrance that it was closed due to a fire. I had already settled down in a local hotel, where I leave early next morning for the drive to Erice. After driving up the many bends and curves from Valderice, I park outside one of the old city gates on the north side. When I step through the gate, I find the Sant'Orsola church, behind a locked gate. I walk the trail next to it to a viewpoint, and see the rugged coastline with mountains rising straight from the tranquil Tyrrhenian. I enter Erice again, and start my explorations in a clockwise manner from the north, passing the Spanish Quarter and several other churches, before I decide to let go of any planned itinerary, and just decide at each intersection where to go. This brings spontaneity to my exploration, but also carries the potential of missing sights. I am happy to find the streets deserted, and meander through the cobble stone town centre. What is remarkable in Erice is that houses and streets are made of the same material, giving it a uniform look of light grey. The atmosphere is very laid back, so I soon don't really care about the sights. assuming I will see them anyway sooner or later.
The better I look and the more I stop, the more I start liking this town and its attractive corners, courtyards tucked away in the bowels of the settlement, pots with flowers against the walls. Some of the locals are outside, and I get the feeling that they all know each other. I cannot understand a thing they say, in the dialect they are speaking. I stop at the corner of a particularly beautiful street when a narrow van comes driving down. I step aside to let it pass, the van stops, and the lady driver opens her window to thank me and wish me a good day. It turns out to be the trash collector. I start to notice the many details, like lion heads sculpted in the columns of houses, the cute balconies, a signboard on a house telling me that Giuseppe Garibaldi addressed the people here from the balcony before moving on with his independence struggle in 1860.
Called Eryx by the Greeks, after the Greek hero with the same name, it was actually founded by the Phoenicians, ruled by the Arabs and others, renamed Monte San Giuliano by the Normans, and renamed Erice under Mussolini in 1934. The town oozes history from every corner. When I reach the southwestern side of Erice, I see the Chiesa Madre, the Duomo of the town, and the separate bell tower. From the other side, I suddenly see a stream of tourists approaching, and I soon understand that my quiet one-on-one time with Erice has passed. It is time to move along, and I find smaller streets still empty. I end up exploring the Castello di Venere. Built in the Middle Ages, it actually stands on top of what was a temple dedicated to Venus, the goddess of love, and was a famous temple in the Mediterranean. Legend names Aeneas as the founder of the temple. I find walls supposedly built by Daedalus, father of Icarus; I find foundations of a later church, and I enjoy the views from the walls. I see the Torretta Pepoli, a much smaller 15th century tower in the gardens. When I slowly walk back to the Duomo, I notice that almost all tourists have already left town: they must have visited on a short trip from Trapani or even Palermo. I have the church to myself, and the rest of Erice, too. I cannot get enough of meandering through the cute streets, and walk along the Punic walls on my way back to the north, to complete my circle of Erice.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Erice (Italy). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Erice. Read more about this site.