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davidx Erice - A travel report by David
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Erice,  Italy - flag Italy
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davidx's travel reports

Erice, Segesta and a bit on Trapani and Palermo

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No way am I suggesting that we have now covered the West of Sicily. There's far more – but at least we got to see some marvels I missed in 2001. Erice and Segesta are as good as anywhere in Sicily - which means GOOD.

San Catoldo church, Palermo
San Catoldo church, Palermo
This wil be shorter than my usual reports because we have still only spent two nights in the west.

Following up on my suggestion in a recent report that first time visitors to Sicily should make sure of seeing Siracusa, Agrigento and Taormina, what ever else they miss, I am now suggesting that after two visits they should have added Palermo/Monreale, Seguntium, Segesta and Erice. Piazza Armerina, which I have not seen and Etna could well be added to the eastern visit. If you are like me, you will probably want to have visited at least one island out of the Eolian or Engadi Islands as well after two visits.

Of course you could divide by themes – Greek including Agrigento. Siracusa, Taormina, Segontium and Segesta; Norman and islands – including Monreale, Palermo, Erice, Cefalu and some of the castellated villages in the north-east mountains.


Favourite spots:
The castles of Erice
The castles of Erice
Erice calls itself a city and it has enough splendid churches, including a cathedral, for this to make sense but it is small and I think of it as a village – and no worse for that! It is high up a mountain above Trapani from which it can usually be reached by cable car – no doubt an outstanding experience but it was closed during our visit. Otherwise the bus ride is magical.

What can I say? Two Norman castles, a lovely park among splendid narrow streets, amazing views over the coast as well as Trapani and a massive area of salt pans. It's quick to write but it could absorb a lot of time.

What's really great:
Typical street, Erice
Typical street, Erice
We arrived in Erice in pretty good weather – not warm but the visibility was great. The following morning the rain was like something from a film and the mist made the sights pathetic.. We could think of nothing beyond a visit to Trapani, which sounded rather a limited objective for a whole day. We were lucky enough to meet up with an American couple who offered us the chance of joining them in their car. If the weather improved down below, they would be going to Segesta.
We accepted gratefully, the weather was far better down from the moutain and we all went to Segesta. This is a difficult place for public transport and I had sadly rejected it from our itinerary.
Apart from great sight seeing we really enjoyed the company of the two Americans and hope to keep in touch.
Segesta is covered under sights.

Doric temple, Segesta
Doric temple, Segesta
Segesta is an archaeological site. Caltafimi, the nearest town founded in Arab tmes, was given the full name of Caltafimi-Segesta in 1999 and is best known under its former name for the victory of Garibaldi's men over the 'Kingdom of the two Sicilies.'
The first thing seen is the Doric temple, which is often reckoned to be the most perfect in Sicily. Given the the Greek remains in Sicily are often reckoned to be on a par with those of Greece itself, this would appear to say a lot. Certainly it is a real wonder and is not let down by either its gorge scenery or its spring flowers.
On a neighbouring hillside, reached by the sane on a bus, there is a considerable amphitheatre, the remains of a mosque and the foundations of a castle used by the Norman in charge of the area when they replaced the Arabs as the dominant power.
Yet another Sicilian must-see!

Our room, 
Hotel Pineta, Erice
Our room, Hotel Pineta, Erice
I've done a travel tip on the Hotel Pineta in Erice and I recommend it heartily to anybody not put off by all the steps. The views are stupendous and rooms, including bathroom, are heated before your arrival. The cool, which would be such a welcome relief in mid summer turns to cold in winter. The only gripe is that they leave it late to turn on the heat in the restaurant.
In Palermo we stayed ta the Hotel Joli. Being near the Via Roma, it has an easy bus link to the station. The lift (elevator) made a welcome change and everything was well satisfactory.

Trapani from Erice
Trapani from Erice
Trapani seems an incredibly long town – mainly because it is, as any map will show. It extends ever more narrowly to a point in the sea and in fine weather two of the Egadi islands are visible.

There are some handsome buildings near to the point in the old town but I suspect the salt pans to the south of the town might hold more interest.

It would be interesting to go further south to the town of Marsala and to the Carthaginian remains, as our American friends intended after they had kindly dropped us at the Palermo stop.

Section of roof, Basilica di Monreale
Section of roof, Basilica di Monreale
I am sure that in the summer the park at Erice, just below the castles and with beautiful trees for shade, must be a superb hang-out - but anyone staying longer than necessary for photos in the weather we had should be hung out themselves and preferably dropped off!

Valley of the Temples, Agrigento
Valley of the Temples, Agrigento
The menu at the restaurant at the Hotel Pineta is very good but don't get there too early if you want the room warm. Check your final bill carefully before leaving the hotel if you overlap in any way with another room. The idea that we should have shared a table with our American friends and that we were buying all the wine but only our own meals was apparently too much for the waiter's English and certainly too much for our Italian!
There are numerous good places to eat within a stone's throw of the Hotel Joli in Palermo

Other recommendations:
La Zisa, Palermo
La Zisa, Palermo
I can't finish without discouraging anybody planning a visit from driving in Palermo! Not only is the traffic frightful and immensely boring; the parking has to be seen to be believed.

When I went to Palermo in 2001 I was disappointed with the old palace of Zisa – because I was told it was a bit like Granada's Alhambra. I thought anybody going without absurd expectations would find it impressive and warned Pam that it was not much more like the Alhambra than I am. Not only was she impressed by the visit – I was myself!

Published on Monday March 22th, 2010

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Mon, Mar 29 2010 - 02:07 AM rating by karlakern

Thank you David, your report is really clear and helpful!, I will travel to Italy in August, I considerate your words. Thanks!

Tue, Mar 23 2010 - 10:09 PM rating by mtlorensen

Another nice report David. And good to see a familiar and friendly face in the photos. Thanks!

Mon, Mar 22 2010 - 06:34 PM rating by horourke

Uusual great standard and written at a pace that mimics Italian cadences.

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