Erice, one the best medieval hamlets of Italy

a sight of erice from above

If you are looking for a beautiful medieval place to visit in Italy, I can suggest Erice.
This little Sicilian town is regarded as the corresponding medieval town of Taormina. But, while the latter is on the eastern coast of Sicily, Erice is in the western area, about 700 metres over the sea level. Over there, breathtaking views and spectacular monuments are waiting you. Erice, indeed, lies on the top of a mountain called San Giuliano. This towering high hill reaches the 800 metres over the sea level. The landscape overlooks the Tyrrhenian Sea, the city of Trapani and its marvellous sea towns, such as San Vito Lo Capo.

In the winter, Erice has not over 300 inhabitant, but its charm is fully unchanged. Even though the town is considered medieval, it has a very ancient history dating back to the earliest Greek settlements. In the beginning, Erice was conquered and inhabited by the first Sicilian community of Elymians. It was just the chief of this tribe, Eryx that gave his name to this place. In the following centuries, Erice was also conquered by the Greek colonies and the Romans.

 

erice castle

erice castle

To tell the truth, the Greeks never went to Erice from Athens, because the history of this town is very similar to the one of Segesta and Selinunte, the towns of the namesake temples you can also see during your travel to Erice. They were the Elymians along with the Phoenicians who Hellenized the town of Erice. They also built temples to worship the Greek deities. One of these  is the temple of Aphrodite, later called the temple of Venus by Romans. Each conqueror who took over Erice left monuments, castles ( see the image) and ruins.

This town was also conquered by the Arabs and the Normans that built magnificent churches and castles you can still admire today. The main sights you can admire in Erice are the temple of Venus, Pepoli Castle and the cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of Virgin Mary. The temple of Venus is by now only an ancient ruin where on the top a castle was built. This castle dates back to the Norman times. Here, you can also see the Venus fountain.

Refurbished over the centuries, these monuments keep the same ancient allure. The temple of Venus was also used to worship the prostitutes. In the ancient Greek times, indeed, there was the cult of sex. In this temple, the prostitutes were laid on the main altar while they had sex with their customers. The worshippers, indeed, regarded Venus as the goddess of sex, love and fertility. Pepoli Castle, instead, dates back to the Saracen times, it has a stunning medieval tower that offers you the sight of the nearby hills, mountains and beaches of Trapani. This castle is today a hotel.

erice cathedral

erice cathedral

The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin ( see the image) was built in XIV century as a fortress to defend the walls of the town. Its style is perfectly medieval and it is said new gothic with strong shapes and bastions that embellish it. Inside, pillars split the church in three aisles held up by crossed domes. On the side aisles, there are several niches dating back to various epochs.

The streets of the lowland town are also paved with magnificent medieval tiles. The town has also nice alleys where you can find the best Sicilian shops, bars and restaurants. Bustled in the summer, Erice fits to be visited in autumn or spring. During Easter time, indeed, a solemn procession of the Passion of Jesus is held. The Calvary mount is represented by San Giuliano mountain that today it is also called Erice mount. Here, you can also climb the winding slopes to follow the crucifixion on the spot or to do trekking in the other seasons.

About the weather, Erice has a typically Mediterranean climate, but sometimes a sunny day is suddenly replaced by approaching clouds that someone calls the kisses of Venus to compensate the missed views. You can reach Erice from Trapani. From the airport of your city you can land in Palermo or Trapani and take a bus to go to Erice. In Trapani you can also use a cable car. This vehicle allows you to admire the marvellous views of the town. The cable car is off in the winter.  You can visit Erice during Easter time, when the medieval places become more attractive for tourists.

To find accommodations in Erice where the owners speak English, please send me a message. I’ll find the proper accommodation for you.

To find hotels and accommodations by yourself, see here.

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7 thoughts on “Erice, one the best medieval hamlets of Italy

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  6. Malcolm Austin

    Rosalba,last month(October 2019) I cycled up to the top of Erice mountain after leaving Trapani where we had stayed for one night and wow what a view we had in perfect sunny and clear conditions – the coach loads of tourists were well impressed when they saw us on our bikes!!
    This was part of our week’s cycling holiday we had that started in Palermo and carried on to Castellamare,Trapani,Mazara,.Sciacca and finally to Agrigento – we are looking forward to returning to Sicily to cycle the eastern side of the island.One very bad thing though about Sicily is the appalling amount of rubbish we saw strewn about everywhere we went – you really let yourselves down

    1. Rosalba Mancuso

      Thank you so much Malcolm for sharing this. Rubbish is one of the most annoying issues in Sicily. You can see tons of rubbish everywhere. I also see it every day and every day I take care to inform those who have the duty to remove it. Unfortunately, even though the public officers remove rubbish along the streets, bad mannered Sicilians scatter further dirt the day after. The thing you reported is one of the many scourges in my beautiful and unlucky Sicily. However, I and many Sicilians will always fight to stop this disgusting scourge that is spoiling the island.

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