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|
|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.|