History of Erice, excursions in Erice Print
Erice, known to its Elymian founders and later to the Greeks, as Eryx, sits at 751 meters (2500 feet) on Monte San Giuliani overlooking the Gulf of Castellammare and the city of Trapani, on Sicily's western coast. The views, to use a much travestied phrase, are extremely spectacular. In the summer months, Erice, whose overall shape is an equilateral triangle is hot hot hot, but during winter, the town can become shrouded in disorienting and dreamlike fogs. Beautiful in either case. Erice and Segesta were the more important Elymian cities. Afterwards Erice fell under the influence of the Carthaginians until it was destroyed during the first Punic war and the inhabitants moved to Drepanon (now Trapani). During the war, general Hamilcar planned the fortification of the city. The walls were built according to the morphology of the montagna and using its stones so that the city seemed a natural continuation of the mountain. The Romans conquered Erice in 248 BC and restored the temple that the Carthaginians dedicated to the goddess Astarte while they dedicated to Venus, to its former glory. The fame of Venus Ericina grew so much that the Romans dedicated her another temple in Rome and his cult spreaded throughout the Mediterranean. Mount Eryx was a reference point for sailors. Soon Venus became their protectress. At night the fire in the sacred area acted as a lighthouse for those who came from the sea. Then the city followed the historic events of the island: it was dominated by the Bizantines, the Arabs and the Normans. The famous Castle was built during the Norman rule while in the Middle Ages were built many churches and monasteries that still characterize the disposition of the city. To get to Erice from Trapani, take the cable car (and rouse your heart), or drive up the via Vito Carvini. At the Porta Trapani you will encounter the Duomo (Cathedral), the Chiesa Matrice, built between 1313 and 1332, beside which sits a striking campanile (bell tower). The cathedral, with a Gothic arch door, large rose window, two rows of mullioned windows and crowned by merlons, is is largely of the Gothic style. A "porch" with a quartet of ogival arches was added in 1426. The Gothic interior, with three aisles, is equally impressive. Unlike Trapani which was rebuilt after World War II bombings destroyed much of the city, Erice retains a wonderful medieval ambiance, with a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets, a number of old churches, 60 or so in fact, including the original Orthodox Church of Saint John the Baptist, the Church of the Madonna, and the Church of Saint Ursula, mostly built in the 15th century, and various public buildings and private villi. At the center of town, in the center of the equilateral triangle which it comprises, is the Church of St. Peter and adjacent monastery. The complex also houses the E. Majorana Centre for Culture and Science. Every year, important scientific conferences organized by Antonio Zichichi are held in Erice. Museum goers should make time for a visit to the Cordici Civic Museum in Piazza Umberto I where a number of artifacts from Phoenecian, Greek, Carthiginian and Roman times are on display. The ruin of the Greek Temple of Aphrodite (Venus to the Romans) was allegedly founded by Aeneas, but that of course, is more mythology than history. It was known throughout the ancient Mediterranean world for its beauty and because it was home to a notorious Venus cult whose practices spread far and wide. In the north eastern part of the town you will find walls built by the Elymians and Phoenecians over 3,000 years ago. Overlooking the city are the Castello Pepoli, built in the days of the Saracens, and the Castello di Venere (Venus again), built, to make a point no doubt, by the Normans on top of another Temple of Venus. Surrounding the Castello di Venere, built in the 12th Century, and the Torri di Ballo are the sweet and quiet public gardens, the Giardiani del Ballo. Climb the castle ramparts or tower and on a clear day you will see Monte Cofano, the city of Trapani and the nearby Egadi Islands, and perhaps Pantelleria or Cap Bon, which is in Tunisia about 170 km away. One can not visit Erice for less than a few hours, so it is likely that lunch or dinner, or both, are in the offing. There are a number of good restaurants in the town, but look for one that serves up the area specialties, fish and cous cous.
 

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Erice, norman castle
Erice, intern of Cathedral
Erice , cableway
Panoramic Erice
Erice, sunset landscape
Erice, Cathedral close to Trapani port
 
Erice, norman castle
Erice, tourist store
Erice, via Vit.Emanuele
Erice, history stairs
Wonderful landscape from Erice
Erice, medioeval arch

 

     
 

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