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Marsala is located on Capo Boeo, the western coast of Sicily and is a tourist attraction both for its beaches and rich historical heritage. Marsala 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.
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.
Marsala Town Square is 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. There is also a notable 12th century monastery, the Monastery of the Annunziata dei Carmelitani which contains some excellent frescoes.
The 16th century Saint John's church contains an underground vault with a spring which is known as the "Cave of the Sybil".
An even more interesting place to visit 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.
The beaches near Marsala are sandy, and offer long sunshine hours during summers and are very suitable for beach holidays. The beaches near Marsala include Egadi and the nearby famous beach resorts of San Vito del Capo near Trapani and Mazara del Vallo.
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
Lilybaeum was the ancient city of Marsala and its remains can now be found on the edge of Marsala 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!
Places to visit nearby
Mazara del Vallo is a popular beach resort and has an interesting old town centre.
You can find more local travel ideas in the guide.