Trapani Tourist Attractions
Top Tourist Attractions in Trapani
Provinical capitalEventsPassion Procession on Good Friday. Mystery plays (misteri) are the highlight of the church year. Feast of San Liberante (Whit Monday). Mattanza del Tonno (tuna-fishing competition, end of May). Operatic performances (July). Ferragosto Trapanese (folk-lore, religious and sporting events in honor of the Madonna of Trapani, 15th Aug.).LocationBeautifully ensconced on and close to a promontory and at the foot of Monte Erice (751m/2,465ft) in the northwest of Sicily, Trapani is a lively commercial, industrial and diocesan town as well as a port.
The Old Town juts out westwards on a narrow peninsula between the harbor and the open sea, and boasts a number of historical buildings.HistoryDrepanon is the Greek word for sickle or crescent. That was the name given to Trapani by the ancients because of its sickle-shaped peninsula, even though no Greeks ever settled here. In fact it was a base used by the Carthaginians, who made it into a naval port at the beginning of the First Punic War in 260 B.C. and populated it with some of the people from Eryx. In 249 B.C.The Romans under the consul P. Claudius Pulcher suffered a heavy defeat when they tried to take the town from the sea. In 242 B.C., however, C. Lutatius Catulus succeeded in taking it and from that date it remained Roman and a port of little importance and without its own charter.It was the ninth century A.D. before Trapani enjoyed an improvement in its fortunes under Saracen rule, when both Arabs and Jews lived in the Arab Quarter, between Via 30 Gennaio and Via Torrearsa. Trade and commerce prospered after 1077 under the Normans too. In the 15th century, under the Aragonese, the great salt-fields were laid down and these continued in existence until quite modern times before succumbing to the pressure of American competition.In 1820-21 and 1848 there were uprisings against Bourbon rule. The town suffered badly in the Second World War.Parallel to the north coast lies Via della Libertà, the eastern end of which, where it enters the New Town, widens out into a square, Piazzo Vittorio where the Municipio (town hall) and Prefettura (county council offices) face each other. It adjoins the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, named after Victor Emmanuel, who was King of Sardinia from 1849 and King of Italy from 1861. His memorial (1882) on the south side of the square extols him as "Re galantuomo" and "Padre della patria" (the gentleman king and father of the fatherland). It looks down on the lawns of the square and the adjacent park of the Villa Margherita with its ancient trees and many portrait busts, including those of Dante, Bellini and Piersanto Mattarella, President of the Region of Sicily, who was murdered by the Mafia in 1980; it is here that the "Luglio Trapanese" (July musical festival) is held.
The Old Town of Trapani lies to the west of Piazza Umberto (rail station), near which will be found Piazza Malta and the central bus station (from where there are buses to Erice, among other places). The Old Town begins where Via XXX Gennaio runs from north to south, and takes up most of the peninsula to the west; Corso Italia and Corso Vittorio Emanuele traverse it from east to west.
On the other side of Via XXX Gennaio in Trapani Via Giudecca runs north parallel to Corso Italia. Here, in what was once a ghetto, stands the Palazzo Giudecca. Built in the 16th century in the Gotho-Catalan style, the rich door and window frames and the tower with its diamond-shaped rustic stone-work and crenellations are most pleasing to the eye.
Santa Maria del Gesù
If the visitor now follows the Corso Italiano in a westerly direction he will see, in a side road to the left, the Late Medieval former Franciscan church of Santa Maria del Gesù, built after 1528. Inside, in the Cappella Staiti, under a 1521 marble canopy by Antonello Gagini, can be seen a terracotta Madonna, thought to be by Andrea della Robbia.
Corso Italia ends at the Piazza Sant'Agostino, where the visitor's gaze is drawn to the plain apse of the church of the same name. Built as a temple in the 14th century, it was destroyed in the Second World War and rebuilt as a concert hall. The door and extraordinarily beautiful rose-window from the old church were saved and incorporated in the new building. This west front looks out on to the Piazza Saturno, which is named after the 16th century Fountain to Saturn in memory of the myth relating to the founding of Trapani; the fountain shows the ancient god Kronos-Saturn, son of Ouranos who held his children prisoners in the Underworld. With his mother's aid Kronos castrated his father with a sickle and then threw the weapon into the sea. Then Aphrodite rose out of the surf and the sickle-shaped promontory, on which Trapani lies, was formed.
The Palazzo Cavaretto in Trapani is bordered by Via Torrearsa, the northern end of which terminates in the semi-circular colonnaded market building.A little way north of Piazzo Saturno towers the richly articulated facade of the Palazzo Cavarretto (c. 1700). It looks down on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, a street containing several interesting buildings.
Chiesa del Collegio
The Jesuit church, the Chiesa del Collegio in Trapani was built by the monk and master-builder Natale Masuccio between 1606 and 1638. It is a triple-aisled basilica with pillars and a vaulted roof and a dome above the chancel. The high altar is decorated with a relief of the Immaculata by Ignazio Marabitti (1766). The two-storied front of the church forms one with that of the adjacent Jesuit College, now used as a grammar school. The church was closed for restoration in 1990.
Cathedral of San Lorenzo
A Baroque Palazzo, now part of the town council offices, and the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. Built in 1635 as a triple-aisled basilica, it was extended by Giovan Biagio Amico in 1740; he then added the portico and the dome, the tambour of which is flanked by four towers.
On the corner of Via Turrete, on the left southern side of Corso Vittorio opposite the Jesuit church, stands the Palazzo Riccio, one of Trapani's first Baroque palaces to be built in the early 17th century. The portal and the inner courtyard with three-storied buildings around it are attractive and interesting.
Torre di Ligny Museum
When walking through the Old Town of Trapani the visitor will obtain a glimpse every now and again of the blue sea which surrounds the peninsula to the north and the south. To the south lies the harbor and Piazza Garibaldi - with its shipping offices and departure wharves for ships and hydrofoils going to the Egadi Islands - and Viale Regina Elena, with views of the salt-works and the Egadi Islands.
The island of La Columbaia lies off the harbor entrance in Trapani.
In the east of the town stands Trapani's most important building, the pilgrimage church of the Virgin Mary, the Santuario dell' Annunziata, founded in the 13th century. The facade with its richly decorated door and rose-window has been preserved from the 14th century church. The building was completely renovated in 1742 by G. B. Amico, who created a single-aisled and vaulted hall-church with a transverse oval dome above the chancel.The interior and its chapels are richly adorned with works of art. These include the Fishermen's Chapel (Cappella dei Pescatori, 15th century) in the Late Gothic style with an octagonal dome and 16th century frescoes, the square, domed Seamen's Chapel (Cappella dei Marinai, 1514-40), and especially the Cappella della Madonna in the choir behind the high altar; it was built in 1498 to house the statue of the Madonna of Trapani. In it will be found the marble statue of the Madonna which is the most revered and most copied one in Sicily, sculpted c. 1350 by Nino Pisano or one of his school and carried in the Good Friday Procession. Later this chapel was given a marble entrance arch by Antonello Gagini and his sons (1531-37) which opened it up to the ante-room, and it was then blocked off with a bronze grille in 1591.
Museo Regionale Pepoli
The Santuario dell'Annunziata in Trapani forms part of the Carmelite abbey which was secularized in 1866. It has a beautiful cloistered courtyard dating from 1650 and a wide stairwell from 1639. It now houses the Museu Regionale Pepoli, founded in 1908, and includes collections once owned by the Bourbon minister G. B. Fardella and Count Pepoli of Trapani, as well as items from the abbey.Medieval architectural fragements and sculptures are exhibited on the ground floor, including a statue of San Giacomo by Antonello Gagini (1522). A wide staircase leads to the upper floor, with 24 rooms housing the Pinacotheca (gallery with works by Titian, Paolo Veronese, Ribera and Serpotta), the Handicrafts Department (with coral jewelry, etc.) and the Antiquarium (with finds from Lilybaion, Erice and Selinunt).
In front of the town gates of Trapani lie giant salt-fields. The white heaps of salt are covered with tiles to prevent it from blowing away and to keep it dry. After the 16th century salt production was for many years the region's most important industry, but today it is on a very small scale.