*Updated August 2022*
Situated in the Trapani province of Sicily, lies Castellammare del Golfo. We drove past it last year on our way to San Vito Lo Capo, and I just knew we had to add it to our list for a future holiday!
It’s a picturesque, historic seaside town that sits below an imposing mountain. If you’re interested in the history of the mafia in Italy, one of the biggest Mafia bosses is from a town close to Castellammare del Golfo – and he’s been in hiding for 30 years… He’s featured in the Netflix series, ‘World’s Most Wanted’.
The town gets its name from its fort – or castle – which is right on the sea. The castle has both Arab and Norman heritage and is now a museum that you can visit.
How to get there
We were coming from Favignana, so we got the ferry to Trapani and then a taxi to Castellammare del Golfo. There didn’t seem to be a bus, which was a bit odd. The taxi took about 45 minutes and cost €80. If you’re coming from the airport, there is a bus or you can take a taxi (around €50 if you book in advance) and it’s less than 30 minutes. Top tip – do not get a metered taxi from the airport – it cost us €125!! If you’re coming from Palermo, then you can either take a bus or taxi. Expect the journey to be around an hour and a half.
Where to stay
There are a number of hotels in Castellammare del Golfo, although no 5 star ones. We’ve visited twice and both times chose to stay in AirBnBs. The first time we stayed in a really lovely AirBnB, which was perfectly located in a quiet street parallel to the main shopping street. Our host Guiseppe was brilliant and even took us for a granita to welcome us when we arrived.
The second time we stayed at Niti Palace, which we booked through AirBnB, and it was fantastic! Really modern, exceptionally clean, quiet and in the perfect location. Francesca, who owns it, was super helpful and gave us lots of recommendations for where to eat and what to see. She also very kindly let us check in early.
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What to do
Explore the beaches
It’s a beach town so … go to the beach! Castellammare del Golfo has its own beach, however we preferred to go to outlying beaches such as Scopello and the beaches in the Riservera lo Zingaro.
Scopello is around 7km away, costs €7 each and you get a chair with that (if there’s one free), plus a free tour of the Tonarra. It’s a fabulous place to swim!
Riserva Lo Zingaro
The Riserva Lo Zingaro is a natural reserve that starts near Scopello and ends near San Vito Lo Capo. It has several beaches and takes 4 hours to walk from one end to the other – perfect for hikers!
The first beach is about a 20 minute walk from the entrance. It’s a pretty moderate/hard walk, given it can be steep at times, there are stairs to get down to the beaches and there are lots of stones – good shoes, such as trainers, are needed! It costs €5 per person and note that there is nowhere inside to buy food or drink so come prepared or buy from the little van by the entrance.
We walked as far as the fourth beach (as the third one was closed due to falling rocks). It took us about an hour to walk back to the entrance. It was tough! Good workout though.
Hire a boat
There’s no better way to explore a place than by sea! We hired a boat for a day so we could visit some hidden beaches and some that aren’t accessible by foot. It cost us €100 for the day (from 9:30 am to 6pm), which is good value for money. We found this absolutely gorgeous beach near to San Vito Lo Capo – the water was just so clear and shimmering in the sunlight!
Visit the beautiful town of Erice
About 25km from Castellammare del Golfo is the beautifully preserved Medieval town of Erice, which sits 751m above sea level. It has not one but two castles! The one pictured below is Pepoli Castle and dates back to the Norman period.
Erice has cobbled streets, stunning churches and did I mention two castles? It’s definitely worth a day trip! There are lots of restaurants to have lunch at as well if you’re planning to spend a bit if time. If you don’t have your own car, you can get a bus from Castellammare to Erice which will take around 45 minutes.
See the temple at Segesta
Less than 20km from Castellammare del Golfo is Segesta, which used to be a major city of the Elymians, who were one of the three indigenous peoples of Sicily. It is well worth a visit as there are not one but two amazing historical feats of architecture to see.
The first is the Greek-Sicilian Temple of Segesta, which is truly magnificent. It was built between 420 and 430 AD, although it’s thought to have never been completed.
The second wonder to see is the the amphitheatre, which is located at the top of Monte Barbaro, where the original city of Segesta was. It is very well preserved.
To visit Segesta, you can either join a tour or go on your own – there are buses from Castellammare del Golfo if you don’t have a car.
It costs €8.50 per person to see both the temple and the amphitheatre but that’s without the shuttle bus to take you to the amphitheatre – yes…. we walked up the mountain in 38 degree heat! It’s €10 each if you want the shuttle bus included.
Where to eat
You’re in Sicily so expect good food! There are a lot of restaurants in Castellammare so you’ll be spoilt for choice. They are mainly concentrated in the marina area or in the main shopping street. For aperitivo, we enjoyed Malandrino, where we went several times.
One night we made our own aperitivo! As we had some outdoor space at our AirBnB, we decided to enjoy it and bought some fresh tuna from a fishmonger and made tartar. It was so lovely – and delicious!
Another place we enjoyed aperitivo was Booga Wooga (awful name….). It’s located at the marina, on the beach. They did a really good Aperol Spritz!
For dinner, our favourite restaurant was hands down La Tonnara. Gorgeous setting, fantastic service and the BEST pasta we had on our entire trip (including Favignana). Highly recommend!
One night we were meant to go to Mirko but they messed up our reservation so we ended up at La Timpa. We didn’t have high expectations as it’s more a pizzeria but we were actually pleasantly surprised with the pasta – it was good! The setting is really nice too, overlooking the sea.
Another restaurant we enjoyed was L’Antico Granaio. They have very cleverly turned some sort of water receptical into a large table for families -very clever use of space! The food and service were really good and it was full the night we went.
Another restaurant I’d highly recommend is Rosmarina. It was also recommended to us by two locals. The food was very elegant and delicious! Plus they had our favourite wine on the menu.
When you’re in Sicily, you absolutely have to have granita! My husband liked to have his with a brioche for breakfast, whereas I preferred to have it after dinner, instead of an ice-cream. As I mentioned, our AirBnB host had taken us for one when we arrived and we just kept going back to the same place because it was so good!
Head to Gelateria Garibaldi for fabulous granita! I recommend trying the pistachio with mandorle (almonds) or the gelso (mulberries) with mandorle – so delicious!
We thoroughly enjoyed our holiday in Castellammare del Golfo. It’s a lovely little town – that wasn’t too busy – and had wonderful places to eat and drink, with easy access to fabulous beaches.