Trapani is a very cool port town on Sicily’s western tip that still shows its fortified origins and role as a trading port between North Africa (cous cous being a local specialty), Spain and mainland Italy. It has ferries to Pantelleria and Tunis and a pretty extensive fishing fleet hangs out in the port. It’s a great base for Western Sicily and to explore the Egadi islands – and a short bus ride from Palermo. Trapani is one of those places that look right on the map and it turns out that you chose well.
Old Town Trapani
The old town is quite compact and can be well covered in a day. It’s a nice place to cool your heels for a few days.
Most of the old town originates from the 18th and 19th centuries and it has a small town feel.
Head out to the southwest end of town to see the large fishing port with visitors from North Africa.
Erice is a nearby walled medieval hill town reachable by a 40-minute bus ride, that makes for a scenic day trip. You have stunning views over the coastline and get to understand why the Normans put a castle here.
The Duomo was originally built in the early 14th century by the Normans.
The 12th/13th century Norman Castello di Venere was built on the site of a Temple of Venus and was the center of a Roman cult. Erice is mentioned in Virgil’s Aeneid, so there you go.
If you’re based in Trapani, AST buses leave from the Porta Trapani stop near the ferry terminal and set you down at the Erice Duomo. The Caffe Maria on 117 Via Vittorio Emanuele is a good place for a coffee and the associated Pasticceria Maria Grammatico a few doors down is well known for its pastries – don’t leave without picking some up.
The Egadi Islands
Trapani is a convenient base to ferry out to the Egadi islands, either for a day trip or for a longer island exploration. Schedules and tickets can be obtained at the Liberty Lines Ferry Terminal ticketing offices, on Viale Regine Elena http://eng.libertylines.it/destination.php?id=1 Of the three islands, I decided to visit the island furthest west, Marettimo, which is about an hour each way on the hydrofoil. Marettimo is the wildest and peakiest of the islands and a great place for a day hike.
Italian hiking trails are well marked and maintained, with distinctive red-flashed signage. I picked up the trail toward Pizzo Falcone, the peak at the north of the island. There are trails that run west out of the Marettimo town although I took a more southerly roundabout route – heading south of the town along the coast road and then cutting west on a trail that led into this pine forest.
Breaking out of the pine forest, you head north along the east side of the hill range with views towards Sicily.
A notable stop along the way is the Casa Romane, an abandoned Roman settlement, alongside which is a Byzantine-era church.
You finally start to get some altitude and are high enough to look west as well, into the cloud base.
The view from Pizzo Falcone is stunning – the largest of the Egadi islands, Favignana, is in the center, and you can see the hills around Trapani beyond.
Marettimo town with the ferries docked at the ferry terminal, lies below the trail. The tideless Meditteranean permits the back-in “Med Moor” which saves a lot of wharf space.
You can make out the other islands and the Sicilian mainland beyond – along with the next ferry.
I didn’t go on this day trip but there are also good hikes to the 17th century fort at Punta Troia (northeast tip) or to the Punta Libeccia Lighthouse (southwest tip). I’d recommend 2-3 days if you want to get in some beautiful day hikes in pristine and wild island country.
Trapani is easily reached by bus from Palermo (and direct from Palermo airport). The long- and short-haul buses stop off by the Liberty Lines Ferry Terminal ticketing offices, on Viale Regine Elena. Certain of the long-haul buses require you to buy the ticket at a nearby cafe or travel agent – you can buy AST bus tickets from Egatour Viaggi opposite.
There are plenty of lodging options in Trapani. I stayed at Trapani In Appartamenti on Via S. Francesco di Paola 4, which had excellent apartments with a good nearby cafe for breakfast in the square just east.
Trapani not surprisingly has excellent seafood – seafood cous cous (cuscus con zuppa di mare or cuscus alla Trapanese) is mighty fine and has to be tried. These places were great:
- La Bettolaccia
- Hostaria San Pietro
I also came across Il Barbagianni, which was the only craft beer bar in town as I could tell, and well worth the stop.