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Visit Marsala

Marsala is located on Capo Boeo, the western coast of Sicily to the south of Trapani and north of the famous Selinunte temples. It is one of the oldest cities of the area, which has historically been the fortress of the Carthaginians, and later came under Arab control - it is the Arabs who gave the city its present name.

The region is best known for its remarkable quality of grapes, which is why Marsala is famous around the world for its sweet white wine, produced here since the 18th century. The sight of hill slopes laden with grapevines is common in the countryside around Marsala.

Explore Marsala

Sicily This Way Comment: Marsala is not a major tourist town but as there are fewer towns of interest on the west coast of Sicily it could provide a useful base.

The Piazza della Republica is the main square of Marsala and the centre of the activity of the town. The 17th century Cathedral of San Tomaso is an important highlight and contains several sculptures of note. The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Thomas of Canterbury and has Norman origins though it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. Its main facade is baroque as are many of the buildings in Marsala.

Also on the Piazza della Republica is the beautiful Palazzo VII Aprile with its bell tower and double layer of galleries. This is now the town hall.

Palazzo VII Aprile

Behind the cathedral is the Meseo degli Arazzi Fiamminghi, a museum of Flemish tapestries with some 16th century tapestries on display. From the main square head southwest to the Porta Garibaldi which is a large stone gateway through the walls that once encircled the old town. There is a stone lion's head carved above the gateway where Garibaldi once famously marched his one thousand men through the gateway on his way to the liberation of Sicily and Italy.

The road between the gate and the centre is called Giuseppe Garibaldi and is one of the main streets of Marsala and you can see a number of ornate palazzos along its length. From the Porta Garibaldi head nort-west to the Villa Cavallotti gardens and along the way look out for the baroque facade of the Church of Purgatorio which is now used for concerts and for the 12th century monastery, the Monastery of the Annunziata dei Carmelitani, which contains some excellent frescoes.

The Villa Cavallotti gardens are pleasant for a stroll and near to here is the 16th century Saint John's church which contains an underground vault with a spring which is known as the "Cave of the Sybil".

Just beyone the Church of Saint John is the Regional Architecture Museum Baglio Anselmi of Marsala, which is a part of the Lilybaeum Archaeological Park. This museum is housed in one of the old warehouses where Marsala wine was once produced.

As a highlight the Museum features a Punic Warship, reconstruted from the ruins of a ship that was used in the First Punic War. There are also many other artefacts such as mosaics, pieces of ceramics and statues that tell you a lot about the history of Lilybaeum, and the region (the museum is located in a building that was once an important wine production centre).

A couple of other museums of note are also found at Marsala: the Museo di Mozia (the highlight being a 5th century statue of a young Greek) and the Museo degli Arazzi, best known for its impressive 16th century tapestries.

Salt Works Natural Reserve

The beaches near Marsala are sandy include the beach resort of San Vito del Capo north of Trapani and Mazara del Vallo to the south of Marsala.

Another key site is the Salt Works Natural Reserve which is an area of salt flats which is now a nature reserve but is still used to produce salt using traditional methods. The ancient windmills still dot the landscape and a Salt Museum is housed in one of them. A large number of species of birds inhabit the area including cranes and flamingos.

Lilybaeum and Mozia

Marsala holds its unique position historically, as it was the site of the Lilybaeum, which was an important battleground during the Second Punic Wars between the Romans and the Carthaginians. Lilybaeum, the forerunner of Marsala, was an important harbour and a walled city in the northernmost frontier of Carthage, the growing strength of which was seen by Romans as a threat due to the aggression of Carthaginian general Hannibal.

Lilybaeum was the ancient city of Marsala and its remains can now be found on the edge of Marsala. It is an important archaeological site and excavations have revealed the remains of many houses and a good number of stelae, carved stone slabs - were found here.

Mozia is on the island of San Pantaleo and contains some interesting archaeological finds including the "Tophet" where Phoenicians reputedly sacrificed children!

Where to visit nearby?

Mazara del Vallo is a popular beach resort and has an interesting old town centre.

The Aegadian Islands of Favignana and Levanzo are popular vith visitors.

You can find more local travel ideas in the West Sicily guide and the guide.

See also:

Photos of Marsala

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Map of Marsala and places to visit

Marsala places to visit

Favignana

Favignana

Favignana is one of the Agaedian Islands and has pretty coastal scenery.

>> Favignana guide
Mazara del Vallo

Mazara del Vallo

Mazara is a pleasant town with beaches and an Arab casbah.

>> Mazara del Vallo guide
Levanzo

Levanzo

Levanzo is one of the Aegadian islands and is very attractive.

>> Levanzo guide
Paceco

Paceco

Paceco is close to the Salt Works Natural Park.

>> Paceco guide
Trapani

Trapani

Trapani is a large coastal town with an attractive centre.

>> Trapani guide
Erice

Erice

Erice is one of the most beautiful villages of Sicily.

>> Erice guide
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