Updated: Jan 16
As our tour guide acknowledged, much of what is taken for fact in the remote mountaintop village of Erice is actually a mix of history and mythology. Visitors willing to suspend belief will love living in the fantasy that envelops this very unique hilltop village in western Sicily. Its location makes it a perfect combination to sightseeing the Greek ruins at Segesta or the Egadi Islands from Trapani.
When access to the town was unexpectedly cut off during our visit due to a two-day car race, serendipity struck. The funivia (cable car) rising up from the port city of Trapani was a scenic 15-minute ride leading right to the main town gate of Porta di Trapani. Plentiful and safe parking is available in the municipal lot at the foot of the cable car for only 10 Euros a day. It is also usually possible to drive right up to the top of the town.
Erice is a beautifully preserved Medieval city full of quaint shops and restaurants.
The Castle of Venus was built on the site of the Temple of Venus.
The first settlers were the Elimo people who fled Troy when the Greeks emerged triumphant from their Trojan Horse. Chief among the Trojans was Aeneas who carried his father Anchises away from the burning city on his back with his young son at his heels. The mythological Aeneas went on to found Rome after his father died in Erice. In ancient times, Erice was a major attraction with its temple to Venus that actually served as a center of prostitution. On the site of the temple is the medieval fortress called the Castle of Venus. Many restaurants and bars in town are named either for Venus or for the Trojans. Our room in the Hotel Elimo, for example, was the Anchises room in honor of the father of Aeneas.
To have an insider's look at Erice we booked a three-hour walking history and food tour with native Angela Amico. She seemed to know everyone in town. Not only was she an expert on all the tourist sites, but she took us to her parent's beautifully decorated home to give us a feel of how real natives live within the walled city.
Our guide, Angela Amico, took her to the family home as well as to the major sites, including the cathedral built in the 1340s.
The wine and walking tour includes a stop at a local restaurant.