Perched 750 m above sea level and towering over the west of Sicily, Erice is an enchanting medieval mountain top town, featuring fountains, gorgeous views, cobblestone streets, Arab patios, palazzos, a palpable sense of history, and in winter quite often its own personal cloud. Ancient “Eryx” was dedicated to Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. The Normans built a castle (another one….) on Monte San Giuliano, where today there is a beautiful public park, offering stunning vistas of the Egadi Islands, Trapani and, on a very clear day, of the Tunisian coast. Sturdy and comfy shoes are always recommended and something warm to wear in spring, autumn and winter.
Erice is called the “City of Sciences”. It hosts important scientific meetings at the Ettore Majorana Foudnation and Centre for Scientific Culture, named after the Sicilian physician who could have been the new Archimedes or Galileo of the 20th Century, if he wouldn’t have died at the age of 32.
It is a picturesque and romantic town. You may get a little light headed before you get there as the road zigzags up to the peak, but once you're there and you walk up to the Cathedrals bell tower, you will be rewarded with some of the most spectacular views in Sicily, stretching from the Gulf of Trapani and beyond to the Egadi Islands. If you decide to take the cable car, the whole journey takes only 15 minutes and enables you to take some superb pictures.
Things to see in Erice
Castello di Venere & Torre di Pepoli
The Castle of Venus was built during the Normans period on the ruins of the Temple of Venus and overlooks the city of Trapani with its salt marshes and the Egadi Islands The Tower of Pepoli was originally built by the Saracens. rebuilt by Conte Agostino Pepoli and is now owned by the city of Erice. Pepoli Towers hosted scholars, scientists and other artists, invited by the count to lodge in the tranquillity of the mountain. In 2010 Pepoli Towers became the seat of the Observatory for Peace in the Mediterranean which deals with all matters concerning human rights and international cooperation activities and is used for meetings between different cultures and religions of the Mediterranean.
The Balio Towers once were connected to the Castle of Venus by a drawbridge. They date back to the Middle Ages, when they were built as an outpost of the military fortress. It is possible to access them by going up a flight of steps, from which you reach a doorway with an arch, where a plaque is affixed, bearing the emblem of the Habsburg dynasty of Spain. In the year 1872 the Count Pepoli restored the towers.
The Balio Gardens around the Castle of Venus were made in true English style by Conte Pepoli. From these gardens you can admire a breathtaking view of the Egadi archipelago, the coast of Marsala and the salt pans of Trapani. The vegetation consists mainly of Mediterranean species such as ash, oak, almond, cypress and pine. In these beautiful gardens you can feel the message that the town of Erice wishes to give to all its visitors: the message of tranquillity, peace and brotherhood.
Chiesa Madre di Erice
Erice is quite small, but features 60 (in words: sixty!) churches. The most interesting are the Gothic “Chiesa Madre”, built 1314 and the Medieval “Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista”.
The Mother Church was built in Gothic style with decorative frescoes and mosaics by King Frederick of Aragon, originally for defensive purposes. Frescoes and mosaics disappeared during the restoration in 1856. Important works include an extremely valuable, 16th century font and a Madonna and Child in the centre of the apse.
Housed in the Municipal Palace, the Cordici City Museum consists of small archaeological finds from prehistoric to Roman times as well as a very interesting coin collection.
More interesting museums are here
Things to do in Erice
Wander around and enjoy the maze of cobbled alleyways, Arabian patios, medieval facades, and balconies lovingly decorated with flowers. On a clear day you can see the Egadi Islands, rising from the Mediterranean Sea like motionless, giant whales. On the other side the view takes in the coastline towards San Vito Lo Capo, Monte Cofano and the Gulf of Castellammare. An almond pastry tasting at Pasticceria Grammatico is a must! Maria Grammatico, a former nun, makes – no, she creates! – the best “Pasta alla Mandorla” ever. People make detours for her pastries.
Restaurants in Erice
My Guide Sicily recommends two restaurants. Ristorante Ourelimo on Erice’s main street, because of its “Pasta all’Ericiana”, which is alone worth the trip.
The other is the Ristorante Monte San Giuliano, a bit hidden near the main piazza. Seafood at its best – in particular the traditional dish “Sarde a Beccafico” (sardines), the extraordinary delicious Ravioli alle Seppie (ravioli in cuttlefish ink) and the unbeatable seafood couscous, which is typical for the region of Trapani.
Find more excellent places to eat at Restaurants
Shopping in Erice
In Erice you will sure find a special and unique souvenir or gift in one of the cute, tiny shops, selling ceramics, puppets, jewellery, hand-woven carpets and pastries. Erice is also the place to look for antiques.
See more at our Shopping page
Events in Erice
The main tourist event is the “Processione dei Misteri”, the mystery procession on Good Friday. It emulates that of Trapani, but is smaller. However, the procession is very impressive and has shown its charm for more than four centuries.
Every year in spring, the “Time Trial of Modern and Historic Cars” is held in Erice. The race starts in Valderice, reaching the top of the mountain in a fascinating automobile race.
More annual festivals in Sicily are here
How to get to Erice
Take the A 29 to Trapani and then the winding road up the hill to the town. Going by car from Trapani takes around 40 minutes.
By bus & train
Erice is well connected by bus and train with Marsala and Palermo.
By cable car
From middle of March to December a cable car (funivia) runs from the outskirts of Trapani to Erice. Please inform yourself of the times at the tourist information in Trapani, because they vary. By the way: this is My Guide Sicily’s favourite way to get up to Erice!