Marsala

On leaving Grace's Place we had a couple of stops en route to Marsala. Firstly at Segesta and its Greek Temple, then at the mountain village of Erice before getting to Marsala

Segesta

The Italians have taken steps to keep cars away from this monument. First you park about 2 km away, then take a bus to the Temple Park. We then took the option of a bus from the gate to the hilltop to see the Greek Theatre, before dropping back to the gate to see the Temple.

Segesta was was one of the major cities of the Elymians, one of the three indigenous peoples of Sicily. It dates probably from about 500BC, though nobody has any idea who founded it. It was involved in the Sicilian Wars that drew in Athens and Carthage. Around 250BC it allied with Rome, and at that point ceases to hold any prominence in history

The ruins of the city are on the top of Monte Bàrbaro at 305 m above sea level. The city was protected by steep slopes on several sides and by walls on the more gentle slope towards the temple. The hilltop offers a view over the valley towards the Gulf of Castellamare. The Greek theater is the only recognisable building in the city. Aerial photography indicates a regular city plan, built in part on terraces to overcome the natural sloping terrain. Current archaeological work indicates that the site was reoccupied by a Muslim community in the Norman period. Excavations have unearthed a Muslim necropolis and a mosque from the 12th century next to a Norman castle. Evidence suggests that the mosque was destroyed after the arrival of a new Christian overlord at the beginning of the 13th century. The city appears to have been finally abandoned by the second half of the 13th century.

On a hill just outside the site of the ancient city of Segesta lies an unusually well preserved Doric temple. It is thought to have been built in the 420s BC by an Athenian architect, despite the city not having a large Greek population.The temple has six by fourteen columns on a base measuring 21 by 56 meters, on a platform three steps high. Several elements suggest that the temple was never finished. The temple also lacks any ornamentation, altar or deity dedication, and was never roofed over. The temple escaped destruction by the Carthaginians in the late 5th century.

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Erice

The town of Erice is located on top of Mount Erice, at around 750 metres above sea level, overlooking the city of Trapani and the low western coast towards Marsala.

In the northeastern portion of the city there are the remains of ancient Elymian and Phoenician walls indicating different stages of settlement and occupation in antiquity. There are two castles that remain in the city: Pepoli Castle, which dates from Saracen times, and the Venus Castle, dating from the Norman period, built on top of the ancient Temple of Venus

The town is all streets going up hill and along the main drag a scattering of tourist shops. The only other tourists when we were there were school groups.

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Marsala

And thus to Marsala, where we stayed at the Hotel Viacolvento . We stayed 2 nights here in the Deluxe Apartment – Libeccio. It had its own large balcony, and a separate dining/kitchenette as well as the bedroom The hotel is located on a narrow street a few minutes walk from the down-town area.

Parking is "difficult" without being "problematic". For example the council wash the street once a week, and you have to move your car for that. There are not that many on street car parking places , but they can be found with perseverance The staff were "correct" but not friendly, and breakfast was "reasonable" without being "outstanding". The staff did not keep the breakfast resupplied, so things ran out, and even when one requested resupply, it was not forthcoming.

The value for money is very good, but friendlier staff would have improved our stay The hotel does not offer dinner, but there are many restaurants within 10 minutes walk

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La Corte dei Mangioni

This restaurant was only a few meters from our hotel, and had been recommended by the hotel. The interior of the restaurant was informal and Italian in a nice sort of a way. Friendly enough staff, with middle of the road food. This was not the quality of food that I had expected. I assume that the clientele are mostly Italian, in as much as most of the reviews are written in Italian, though many by people with only one review to their name- suspect!..

I suppose you could say our experience was neutral, neither as good as I hoped from reading reviews here, nor bad enough to want to complain. But such was our feeling about the food, that the next night we voted with our feet and walked the 10 minutes further to the centre of the town to eat

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Selinunte

It was quite an adventure to get there, as it was not signposted, nor was it on our GPS. Anyway we got there in the end. It was an enormous site, so we took the "golf cart" option to get around. This worked well, as there were three areas to visit, and the cart took us to each, dropped us off, and gave us instructions for the next leg. The weather was a bit iffy, but we were still able to get round.

The archaeological site contains five temples centered on an acropolis. Of the five temples, only the Temple of Hera, also known as "Temple E", has been re-erected. At its peak before 409 BC the city may have contained up to 30,000 people, excluding slaves. The city was a Greek colony in Sicily, that operated from about 650BC to 250BC. During those 400 years it had a colouful history incorporating the Greeks and the Carthaginians

Before the close of the war First Punic War (about 250 BCE), when the Carthaginians were beginning to pull back, and confine themselves to the defence of as few places as possible, they removed all the inhabitants of Selinunte to Lilybaeum and destroyed the city. It seems certain that it was never rebuilt

 

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Florio Marsala Wines

Marsala wine is produced on Sicily in a process very similar to Sherry where the fortification occurs after fermentation and the wine is aged in a set of casks much like a solera. Also, for sweet style Marsala, the sweetening agent is blended into the dry, fortified wine.

Florio was founded in 1832 when Vincenzo Florio bought land adjacent to that of Woodhouse, father and discoverer of Marsala. The early years were not easy: no profit and uncertain prospects put at risk the survival of the Florio winery. From 1855 efforts began to be repaid and the tenacity finally turned into success. Over the years, Florio become synonymous of great Marsala, one of the most popular fortified wines in the world. The decades of experience, combined with the perfect knowledge of the Sicilian territory, allow to produce bottles of great value, which still represents the best of Sicily and Italy. But not only Marsala: the Florio winery has specialized in the production of other Sicilian bottles, from Passito di Pantelleria to Moscato di Alessandria, passing from Grillo and even coming to grappa.

Their winery is on the edge of Marsala, and their shop state of the art. It seemed difficult to get a tasting, and I settled for a wander round the shop and the purchase of a bottle of an Italian bitter aperitif (which we consumed in Sicily)

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La Sirena Ubriaca (the Drunken Mermaid)

We enjoyed a tapas and wine evening, with a couple of plates of tapas and a few glasses of local wine and Marsala. The Boyzz enjoyed their night out too. We met the charming owner who had imbibed several glasses himself with clients on an exterior table. The young lady who served us was helpful and informative on local wines. She did try to sell us wine to take home/ship , but was not at all offended when we declined.

I can thoroughly recommend the Drunken Mermaid, which is a very apt name for the place. The cost of the wine varies enormously according to what it is, as they offer a whole range of wines to taste.

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On to Sciacca

Our Sicily Holiday