Erice, Sicily and Le Genovesi

November 5th, 2007 · Tags: Discovering Italy · Food · Italy · Sicily

The medieval city of Erice sits on a hill high above the Trapani coast, about 2,400 feet above sea level. It can be reached by funicular from Trapani or you can take one of two roads that wind up the side of the mountain.

Erice has a mythological background – Eryx, the son of Aphrodite and Poseidon was the founder of the town, and was once the seat of the cult of the fertility goddess Venus Erycina. Erice has even been called many other things – Eryx, Gebel-Hamed by the Arabs, Monte San Giuliano under the Normans, and only recently (1934) called Erice by Mussolini.

Though the town is not tiny (28,000 people), stepping inside the walled portion of the city feels a bit like stepping back in time. Narrow streets, cobblestones and touristic paths wind through the city. We actually took a “backroads” path toward the Castello Venere and avoided most of the crush.

Erice doors and alleyways, Sicily

The Chiesa Matrice, close to the Porta Trapani of the city, was constructed in the 14th century and is reported to have been constructed with materials from the Venus temple. There were so many churches in this tiny town that they literally popped out at you from the side streets.

Chiesa Matrice, Erice, Sicily

On a clear day, they say you can see as far as Tunisia, but if you remember, we were there during the many fires in Sicily this summer and our view was limited. But I can imagine, and our view took my breath away just the same.

We went inside the Norman Castello Venere, which was little more than floorplan ruins and some darkened cellars, but with a small donation we were able to get even more spectacular views and find a little shade as we wandered around inside the open castle structure.

Castello Venere, Erice, Sicily

Trapani coast view from Castello Venere, Erice

If you’re thinking this next castle looks very well-maintained, you’re right. The Castello di Pepoli was most recently refurbished to be a villa/bed & breakfast called Resort Torri Pepoli, or you can partake of an aperitivo in their outside garden terrace.

Castello Pepoli and Torretta Pepoli

What fascinated me most was the little Toretta di Pepoli, the little Pepoli tower below the main castle. To the eye, there was no discernible way to reach the little castle, and we imagined all sorts of backstories for the tower and its use of imprisonment and/or seclusion of a past nobleman or woman.

The little tower was built by the Count Agostino Pepoli between 1872 and 1880, and it appears that the city of Erice is going to give it some attention as they just announced a plan to restore it and use it for cultural events. The question remains – how will the people reach it?

I love how both of these castles come straight out of the rock, to the point that you can’t tell where one ends and one begins. Perhaps the rock, once mastered, is overtaking the castles now.

Torretta Pepoli and Castello Venere, Erice, Sicily

A trip to Erice couldn’t be complete without a visit to the Antica Pasticceria del Convento (Via G. Fillippo Guarnotti). The story goes that the nuns adopted a small girl, and after she left the convent, she started to make these “Genovesi” which the nuns had made. They are filled with a pastry cream and sprinkled with powdered sugar. We also took home a little tray of pasticcini, little pastries for an aperitivo that night.

Le Genovesi, Erice, Sicily

I plan on heading back to Erice soon to get that view that was promised me.

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21 responses so far ↓

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  • 1
    Nicole // Nov 5, 2007 at 8:03 am

    Erice is definitely one of my favorite Sicilian towns! When I visited, the streets filled with mist in the evening and the glow of the streetlights was magical! I’ve never experienced anything like it!

  • 2
    Andrea // Nov 5, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    That is so amazing! If I ever get a chance to go, this would be a place I will have to stop by! Thanks for sharing. Amazing!

  • 3
    Jeni // Nov 5, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    What a tour! Erice looks fantastic in so many ways. Great photos and writing. I can’t wait to see this place one of these days.

  • 4
    syd // Nov 5, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    Food and travel. Your blog is heaven to me. Beautiful post.

  • 5
    rowena // Nov 5, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    That pastry…oh that pastry!!!!

  • 6
    pina // Nov 5, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    i love erice! been a few times and it’s always worth a trip back

  • 7
    Christina // Nov 6, 2007 at 2:15 am

    So many places I’ve never heard of. So many places to see. Erice looks like it’s jumped right out from a fairytale. The castle, the hills — and wow, the pastry! Ok, the latter might not be classified fairytalish, but still as amazing.

  • 8
    Jaden // Nov 6, 2007 at 7:07 am

    What a great trip! I love the photo of the castle coming out of the rock…

  • 9
    Leanne // Nov 6, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    Erice is just so beautiful! I was lucky enough to visit the town a few times whilst working over in Taormina as we worked with one of the hotels there.

  • 10
    Maryann@FindingLaDolceVita // Nov 6, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    Wonderful photos! I love seeing posts like this. Thank you very much :)

  • 11
    Christina // Nov 7, 2007 at 11:12 am

    I love all the pictures! The food looks delicious and I totally agree, it seems like a fairytale.

  • 12
    mentalmosaic // Nov 7, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    What an enchanting place. The castle seems to be growing right out of the rocks. Incredible!

    The pastry looks very yummy, too. :)

  • 13
    jackie // Nov 7, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    mmm! that pastry looks so good! i want to eat it in one of those castles… :) Erice (and your photos) are so beautiful!

  • 14
    David // Nov 7, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    My grandfather comes from a little town near Erice, so I have been fascinated with that town in the clouds for more than the obvious reason.

    It is simply gorgeous though, what breathtaking images. Thank you.

  • 15
    nyc/caribbean ragazza // Nov 8, 2007 at 3:15 am

    fantastic photos. I can’t wait to explore Sicily.

  • 16
    Ms. Adventures in Italy // Nov 8, 2007 at 6:32 am

    Hey all – I’m glad you liked Erice as much as I did, although I’ll be honest I’m not a big fan of cream-filled pastries. Everyone else with me ate two of the genovesi!!

  • 17
    Jill Cassaniti // Jan 29, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    We just took a road trip to Erice this past weekend! Your pictures capture the place perfectly…

  • 18
    Jackie Farrugia // Apr 26, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Deffinitly the best place in Sicily the place is magical the castles takes you way back in time .It is worth a vist evry time you go to Sicily I am still in Sicily and already planning my next visit to Erice

  • 19
    Bernice Mallia // Apr 26, 2011 at 9:29 am

    My first time to Erice and I was mesmerised, the views are breath taking ice creams are so good and all in all the nicest place in Sicily so far. Will surely plan another visit to ERice the castle there impressed me a place where to take great photos

  • 20
    Adele // Jun 16, 2012 at 3:29 am

    This is my favorite city in Europe! A beautiful place, with a charming feel, and the shopping was the best in Sicily. I long to go back to Erice.

  • 21
    MARYANN RYAN // Sep 15, 2012 at 12:54 am


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