If you are entering Sicily via Trapani Airport, you might want to check out the nearby town of Marsala before you head out to the island’s more popular destinations.
True, this coastal town cannot compare to the attractions of Palermo, Agrigento and Castellamare del Golfo but history enthusiasts will delight in what it has to offer. It is not only a gateway to the archaeological island of Mozio and home to a valuable archaeological museum, it also boasts of the famous Marsala wine that wine-drinking visitors will surely enjoy.
Begin your tour of Marsala at the tourist information office located right smack at the town center, along Via XI Maggio. It is a must visit place not only for a map of local attractions but also for bus timetables that are valuable for scheduling trips to your next destination. It is also good to know that the town is located along the railway line of Palermo to Trapani, so it makes a practical and convenient take off point to the rest of Sicily.
From the tourist information office, proceed to the nearby Piazza della Republica, also known as Piazza Loggia. The towering Duomo stands proudly at the center, adjacent to the handsome Town Hall and surrounded by charming architecture. It is the ideal place to get a feel of the local atmosphere, take a seat at one of the cafes or restaurants opposite the Duomo, order a refreshing drink and watch people idle by.
By the color of the walls of buildings and balconies with hard iron, the square is very much reminded of the squares of Spanish cities.
You can then proceed to Porta Garibaldi and learn what role it played in Garibaldi’s historic feat. Take lazy strolls along the winding alleyways and discover impressive palazzi with ornate balconies. Be on the look out along the way for bars and wine shops where you can sample the famous local wine and perhaps, buy a bottle or two. Wine lovers can even take a tour of the town’s wine cellars along the wine road or the Strada del Vino Marsala. Of course, don’t miss the Museo Archaeologico where you can take a closer look at the ancient Phoenician Punic warship, antiquated artifacts, exquisite ancient jewelry, and the magnificent headless marble statue of Venus.
Each stay in Marsala, no matter how short it is, can not be imagined without visiting the famous “Florio” winery. Florio is one of the oldest wine companies in Marsala and the history of wine in this city is interwoven with the history of this company. The Winery was established in far-off 1833 by Vincenzo Florio, who was the first Italian entrepreneur to be passionate about the production of Marsala wine.
Nowadays the Marsala Florio production still occurs here, even though a part of the historical cellars have been restored and available to be visited by those who want to discover the world of this famous wine. The cellars are easy to reach and they can be visited all year round.
The tour begins with eight gigantic vats, made at the end of the 19th century and still used for ageing marsala, and continues through different rooms and numerous aspects of historical interest to the actual Cellar, where about 5.500.000 litres of Marsala are kept in silence and peaceful stillness.
Finally, no Marsala visit is complete without a side trip to nearby Mozia. Take a ferry to the island and begin your tour at the museum. The facility provides valuable information that will help you gain a better appreciation of the ruins and the historical significance of the area.
Some of the items on display include a vast exhibit of terracotta masks and funeral stele but the main attraction remains to be the 5th century Greek marble statue known as Giovanetto di Mozia or the Youth of Mozia. From the museum, bring along a copy of the island map and simply wander around. Follow one of the many footpaths, consult your map and you will soon have a pretty good idea of what the sprawling ruins represent.
Also, don’t miss the salt pans and their windmills on the shore of Mozia and do not forget to pass by Museo del Sale if you want to check out how a windmill looks from the inside.