Castellammare del Golfo, the Lovely Fortress on the Sea

Castellammare del Golfo

It is known as “the Fortress on the Sea” and is one of the most beautiful tourist destinations of Western Sicily. I am talking about a quaint sea village called Castellammare del Golfo. If you are about to visit this stunning part of Sicily, this is a must-see destination. Why? Because Castellammare del Golfo encloses all the best of my beloved island, that means culture, tradition, history and, of course, vacation, with the mesmerizing beaches, pristine nature, crystal sea and picturesque landscape.

In Castellammare del Golfo, you’ll find all the heart of Sicily. A piece of this loving heart is in my travel guide, written to help you organize an unforgettable Sicilian vacation full of fun and, above all, without hassles.

Tourist Information

castellammare del golfo by night

Castellammare del Golfo lies on the West coast of Sicily and is geographically placed in the province of Trapani. That is a delicious village with 15,000 inhabitants and a multiform landscape dominated by Inici mount, from one side, and a picturesque gulf with a castle overlooking the sea, from the other one.

Rather, we can say that the gulf of Castellammare is a true amphitheater on the sea. The natural scenery changes suddenly, from a rocky and jaggy coast to lovely sandy beaches.

From this village, which is only 26 meters above the sea level, you can easily reach the nearby and likewise picturesque destinations of Segesta, San Vito Lo Capo and Custonaci.

Origin of the Name

The name of the village derives from Norman domination. At the time, the Normans built up the latest part of the castle which towers on a gulf flowing on the sea. For this reason, they gave it the name “Castrum ad mare de gulfo”, which means “castle on the sea of the gulf”. Then, it became Castellammare del Golfo in Italian, globally recognized as the Fortress on the Sea. In the Sicilian language, the name is pronounced as Casteddhammari.


The first settlement of Castellammare del Golfo was founded by the Greeks, in the V century B.C. At that time, the village was only a sea stretch of Segesta; the latter, conversely, was a very influential Greek community. For this reason, Castellammare del Golfo was also considered an emporium of Segesta, namely a sort of commercial district where the Greeks got goods and supplies by sea.

The village kept the role of emporium until the fall of Segesta. Then, dark centuries began, and the history of Castellammare del Golfo saw a new light only in the IX century, with the Arab domination, which made it independent from Segesta.

The Arabs were the ones who invested the most to revitalize Castellammare del Golfo. Indeed, they built many historical monuments, and, among them, even the popular castle which was afterward completed by the Normans. Arriving in Sicily after defeating the Arabs, the Normans modified the monuments of the village, including the Arab castle on the sea, which became a defensive fortress around the year 1000 and was officially identified as the Arab-Norman castle.

In the Middle Ages, Castellammare del Golfo became a renowned fishing and farming village, devoted to producing many Sicilian dishes you can taste still today.

What to See

Castellammare del Golfo is 50 kms away from Trapani and 67 kms away from Palermo, but you don’t need to visit these two cities besides this village.

Castellammare, in fact, offers fairly stunning places to enjoy a delicious Sicilian vacation. The main attractions deserving a visit are the Arab-Norman castle, the Mother Church, and, if you want, a long series of other churches that are monumental symbols of the history of this town.

But Castellammare del Golfo has also a lush natural landscape to admire, such as the Tonnara in the beach of Scopello, Inici mount, lanes and palaces permeated by the most evocative Sicilian culture.

You must also know that, seen from above, the town resembles an eagle laid on the sea, her wings are the two inlets of Petrolo and Marina, and, in the middle, there is the trait of land leading to the Arab-Norman Castle.

Let’s know the most relevant attractions in detail.

The Castle

castellammare del golfo castle

The Arab-Norman castle was built by the Arabs in the X century on the remains of ancient fortifications. It was placed on a fortress connected to the inland by a drawbridge. Afterwards, it was expanded by the Normans. Later, the Swabians surrounded it with walls and towers, turning it into a defensive fortress.

When you visit the castle, you get the sensation of being really in the Middle Ages. Over the centuries, the destroyed towers have been rebuilt, while the drawbridge has been replaced with a brickwork one.

Today, the halls of the castle host a fascinating museum center called Memory of the Mediterranean Sea. The museum is split into 4 areas: fishing, archeological, water – mills, and productive activities museums.

castellammare del golfo museum

The goal of this museum is to collect the testimony of the typical Mediterranean and Sicilian traditions (see the image).

There is another castle in this village. It is the so-called Inici castle, located in the south side of Inici mount. Inici castle is the oldest medieval castle of Sicily. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in 1968 by the earthquake which turned many Sicilian villages into ghost towns. Today, you can see only its remains, but the mountain pathway which leads you to this castle is breathtaking.

Mother Church

castellammare del golfo mother church

The mother church of Castellammare del Golfo lies on a rocky cliff, 25 meters above the sea level. It was probably built in 1726 on a preexisting structure.

The mother church is usually the main religious monument in a Sicilian town. This type of building is called “matrici” in the Sicilian language.

The one in Castellammare del Golfo is dedicated to the Virgin Mary (SS. Vergine del Soccorso) and has 9 altars. The current style is baroque with fresh and light frescoes.

The shape of the church is a Latin cross with central naves and spaces separated by marble columns and balustrades.

Tonnara of Scopello

Scopello Tonnara

The Tonnara of Scopello is located in the namesake beach. That is surely the most evocative place in Castellammare del Golfo. It is a unique and dreamy spot, full of history, protected by the stone and embraced by the sea.

This is also the most ancient Tonnara of Sicily, built in the XIII century and enlarged in the subsequent centuries.

The structures named tonnara were used for tuna fishing. These were the warehouses where tunas got butchered. But the Tonnara of Scopello is and has much more than that. It has the typical features of a medieval facility, with two picturesque towers and several fancy rooms, such as the home of the keeper and the hall with ancient fishing tools.

When you visit it, you’ll be able to enjoy a glimpse of authentic Sicilian tradition. Just for its beauty, the Tonnara di Scopello has been turned into an open sky museum. The Tonnara opens every day from 10 AM to 6 PM. The access ticket has a cost of 4 euros.

Near the Tonnara, there are also the ancient and original homes of fishers. These homes have been renovated and are today used as accommodations for tourists.

Moreover, this structure is surrounded by a lush garden overlooking the stacks of the sea of Scopello, the perfect scenery to organize your Sicilian wedding.


castellammare guidaloca bay

Castellammare del Golfo is animated by an endless chain of beautiful beaches equipped with breathtaking nature and a brilliant view of the Sicilian Sea. These are known as:

Guidaloca bay (see the image), Cala Petrolo, Cala Campana, The Plaja, Cala Bianca, Punta del Grottaro, Cala Rossa, Cala dell’Ovo, Cala Mazzo di Sciacca, Punta Pispisa, beach of the Stacks and Santa Margherita Grotto.

These bays embody the features of the shoreline of Castellammare del Golfo. Western coast is rocky, while the Eastern one is sandy. Waters are crystal clear and the landscape is rich in green and untouched.

Cala Campana, Cala Rossa, Punta del Grottaro, towards Zingaro Nature Reserve, and Cala dell’Ovo are rocky, for example, while Cala Bianca, Cala Petrolo and Guidaloca bay are sandy. The latter is one of the loveliest beaches of this zone.

Castellammare del Golfo bay

Furthermore, Punta Pispisa, Cala Bianca and Cala Rossa are immersed in a wild natural landscape, while the shoreline of The Plaja of Castellammare is tucked amid sand and mountains.

Cala Mazzo di Sciacca, beach of the Stacks and Santa Margherita Grotto, instead, are located near the bay of Scopello, namely the most popular and fascinating beach of Castellammare, where you can admire the aforementioned Tonnara, the majestic stacks emerging from the sea and the grotto of Santa Margherita, halfway between the town and Scopello beach. The latter overhangs the sea and contains several medieval paintings. The cave is 15 meters above the sea level and has a depth of 17 meters. The grotto is hard to reach and can be currently admired only externally.

The seabed of the rocky bays is very deep and not suitable for children.

Conversely, if, in Castellammare del Golfo, you need to find delicious restaurants overlooking the sea, you can find them in the Plaja and Scopello beaches.

Inici Mount

In Castellammare del Golfo, you don’t only have the sea, but also the mount. The zone of Inici mount is one of the most interesting in this village and not because the mount hosts the ruins of a castle, but because it is in a pristine natural landscape, where you can explore beautiful green pathways surrounded by woods, vineyards and by an ancient Sicilian manor.

Inici Mount is included in the group of mountains of Trapani. It is 1064 meters above the sea level and overlooks Castellammare del Golfo on the north side; while, in the south, it borders the castle, the sanctuary of Madonna della Mendola and the former feud belonged to the family of San Clemente baron. The mount is formed by a main tip and a secondary peak slipping towards the sea.

abisso dei cocci grottoes

In this mountain zone, climate phenomena, which occurred over the centuries, formed a series of picturesque grottoes. The loveliest one is the eremite grotto, also called the horse grotto and abyss of the pebbles (l’abisso dei cocci).

This grotto is connected to a series of wells, 305 meters of depth, with the presence of stalactites and stalagmites, in a continuous development of limestone formations that offer an extraordinary play of light and shapes (see the image).

Crociferi Palace

Crociferi Palace Castellammare del Golfo

That is the municipal palace of Castellammare del Golfo (see the image). In the past, this palace was the convent of the fathers of San Camillo de Lellis. They were named Crociferi for the big red cross pictured on their religious clothes. The palace was built in 1659, along with a church, at the behest of a princess.

Once, you could reach the palace through a tunnel of the Purgatory Church. Today, the cloister of the palace hosts enjoyable summer shows and cinema under the stars.

Crociferi Palace is in Corso Bernardo Mattarella, 24.

Hotels and Restaurants in Castellammare del Golfo

Castellammare del Golfo houses

There are over 200 types of accommodations in the town, among B&B, guest houses, hotels and resorts. 69 are near the beaches and 20 are sea views. Very picturesque are also the accommodations you find in the downtown: they have the typical architectural style of Sicily. 650 meters from the beach, instead, almost 2 kms from the town, you can find pretty B&B, with azure walls and an entrance with a stony fence. Book one of them here.

Several restaurants serve tourists in the town. Many are located in Don Leonardo Zangara Street, near the port of Castellammare. This zone is known as Marina di Castellammare. There, the most popular restaurant is named La Cambusa. The menu includes some of the most famous Sicilian recipes, such as spaghetti alla norma, and cannoli with ricotta of sheep milk, chocolate and pistachio.

You can also taste recipes with fresh fish, such as stuffed squid. Anyway, appetizers, first and second courses are all prepared with artisanal mastery, to offer you the best of the Sicilian dishes.

How to Reach Castellammare del Golfo

Castellammare del Golfo is halfway from Trapani and Palermo. To reach the town, hence, you can land in the airports of Trapani or Palermo.

Then, the best way to arrive in Castellammare is by car. From Palermo: take the A29 driveway Palermo- Mazara del Vallo, exit for Castellammare. From Trapani: always A29 Vallo-Palermo, exit for Castellammare.

Moreover, you can book a flight and a car from the same page where you find the accommodations.

And, at last, if this travel guide about Castellammare del Golfo delighted you, send me your comment. I’ll be as delighted as you, for receiving it.

Photocredits in order of appearance:


Samuel Ferrara

Dimitry B.

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