Monday, February 1, 2016

Trapani: Unsung Jewel of Sicily

Annamaria on Monday


From a 17th Century atlas in the NYPL

Ordinarily, you would not find Trapani listed among Sicily's superstar tourist hits: Siracusa, Taormina, Agrigento, Palermo.  I am here today to try to change the world's mind about that.

People have lived on the Westernmost tip of the Sicilian mainland since the Early Iron Age.  Of the earliest inhabitants--the Elymians--we know very little but ancient myth.  Once the Greeks arrived nearby sometime around 400 BC they started telling some of their fascinating tall tales about the place.

This detail from that same atlas 

They honed in on the shape of Trapani's harbour and imagined that the when Demeter rushed to rescue her daughter Persephone from Hades, the frantic goddess dropped her sickle and it became Trapani's peninsula.  That's the female side of the story.  The male side is not so benign.  Saturn, it seems, used a sickle to eviscerate his father Uranus, the god of the sky.  The instrument used in the gruesome father-son interaction fell into the sea and formed the harbour of Trapani.

Sickle shape memorialised in a 17th century tile floor, now on display
in the Museo Pepoli.


The fountain of Saturn

The Carthaginians seized the city in 260 BC, but then lost it to Rome in 241 BC during the Punic Wars. After that, as occurred throughout Sicily, every gang of barbarians in the Eastern Hemisphere had a go at Trapani: Vandals, Ostrogoths, and then after a civilised interlude with the Byzantines and the Arabs, in 1077 the Normans rolled in.

The Trapani coat of arms
  


Eventually, a great number of Trapani's monuments were bombed by the British and the Americans during World War II.  Fortunately, some still remain.  









Here is what I saw there on two visits, one in 2010 and the second two weeks ago.  




The Medieval architecture knocks me out.









The cloister of the Museo Pepoli



The baroque is also gorgeous.

A statue in the Museo Pepoli, with my friend Agostino, to the right.

Many of the monuments have delightful details showing Trapani's connection
to the sea.

And everywhere in Italy there are lions.




On display in the museum, a miracle of medieval miniaturist
art, with Agostino's pinky finger in the picture, for scale.


Part of the salt-making industry in the Trapani.

Sunset on the Stagno, a bay so calm they call it "the lake."

Nearby to Trapani are some of the most fabulous reminders of Greek Sicily:


Selinunte and Segesta:


The Greek temple at Selinunte

Segesta's ancient theatre.
Another view to show you its spectacular position.


Segesta's jewel of a temple
Erice:

Here is the view from Erice, which sits on a mountain top.
You get up there on a cable car.


Piazza in Erice


On of Erice's medieval streets.
   

6 comments:

  1. Wow. How do you ever leave a place like that???

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    Replies
    1. You are not alone in this assessment, EvKa. D.H. Lawrence wrote of Sicily: "Anyone who has once known this land can never be quite free from nostalgia for it."

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  2. Spectacular photos of places that translate quite well from the original Greek. :)

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    Replies
    1. Yes, Jeff. And Roman. And French. And Arabic. And ...

      It's such a beautiful place, that every group within shooting distance has battled to take it over.

      But Sicily endures. Sicilians are geniuses at that.

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  3. One of these days I will get there!

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  4. WOW! I would love to go there someday. What lovely scenery, and I bet the food is amazing, too.

    (Also? I adore miniatures, and that one from the museum is spectacular.)

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