Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things To Do in Trapani
For some reason most travelers visit Sicily’s eastern coast and forget about one of its most beautiful corners in the west. Happily, this area has been largely free of industrial development, unlike other parts of Sicily, and many areas are now protected as part of marine or natural parks.
There are some beautiful stretches of coastline, including fabulous offshore islands, historic towns that will inspire your imagination, the splendid ruins of Segesta, the cute village of Scopello, medieval hilltops like Erice, great wine in and around Marsala and plenty of adventure activities from biking to walking and diving.
Trapani, Sicily, Italy by Myke B
Highlights of Trapani
- The guts and gore of Trapani’s fish market.
- The dramatic heights of medieval Erice.
- San Vito Lo Capo’s white sands.
- Walking through the beautiful Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve and swimming in the turquoise bays.
- Cycling to the salt dunes in Mozia.
- Exploring the caves on one of the Egadi islands under or on the water.
- Sipping the ruby-red wine of Marsala.
- Segesta’s fabulous temple.
- Trapani’s Easter procession, I Misteri, with its wooden scenes from Christ’s life carried through town.
- Staying just feet from the sea in a unit of Scopello’s picturesque tonnara (where tuna fish processing once took place).
Historically, the region has been more influenced by Phoenician and Arab culture, rather than the Greek and Norman traditions of other places. Housing, in particular, is reminiscent of North Africa.
The A29 autostrada from Palermo into the west has made this region more integrated with the rest of the island. There are lots of accommodation options with bed and breakfasts filling in the lower end of the scale where campsites and hostels are still sometimes lacking.
Trapani is an administrative capital of the province of the same name. The elegant old center lies in a jumbled maze of streets on a thin peninsula.
There are things to see here but none hint at any of the real grandeur of Trapani’s past. Trapani flourished once as a Phoenician trading center and was the key port for Eryx (Erice).
Erice castle offers great views of the whole Trapani region by Luca Volpi
When Eryx was sacked by Hamilcar in 260 BC some of the population moved down the hill and the port became a city. The town was ensured an enduring role throughout the Middle Ages because it was an important stopover on sea routes linking Tunis, Naples, Anjoy and Aragon. In recent years Trapani has thrived on the salt, fishing and wine trades.
As a touring base for the rest of the west it’s superb. There are a lot of accommodation possibilities in the old town and regular trains connect it to Marsala and Marzara; buses to Erice, San Vito Lo Capo and Segesta; and hydrofoils to the offshore islands, the most popular of which is an island of Favignana.
The best time to visit is at Easter to see I Misteri, a procession of 18th-century wooden images representing the last days of Christ’s life.
Trapani during Misteri, Easter / Photo by Traktorminze
All points of interest are in the old town. Immediately appealing, Corso Vittorio Emanuele runs through the pedestrianized heart of the city. At one end is the Palazzo Cavarretta, with twin clocks.
The cattedrale, further along the corso, has a Baroque portico, cupolas and a vast interior. It is dedicated to San Lorenzo.
The corso continues past balconied palazzi to Torre di Ligny right at the end of the promontory. This is an old Spanish fortification with a squat tower.
Torre di Ligny at sunset, Trapani by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo
Inside is a collection of prehistoric finds in the Museo di Preistoria e Museo del Mare. Via Torresara by the Palazzo Senatorio is the other main thoroughfare leading down towards Stazione Marittima at one end and to a morning fish market at the other in Piazza Mercato del Pesce.
You might need a strong stomach for what you will see here and for the smells. It’s a colorful market with the cries of vendors and characteristic locals. Come in the morning or you’ll miss all the action.
Palazzo Cavarretta at Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Trapani by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo
For a pleasant walk, stroll along Lungomare Dante Alighieri or head out on the peninsula towards Punta S. Anna and Torre Ligny.
Don’t miss the Chiesa di Purgatorio for the life-size wooden statues depicting scenes from the Passion. Each is explained by multilingual signs.
The statues were made from cypress wood and cork in the 18th century. Each is associated with one of the town’s trades and representatives carry them through the streets on Good Friday. The festival at that time, I Misteri, is one of the best in the province.
Chiesa delle Anime Sante del Purgatorio, Trapani by Danilo sansica
The Santuario dell’Annunziata is some distance east of the city center. The convent was built between 1315 and 1332 and then remodeled into Baroque style in 1760.
Inside are a series of chapels and the Cappella della Madonna, with the beautiful smiling Madonna and Child statue attributed to Nino Pisano. There is usually a crowd of worshipers in here.
The church also houses the town’s main museum, Museo Regionale Pepoli. It has an archaeological collection, statues and coral carvings.
Santuario dell Annunziata, Trapani by Berthold Werner
Getting to Trapani
The small national airport of Trapani-Birgi is just 16 km south of town. Air One flies to Roma Fiumicino, Milan, Turin, Venice, Bari, Catania, Lampedusa and Pantelleria. AST buses in Trapani connect to the airport (in around 20 minute intervals).
Buses arrive and depart from Piazza Montalto in the modern town, although some will also drop you at the ferry terminal, Stazione Marittima. Time tables are posted at the bus station.
Beach on Rabbit Island in Lampedusa, Sicily by Figiu
From here you can easily get to Erice, Castellammare del Golfo, Castelvetrano, Marsala, Mazzara del Vallo and San Vito lo Capo, as well as to Segesta and Calatafimi.
Trains arrive at the station in Piazza Umberto from Palermo, Castelvetrano, Marsala and Marzara del Vallo. Ferries for Pantelleria, the Egadi Islands, Ustica, Naples, Cagliari, Tunis and Kelibia leave from the Stazione Marittima at Molo di Sanita.
Pantelleria island by Gino Roncaglia
Trapani has a small center and is easily walkable. AST buses from Piazza Montalto take you to the Birgi airport and to Erice.
Journey out to the Egadi Islands or Pantelleria as part of a longer trip. Or you could see the small islands used in salt production on a day-trip by boat or canoe. If you want to do a fishing excursion you can rent a boat.
Marettimo, Egadi islands, Sicily by Robyn Hooz (away)
Sosalt company does a day-long excursion for to the Riserva Naturale delle Saline di Trapani’s uninhabited islands. A chef on board cooks your lunch.
Lungomare east of the city is good for biking, with an easy 10-11 km route to the scenic Tonnara di Bonagia. There’s also a good route at Monte Cofano.