Trapani - A Short Travel Guide
Trapani is located in the northwest corner of Sicily, and one of the underrated gems of the storied island. Its city center, which sits on a small peninsula, has helped to keep it shielded from the sprawl and allows you to see a side of Italy that seems long gone in too many of the country's more touristed cities and towns. It's also the gateway to some magical day trips that definitely give you a leg up on your friends who only “do” the Rome-Florence-Venice circuit.
There are four main places you'll find yourself in Trapani.
Trapani North Side
The north side of the peninsula is lined with homes and small apartment buildings. Far from being the candy-colored confection of Portofino or the Cinque Terre, this waterfront is a stark and fascinating reminder of just how poor Italy has been throughout its history, and how simple a life the local fisherman lead. You'll find children playing soccer along the promenade, housewives hanging their laundry out the window, and groups of old men watching the clear, limpid sea with eyes that have seen it all.
Corso Vittorio Emanuele
The main drag in town is the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which runs straight through the middle of the peninsula. Here is where you'll experience the daily life of Trapani, with mom-and-pop stores, cafes and restaurants that cater to their local clientele. (Of course, this doesn't mean you shouldn't explore the side streets as well – it's only four streets wide!)
Torre di Ligny
If you follow past Corso Vittorio Emanuele past Piazza Generale, it turns into Via Carolina. At the end of Via Carolina the road forks; take the Via Torre di Ligny out to the very tip of the peninsula, and the tower there that houses a wonderful museum. The Torre di Ligny is also perfect for shutterbugs who want to catch the sun dipping into the Mediterranean, as it more or less happens directly in front of the tower! And be sure to check out the procession of cars, bikes and pedestrians who come to the point for their evening stroll.
Trapani South Side
That leaves the south side of Trapani, with its bustling commerce, enormous port and, most importantly for the visitor, ferries going to several points in the Mediterranean. Which brings us to day trips from Trapani!
Favignana and Levanzo
Favignana and Levanzo, two of the Egadi Islands off the coast of Sicily, are must-do day trips during your stay in Trapani. Ferries leave throughout the day and early evening, and up-to-date schedules are clearly posted at the ferry ticket kiosk.
Favignana is called “La Farfalla,” or “The Butterfly,” due to its unique shape. When you arrive in the port you'll see a tuna cannery tucked in amongst the gorgeous hills and sun-bleached waterfront; tuna fishing and canning is the main economy for Trapani and its environs.
Once you disembark, how you experience Favignana is entirely up to you. Hire a private boat to take you along its coast; hike up into the terraced hills for spectacular views; hit the beach in the city centre, or head out to find your own private stretch of sand; get lost in the maze of ancient streets, shop, eat deliciously fresh seafood, and call it a day!
Be careful when you go to Levanzo – once you discover this magical place, you may never return. Its miniscule “city center” makes Favignana seem like Manhattan, and the sea is so clear the dinghies in the port seem to be floating on air instead of water.
The big draw here – and saying “big draw” is relative, as it attracts maybe a dozen people a day – is the Grotto; many people come with a tour guide who drives them through the island to see this magnificent and ancient work of nature. While this is recommended and a wonderful way to learn more about the area, if you've ever wanted to slow down for just a day in your life, this is the place to do it. Just start walking – remember, you're on an island so you can't get lost – and enjoy the sky, the sea, the nature that surrounds you, and the blessed silence.
A third day trip, and also highly recommended, is back on the “mainland” of Sicily, to a little town called Erice, high atop Monte Erice outside Trapani. Its history dates back to before the First Punic War, and today is a simply marvellous place to spend the day steeped in its rich history and stunning views. It can be reached by cable car from just outside of Trapani.
Leave Palermo and the rest to the tourists, and take a chance on Trapani. You'll feel like you're on a vacation within a vacation. There are low-cost flights available from the Italian peninsula, including Rome, and accommodations in Trapani are very reasonable.
Trapani Practical Information
Police: 113 Ambulance: 113
Ph Directory: 12
Time Zone: +1/+2 UCT
Population: 70,600 (approx)
Times To Visit
Easter for the Easter Festival