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Erice, Sicily: a guide to the best sights, food and attractions

Erice in Western Sicily is a charming medieval town Nestled atop Mount San Giuliano, offering a captivating blend of history, culture, and breathtaking vistas. As a local Sicilian travel advisor, I can tell you that Erice is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the island. With its cobbled streets, ancient architecture, and panoramic views, Erice is a hidden gem that provides a unique glimpse into Sicily’s rich heritage.

Erice town is located in the province of Trapani, on the Western coast of Sicily. It is roughly 2h driving distance from Palermo and less than 30 minutes by car from Trapani. Perched on top of Mount Erice, at an elevation of about 750 meters above sea level, it offers stunning panoramic views.

views from Erice to Trapani ancient path, ©Antonella Ravidà

Erice is a place where time seems to stand still. As you wander through its narrow cobblestone streets, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back into the Middle Ages. The town’s well-preserved medieval architecture, including ancient stone houses and towering walls, creates a timeless ambiance that’s perfect for a leisurely stroll.

1. Venus Castle (Castello di Venere)

This ancient fortress, built on the ruins of a temple dedicated to Venus, offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes, including the Egadi Islands and the city of Trapani. The castle’s Norman architecture and lush gardens make it a picturesque spot for history enthusiasts and photographers alike.

2. Porta Trapani

Porta Trapani is one of the main entrances to the enchanting medieval town of Erice, Sicily. This historic gateway offers visitors a glimpse into the town’s rich past, featuring impressive stone walls and a commanding archway that dates back to the Norman period. As you pass through Porta Trapani, you’ll be transported into a world of cobblestone streets, ancient churches, and stunning panoramic views.

Porta Trapani, Erice, ©Antonella Ravidà

3. Chiesa Madre Real Duomo (Mother Church)

Erice i salso known as the city of one hundred churches (Città delle cento chiese) even though there are much less. The Chiesa Madre Real Duomo, also known as the Cathedral of Erice, is a stunning example of Gothic architecture. Built in the 14th century, this church features an impressive bell tower that you can climb for an even better view of the town. Have a look at the entrance timetable here.

4. Balio Gardens (Giardini del Balio)

Adjacent to Venus Castle, the Balio Gardens are a serene escape with beautifully manicured landscapes and breathtaking views. Stroll through the gardens to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and take in the stunning vistas of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Sicilian countryside.

5. Pepoli Castle

This striking castle, which now houses a museum, offers a glimpse into the noble history of Erice. The museum’s collection includes artifacts from the town’s past, and the castle itself is an architectural marvel with its blend of Norman and Gothic styles. Call the museum at their number ( +39 329 7823035  ) to check updated timetable.

6. Torretta Pepoli

For a unique perspective of Erice, visit Torretta Pepoli, a charming little tower that offers panoramic views and a tranquil setting. This lesser-known spot is perfect for those seeking a quiet place to admire the town’s beauty.

Pepoli Castle, Erice, ©Pixabay

7. Quartiere Spagnolo

Explore the Spanish Quarter, a historic district with narrow, winding streets and charming houses. This area reflects the town’s Spanish influence and is perfect for a leisurely walk to soak in the local atmosphere and discover hidden corners.

8. Church of San Martino

This beautiful church, dating back to the 12th century, is another example of Erice’s rich architectural heritage. The interior is adorned with intricate frescoes and stunning artworks, making it a must-see for art lovers and history buffs.

9. Breathtaking Panoramas

One of the most remarkable features of Erice is its vantage point. Perched 751 meters above sea level, the town provides spectacular views over the Egadi Islands, the city of Trapani, and the endless Mediterranean Sea. On clear days, you can even see as far as the African coast. These panoramic vistas make Erice a photographer’s paradise and a perfect spot for those looking to capture the essence of Sicily’s natural beauty.

10. Local Artisan Shops

Erice is home to numerous artisan shops where you can find handcrafted ceramics, intricate lacework, and traditional Sicilian carpets. These unique items make perfect souvenirs and gifts, allowing you to take a piece of Erice’s craftsmanship home with you.

Typical handicrafts carpets in Erice,©Antonella Ravidà

No visit to Erice would be complete without indulging in the local culinary delights. The town is famous for its traditional Sicilian pastries, particularly those from Maria Grammatico’s pastry shop.

Here are some must-try foods and dining experiences in Erice:

1. Pasticceria Maria Grammatico No visit to Erice is complete without stopping by Pasticceria Maria Grammatico. This renowned bakery is famous for its traditional Sicilian pastries. Founded by Maria Grammatico, who learned the art of pastry-making from nuns, this bakery serves up heavenly treats like almond cookies, cannoli, and the famous Genovese pastries, filled with custard or ricotta. Don’t miss the chance to savor these sweets with a cup of espresso.

2. Genovese Pastries These delightful pastries are a specialty of Erice. Made with a buttery shortcrust pastry and filled with creamy custard, Genovese pastries are a local favorite. They are best enjoyed fresh from the oven at one of the town’s historic bakeries.

Genovesi at Maria Grammatico’s, ©Antonella Ravidà

3. Sicilian Couscous Influenced by North African cuisine, Sicilian couscous is a dish you must try in Erice. Often made with fish or seafood, this dish is flavored with local herbs and spices. Enjoy it at one of the town’s traditional trattorias for an authentic taste of the region’s culinary fusion.

4. Busiate Pasta This local pasta, shaped like a long, twisted spiral, is typically served with a rich tomato sauce, fresh basil, and local Pecorino cheese. Busiate is a staple in many Erice restaurants and pairs perfectly with the region’s robust wines.

5. Local Wines Erice is situated in the Trapani province, known for its excellent wines. Be sure to try a glass of Marsala, a fortified wine that is perfect for dessert, or sample the liquore ericino a unique green liquor made only in Erice.

6. Ristorante Monte San Giuliano For a memorable dining experience, visit Ristorante Monte San Giuliano. Located in the heart of Erice, this restaurant offers a cozy ambiance and a menu filled with local delicacies. Enjoy dishes like pasta alla norma, caponata, and an array of fresh seafood while soaking in the historic charm of the town.

7. Ristorante La Pentolaccia Another great dining spot, Ristorante La Pentolaccia, is known for its authentic Sicilian cuisine. Here you can indulge in dishes like involtini di pesce spada (swordfish rolls) and cassata siciliana, a traditional Sicilian cake with ricotta cheese and candied fruit.

8. Sicilian Almond Sweets Erice is known for its exquisite almond sweets, including marzipan fruits. These intricately shaped and vividly colored treats look almost too beautiful to eat. Made from finely ground almonds and sugar, they are a perfect blend of sweetness and artistry.

Desserts in Erice, ©Antonella Ravidà

Erice can be accessed by car, bus, or even a thrilling cable car ride. If driving, take the SP31 road from Trapani for a scenic ascent up the mountain. For a more relaxed journey, hop on the AST bus number 21 from Trapani, which conveniently takes you to the heart of Erice. For the adventurous, consider hiking down from Erice to Trapani (the opposite way up it is really steep) via the ancient path that offers breathtaking views of the coastline and lush landscapes.

INSIDER TIP: always check the Funivie di Erice (Cable car) website before your excursion to Erice as according to the weather conditions, (mostly due to the wind) sometimes it does not run.

Erice Cable car, ©Antonella Ravidà

 Spring and autumn offer mild weather and fewer crowds, making these seasons ideal for exploring Erice. If you like cozy winter atmophere, consider visiting Erice during Christmas time and you will get captured by the magic of sparkling lights and living nativity scenes. If you want to learn more about visiting Sicily on winter holidays, read my article on what to do at Christmas in Sicily.

As a local travel advisor based in Sicily, I have the insider knowledge and connections to ensure your visit to Erice is truly unforgettable. From personalized itineraries to hidden gems and authentic experiences, I can help you make the most of your time in this enchanting hilltop town.

Ready to explore Erice and other hidden gems of Sicily? Contact me today to start planning your personalized Sicilian adventure.

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Antonella

Ciao! My name is Antonella and I am a Sicilian Travel Designer based in Catania, Sicily. My mission here is to share my knowledge and love for this amazing island of Southern Italy and to help you tailor your dream trip to Sicily.

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