Love history, cobbled streets and castles? If you’re in the Trapani region of Sicily, you simply cannot miss a visit to the beautiful, Medieval town of Erice!
Where is Erice?
You’ll find Erice in North Western Sicily, in the province of Trapani. It’s located 751 meters above the sea and offers stunning views over Trapani and the beautiful Monte Monaco in San Vito Lo Capo. From Palermo, it’s about 117km by car.
How to get to Erice
If you’re staying in or near Trapani, the best way to reach Erice is actually by cable car. It takes just 10 minutes, costs €9.50 for a return ticket and drops you right by the entrance to the town. Be sure to check the Funivia Trapani-Erice Cableway website for current prices and the timetable.
We travelled by scooter from where we were staying in Castellammare del Golfo, which took around 50 minutes or so as it’s 36km away. There is a bus from Castellammare del Golfo that goes to Erice and costs just under €14 return.
If you are staying in Palermo and fancy a day trip, you can be in Erice in around 2 hours by car or bus.
Erice has had at least three names over the centuries. It was originally known as Eryx – which is an ancient Greek name. It was conquered in 831 by Aghlabids, an Arab dynasty, and they ruled until the Normans conquered it. They renamed it Monte San Giuliano in 1167, which it remained known as until 1934 when it was renamed Erice.
It was a settlement of the Elyrir, an ancient Sicilian tribe. It was fortified by the Phoenicians and then contested by the Carthaginians and Romans. Although it is now mostly Medieval, there are still Phoenician remains.
What to do in Erice
With sixty churches, two castles and a cathedral, there is lots of see and do in Erice and that’s one reason why it’s definitely worth visiting! Make sure you give yourself enough time to see everything so set aside a day, or you can even stay a night or two as there are lots of hotels to choose from.
Visit the Cathedral
The Cathedral, which is also called the Mother Church of Erice (or Chiesa Madre in Italian), is absolutely beautiful. The church was built in the 14th century at King Frederick of Aragon’s request, after he took shelter in Erice during the Vespers War. The bell tower next to it functioned as a watch tower.
Unlike most of the other churches, it’s not free to visit the Cathedral. You will need to purchase a ticket from the ticket office under the bell tower if you wish to see inside.
Visit the castles
One of Erice’s main attractions, of course, are the castles. One is called Pepoli Castle and dates back to when the area was ruled by Arabs.
From Pepoli Castle you get spectacular views over Trapani as well as the Castello di Venere (Venus castle) as it is a Norman castle that was built on the site of the ancient Temple of Venus. Apparently, according to legend, Aeneas built the temple to honour his mother Venus (the Roman goddess of love).
It also looks as though the castle is in the sky! It’s honestly so beautiful and like a fairy-tale.
Do some shopping
As well as the historical attractions, Erice also has lots of shops. Have a wander along the pretty cobbled streets and do some shopping at the independent stores. Perhaps pick up some ceramics for your home! There are also some old, family-run delis where you can purchase pasta, biscuits, chocolates, condiments and more to enjoy at home or give as gifts.
Wander around the streets
We found ourselves wandering down little alleyways and finding beautiful buildings and churches which you could go in to. What is so evident in Erice is just how old it is. This church, Chiesa di San Giuliano, dates back to the 13th century!
Erice also looks like it would be really stunning at night, with all the little strings of lights along the streets. I would definitely love to come back for dinner, or even stay a night in Erice.
Enjoy a meal
There are a number of restaurants and places to eat, to suit every budget. Some of the restaurants are like little caves inside and are very pretty. We chose to eat outside at a restaurant called La Pentolaccia in via Filippo Guarnotta. The food was great and really reasonable.
Erice is truly a town worth visiting if you’re in Northern Sicily! It is so beautiful, full of history and there’s so much to see and do – even just for a day. Put Erice on your list!