Author: Marco Bonaso
Trapani, of winding design and baroque architecture in bright stone, extends out into the sea in its characteristic shape of a scythe, with the majestic Tower of Ligny rising from its extreme point. Under Arab dominion, Trapani was a flowering center for the production of salt, tuna, and coral. In the 16th century, Trapanese coral artisans made the city famous throughout the Old World. A gorgeous collection of works in coral is preserved in the Pepoli Museum.
Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the main street of the old city, is flanked by baroque churches and buildings:
- The Jesuit Church of Collegio, from the 17th century, has a wonderful baroque facade of great relief moldings. Inside there are three naves, with some notable 18th-century altars of mixed marble and, in the main altar, a bas-relief by Marabiti, representing Maria Immacolata.
- The Cathedral, constructed in the 17th century, guards within it some funerary monuments and a crucifix, which some attribute to Anthony Van Dyck.
In the ancient Jewish quarter, along Via Giudecca, it is worth the trouble to stop in front of the Giudecca Palazzo, from the 16th century, constructed in the Spanish plateresque style.
The Sanctuary of Annunziata is an original church from the 15th century, with rose window and portal from the 1400s, the belltower from 1650. Inside it contains beautiful chapels, rich in masterpieces. The most celebrated and lovely chapel is the Chapel of the Madonna. On the main altar there is a statue of the Virgin: the Madonna of Trapani, by Nino Pisano, extremely venerated by the Trapanese. It is a true and inimitable masterpiece of sculpture.
The former convent of the Annunciation hosts the Pepoli National Museum which, for the richness and variety of its collections, is considered one of the most important museums in Sicily, and worth a visit just for its striking ambiance. The first floor hosts the picture gallery, which collects many precious paintings, including a Pietà masterpiece by Roberto Oderisio from 1380. Don't miss the artistic creations in coral (necklaces, sacred furnishings and nativity figurines), which bear witness to the artistic quality achieved by the artisans of Trapani.
The procession of the Mysteries: of exceptional power is the procession of the Saint Friday, when the Mysteries, ancient wooden statues that represent scenes from the Passion of Christ, are carried on the shoulders in an imposing procession that covers, for 24 consecutive hours, the streets of the historical center, while from the balconies, onlookers throw down flower petals.
The coast from Marsala to Trapani is characterized by one of the landscapes most peculiar to Sicily: the saltworks. Large mirrors of saltwater form an irregular and multicolored chessboard, where for centuries the precious substance has been produced. In some areas you can see a windmill, which at one time served to pump water and grind the salt. Among the most beautiful of these are the Saltworks of Trapani and Paceco, which are protected by the World Wildlife Federation for their role as home to around 170 different bird species, including flamingos, storks, cranes, and herons.
The saltworks visitor center can be found at Nubia, just below Trapani on the coastal road SP 21. In a 300-year old salt house, the Museum of Salt was instituted, illustrating the phases of salt production and some of the equipment utilized for its extraction and collection. By night, nature offers most beautiful sunsets in Sicily, with colors that shift from red to orange to pink, encircling the ancient mills and the silhouettes of the Egadi Islands.