CITY OF TRAPANI
Erice, strategically located on a mountain 750 meters above the sea, was the main city of the region in the ancient times.
And all the way below it, by the coastline, there was a small fishermen town called Drepanon. It was supplying noble citizens of Erice with fish and goods brought by ships from all of the world.
Nowadays Erice is a well preserved open-air museum, it looks like time has stopped here hundreds of years ago, while Drepanon – now called Trapani – grew into a big city – the current capital of the region.
Throughout history, the city has grown based on its commercial and military potential.
It was founded by the Phoenicians, but then it was conquered by the Romans, then Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Aragonians and many others. The remains of these cultures are scattered all over the city creating an eclectic mosaic.
Above all, Trapani is a living city. It’s where we go at night for a bigger party, here is the restaurant area, here we will go cloth shopping. Also all ferries we would take leave from the Trapani port.
Although Trapani is a very useful place when you want to eat lobster, buy a sports backpack, or look for a party at 3 am, it’s not the first place on the list of places to visit, especially if the stay in Sicily lasts for a week.
However, if you have more time, or if you are once again in Sicily, an evening walk along Trapani can be nice.
What is worth to see in Trapani is the fish market and the famous tuna factory. It would probably be more interesting if you add to it fish shopping.
Market (pescheria) is located next to the port. If you see yachts and ferries, there will also be fishing boats nearby. It’t a place where Trapani comes to life. From morning to noon, half the city meets here. In early summer the market is dominated by tuna (tonno), later by swordfish (spada), and beyond them are innumerable species of fish and other sea creatures.
Tuna is particularly special for Sicilians. They call it a sea pig, because no part of this giant fish is wasted – from the fins to the heart.
The local delicacy is tuna sperm (lattume). Even if you plead that you will never try that, probably sooner or later you will, possibly unconsciously – in one of the dishes.
Late in spring mattanza takes place, also called the sea corrida, which is a great tuna hunt.
Mattanza is a fishing system that has been used for centuries. It’s based on a network of tunnels and chambers in which the fish is caught. The further in it goes, the harder it is to turn back. Finally it goes to the death chamber and there it’s slaughtered with harpoons.
Currently this bloody tradition is disappearing due to its controversial course, but above all due to the industrial fishing of tuna happening long before the migrating fish reach the Sicilian coast. In the past, the tuna after a nasty death went to the processing plant.
Today these places are abandoned, but still remaining traces of their history.
While walking around the market it is worth to take a look at them, and also the tuna fishing museum.
If you are spending Easter holiday in Sicily, it could be interesting to pop in Trapani at that time.
Throughout the year, massive figures from the 17th century are stored in the church Chiesa del Purgatorio (and accessible to the public). On Easter Friday they are dressed with flowers and 18th century gold ornaments. Then they are carried out from the church by portatori – porters. Behind them follows a religious procession with musical setting and accompanied by crowds of people. The procession lasts almost 24 hours – from 14.00 on Friday to Saturday. Eventually it arrives back to the church, where the porters take two steps forward and one backwards. They do it to delay their entrance and experience this moment as intensely as possible.
This tradition is the longest and one of the oldest religious ceremonies in Italy.
Distance from the spot: 20 km
travel time: 30 min.