Erice is a Sicilian village of more than 26.000 inhabitants in the province of Trapani, part of the circuit of Most beautiful villages in Italy. However, the highest fortress has been inhabited for about 1.000 inhabitants. Like many Italian (especially Sicilian) villages, its history is founded from mythology. The name Erice in fact comes from the native king Eryx, son of Afrodite and the argonaut Bute, and was the giant protector of the city. On the summit of the Mount Erice, tall 751m, the ancient rises medieval village, which captivates with its history and its beauty. In addition, the city also offers a vantage point with a splendid view of the gulf of Trapani, from which it is also possible to observe magnificent sunsets, when the sun goes out just behind them Egadi islands.

Myth of Erice

Before the construction of Erice during theBronze Age, there were already small towns at the foot of the mountain. The giant Erice was the personification of the homonymous mountain (the highest of Mountains of Trapani), protector of the local population. According to the myth, it was Erice who made the temple of Aphrodite (where today stands the current castle of the Venus Ericina), on the top of the city. Excellent boxer, Erice challenged and won many heroes. He also had the courage to challenge Heracles, who passed by after stealing the oxen of Geryon (one of 12 labors). The meeting provided that if Heracles had lost, Erice would have taken his oxen, on the contrary if he had lost the giant, Hercules would have obtained his land. The challenge was won by son of Zeus and gave the land to its inhabitants, claiming that it could later be claimed by his descendants.

Mundus Subterraneus illustration of the giant Erice compared with other giants
Giant illustration Erice from Mundus Subterraneus (1665)

Brief history of Erice

According to the Greek historian Thucydides, Erice was founded inVIII century BC by Elimi (i.e. some Trojans escaped from the war, united with the local population). Thanks to its ideal location, it was fought over by Carthaginians e Syracusans. The first managed to conquer it at the beginning of 4th century BC., but they lost control of it when it was conquered by the Romans in 244 BC during the first Punic war. More than for its military importance, Erice was known by the new conquerors for the cult of Venus Ericina. According to the Roman myth, the construction of the temple is not due to Erice, but to Aeneas, who decided to bury his father on the mountain Anchises and build a temple for the mother Venus. The ancient temple stood right where the homonymous castle of Norman origin is now present.

Venus Castle Erice
Photo: © Carlo Pelagalli - Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 3.0.

During the Arab domination, In '831 AD. the city was renamed Gabel-el-Hamid and in Twelfth century, with the conquest of the Sicilia by Normans, the upper city took the name of Mount San Giuliano, in honour of San Giuliano Hospital, protector of travelers. Thanks to a privilege granted by the emperor Frederick II, the territory of Erice was enlarged to what is called Erice countryside, which also included the underlying countries of valderice, Buseto palisade, Custonaci e San Vito Lo Capo. In the following years, with the Spanish domination, Erice experienced a period of popular uprisings, often repressed. In 1936 Erice will then regain its original name. Finally, in the following years, the villages of the Erice area became autonomous municipalities, from Custonaci (1948) to Valderice (1955).

Gulf of Trapani
Photo: © Norbert Nagel, Mörfelden-Walldorf, Germany - Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 3.0.

Get inspired

A splendid medieval village, Erice is full of history and monuments. Among the oldest are the cyclopean walls (so called because according to the legend they were built by the Cyclops). These Elimo-Punic walls built to protect the ancient village date back to VII century BC and have three main gates to access the city: Sword holder, Door Trapani e Carmine door. On some boulders some engravings with letters of thePhoenician alphabet. Also worth visiting is the Venus Ericina castle. It's a Norman fortress, which rises in the place of the ancient sanctuary, once dedicated to Venus, following the Virgin Mary. At the center of the village is instead the Cathedral of the Assumption, built by Frederick III of Aragon in 1312, by style neogothic. His bell tower it was originally an ancient military watchtower.

Erice Cathedral
Photo: © - Wikimedia Commons - CC BY 2.0.

Erice is also famous for the panorama. from Balio Gardens, which surround the castle of the same name with its towers, you can admire the view over the salt pans of Trapani. Not far away is the Tower Pepoli, built in liberty style by the count Agostino Pepoli in 1870 as a place of study. It has recently become a Peace Observatory and Mediterranean Lighthouse. Finally, it is also interesting to visit the Spanish quarter, an ancient fortress of early seventeenth century, built by the Ericini outside the city to house the Spanish soldiers. After being abandoned for years, Count Pepoli proposed that it be restored at his own expense to make it a museum. The proposal was rejected and the fortress was not touched again until 2005, when it was restored. Today the museum of Arts and Crafts of Erice.

Spanish district of Erice
Photo: © Norbert Nagel, Mörfelden-Walldorf, Germany - Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 3.0.

What to eat

If you stop in Erice you cannot fail to try the typical culinary specialties of the village. In addition to the busiati with pesto alla trapanese and cous cous, typical of the Trapani area, in Erice you can find gods yummy desserts. Among these the most famous are the Genoese, made with shortcrust pastry and custard. The most famous are found in the renowned pastry shop in Mary Grammarian. Other confectionery specialties are i morsels of Erice, made with cedar and almond jam and i mustache. The latter are desserts similar to cantucci, to be dipped in Malvasia, Marsala or raisin (maybe that DOC of Erice).

Genoese by Maria Grammatico
Photo: © Enzo Rippa - Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 4.0.

Erice is definitely a city to visit at least once in a lifetime. This wonderful Sicilian village manages to amaze and amaze even the most skeptical visitor. Walking through its narrow streets you can breathe its own millennial history, its delicious typical products enchant for their sweetness and their flavor and its sunsets, among the most beautiful in the world, leave gods indelible memories in the memory of those who stop to look at them.

Featured photo source: © b.roveran (MrPanyGoff - - Wikimedia Commons - CC BY 2.0.

Erice: village born from the myth that overlooks the Gulf of Trapani last edit: 2021-08-07T09:30:00+02:00 da Antonello Ciccarello

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