Marsala is a gorgeous city of art, rich in Punic, Roman, Norman, Arab, and Spanish heritage. It was founded by the Carthaginians at the beginning of the 4th century B.C. under the name of Lilibeo, but during medieval times, it was conquered by the Arabs, who called it Mars-el-Allah (port of God). The Normans conquered Marsala in 1072, erecting a castle and constructing churches and convents.
The name of the city is connected to the famous wine that has been produced here since the end of the 8th century. An enterprising Englishman, John Woodhouse, established the first wine factory that produced marsala, which went on to have such a large part in the economic fortunes of the city.
The Cathedral (Duomo), constructed by the Normans and largely remodeled in the succeeding centuries. The building face dominates the piazza in Doric style, with 18th century elements like the portal and the displays on the windows.
Behind the Duomo, don’t miss the Tapestry Museum, with 8 beautiful Flemish tapestries from the 16th century, representing scenes from the war of Tito against the Judeans.
On the seafront lies the Regional Archaeological Museum, where visitors can admire Punic findings from the Isle of Mozia and from the necropolises of Lilibeo. In one large room the remains of a Punic nave are preserved, a unique example of this type of nave which was discovered in the Stagnone lagoon.
Continuing along the seafront, down to the easternmost point of the city, we come upon an archeological park containing remains of a Roman city from the 3rd or 4th century B.C.: remains of dwellings, a bathhouse and some lovely polychromatic mosaics.
Another important attraction of Marsala are the historical Florio wine cellars, two centuries old (Lungomare Florio, 1 Marsala +39 0923 781111), where you can observe the production processes of this lovely aromatic wine.
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.Photos are courtesy of: APT Trapani