Trapani is a city in western Sicily with a crescent-shaped coastline. At the western tip, overlooking the Egadi Islands, is the 17th century watchtower Torre di Ligny, which houses the Museum of Prehistory and Marine Archaeology.
North of the harbour, the Church of Purgatory houses wooden sculptures that parade through the town during the Procession of Mysteries at Easter. Further east is the Basilica – Sanctuary of Maria Santissima Annunziata, with its exquisite bell tower. The Sanctuary houses a much revered marble sculpture of the Madonna of Trapani, the patron saint of the city.
Nearby, inside a former Carmelite monastery, the Museo Regionale Agostino Pepoli houses majolica ceramics, jewellery and coral works, including an intricate 17th-century nativity scene.
To the west, the gardens of Villa Margherita are home to tropical plants and an open-air theatre where classical music concerts are held during the Luglio Musicale Trapanese festival.
Trapani was founded by the Elymians on the promontory on which the district of San Pietro stands today. In the 8th century B.C. Trapani became part of the Punic territories and it was in fact the Phoenicians who left us the marvellous Salinas that we know today. Hamilcar Barca, a Carthaginian general, strengthened the city walls and built the first nucleus of the Colombaia (it is said that doves sent as gifts to the goddess Astarte from nearby Carthage used to stop here before climbing to the summit of Erice, hence the name Colombaia).
The Romans marked the end of Carthaginian rule in 241 B.C. with the Battle of the Egadi, but their influence on the city was indeed ‘short-lived’. In 827, the Arabs arrived, who left a huge influence on the entire island in art, cuisine, language and literature.
At the port of Trapani in 1097 came the Normans of Roger I and the customs franchise. The city hosted the first consulates of the most important trading powers, including the Genoese, Pisans, Venetians, Florentines, Amalfitans and Catalans. With the Normans, Roman Catholicism became the official religion. Starting in 1194, with the Swabian domination, Trapani saw the importance of its port confirmed, while with the reign of Charles of Anjou, the city began to experience a difficult period caused by heavy taxation. With the Sicilian Vespers of 1282, the Angevin domination in Sicily came to an end and the Aragonese domination of James II of Aragon began. During this period, the city underwent a new urban development. From 1713 to 1860, Trapani was ruled by the Bourbons. It participated in the uprisings of 1848 and it was for this that King Umberto I awarded the city the gold medal in 1899.
Take time to visit Trapani. The city’s thousand-year history offers the elegance of its noble palaces, the charm of its monuments and great wealth of churches. The sea that surrounds it is crystal clear. As you walk along its streets, its breeze will carry unmistakable fragrances that, with the warmth of its sun, will accompany you on your walks. We recommend you start at the Tramontana walls. This route will take you to the Bastione Conca, passing through the small port of Porta Botteghelle opened in 1200 and from which you can reach the beach under the Walls.
Torre di Ligny, mentioned above, is an imposing tower from 1671 that today houses the Anthropological Museum; nearby is the small San Liberale church built in the early 17th century.
In 1545, Charles V built the Bastione Imperiale/Sant’Anna in order to improve the city’s defence system.
From Largo delle Sirene, one then reaches the small harbour with the Colombaia mentioned above as a backdrop.
Also in the area, the early 19th-century Lazzaretto and the Villino Nisi, valuable for its Byzantine chapel.
On Via Torrearsa we find the marvellous Porta Oscura (13th century), on which stands the Astrological Clock from 1596 on the famous Clock Tower. It was fully restored in 2011 by Danilo Gianformaggio. The clock consists of the ‘Sun’ dial and the Lunar at the centre of which is the Planet Earth, the lily-tipped hand marks the 24 hours, the Sun hand marks the alternation of the Seasons while the Moon hand marks all the Moon phases.
On Via Ammiraglio Staiti is the Bastion of the Impossible, erected around 1560.
Churches and convents are an important testimony to a religious presence that began with the arrival of the Normans and was consolidated under the influence of the Spanish.
At the beginning of Via Garibaldi is the Badia Nuova, built in 536 at the behest of Belisarius (a Byzantine general who served under Justinian I).
Continuing along the Rua Nuova we find Sant’Alberto, today the site of exciting art exhibitions, and the Church of Santa Maria of the Itria restored in the 17th century.