This magical place combines almost all my memories from all of my travels because it is a fairy-tale medieval hill-town with rich ancient history. It’s often a bit mystic place when it’s “dressed” in its “personal cloud”. But …. but if you are lucky enough to get the kisses of Venus on a cloudless day, you will enjoy only breathtaking views of Trapani and the Egadi Islands, the Tyrrhenian Sea and plain, the beaches of San Vito Lo Capo and the coastline towards Monte Cofano and the Gulf of Castellammare, are really unforgettable and remain for life. Lots of people even call it Western Sicilian Taormina. What would you say now? Doesn’t it sound to you like a magic castle town with an ancient taste not far away from Trapani, on the Island of Sicily? The answer is – yes, it does.
E R I C E
Soooo …. According to the myth, the town was founded by Erice, the son of Venus and Bute. Apart from legends, the settlement was established by the Elymians. They were a native people from Sicily who came probably from Anatolia (Asia Minor) and settled down in the island’s western regions. The town bore the name of Eryx at that period of time.
A great number of invaders (the Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans) passed through the territory and possessed it. After them, the Arabs ruled it under the name of Gebel Hamed and they were followed by the Normans who called it Monte San Giuliano. That name was kept till 1934 when the town was one of the several places in Italy renamed by Mussolini in hour of their ancient past. Thus it was given its Latin name and it was changed from Monte San Giuliano to Erice.
Today’s town is triangular and is enclosed by three gates: Porta Spada, Porta Trapani and Porta del Carmine. There are some still visible ancient Elymian and Phoenician walls to the north-east while the inner city is dominated by two castles. The foundations of the Pepoli Castle were laid by the Arabs while the other one – il Castello di Venere (the Castle of Venus), was built by the Normans on the site of an ancient temple.
The Pepoli Castle was the first stronghold erected there. It was the Governor Palace once upon a time, better known as Balio. The 19th century adjacent Giardino del Balio has still been there and it attracts tourists and locals alike. Nowadays the castle is a hotel for modern princes and princesses offering views which are amazing …. splendid …. awesome. Or I would say: “It offers the kisses of Venus”.
As to the Castle of Venus, it was built with the ancient materials in the 14th century on the ruins where the Temple of Venus Ericina (Astarte was the Goddess of Love of the Phoenicians, Aphrodite – of the Greeks and Venus – of the Romans) used to be. This site is thought to have been the site where fertility rituals took place. Beautiful priestesses danced propitiatory ritual dances (with some sexual elements) related to the cult of Venus.
As far as the churches in Erice are concerned, there are 60, two of them being really very important – the Mediaeval Church of Saint John the Baptist and the Gothic Chiesa Matrice. The Matrix Church was built by King Federick II of Aragon. Most probably the nearby bell tower was used as a watch time of the time of his reign there.
Are you already tired? Okay then. Have a stop to get refreshed with a coffee and some treats in the Pasticceria del Convento. The confectionary shop really offers plenty of temptations like la Genovese con la crema, la Cassata siciliana, Cannoli and so on and so forth. It’s the right place for all sweet-lovers and admirers of buon gusto.
After strengthening your power, jump into the adventure of conquering the maze of medieval stone cobbled streets where you will stumble upon various handicrafts. Ceramic pottery,colourfully decorated, will catch your eye immediately. Cotton covers and multi-coloured carpets, woven according to an old technique, will leave you speechless. So, don’t be afraid of getting lost somewhere there in the winding, tiny streets because for sure your memories from of Erice will be more than splendid and for good. Enjoy the kiss of Venus. 🙂