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Getting around

Part 5: Zingaro, Trapani, Erice, Marsala

22.12: Munich -> Catania
23.12: Acireale - Mt Etna - Acireale
24.12: Acireale -> Taormina -> Acireale
25.12: Acireale -> Aci Castello -> Catania -> Acireale
26.12: Acireale -> Villa Romana del Casale -> Palermo
27.12: Daytrip to Cefalu
28.12: Palermo
29.12: Palermo -> Monreale -> Palermo

30.12: Palermo -> Riserva naturale dello Zingaro -> Trapani
31.12: Trapani -> Erice -> Trapani
1.1: Trapani -> Marsala -> Trapani
2.1: Trapani -> Marsala -> Selinunte -> Agrigento
3.1: Agrigento -> Ragusa
4.1: Ragusa -> Modica -> Siracusa
5.1: Siracusa
6.1: Siracusa -> Catania -> Munich

30.12: Palermo -> Riserva naturale dello Zingaro -> Trapani
Cortile Antico B&B, Trapani. 65 Euro for a very nice apartment on two floors, each with its own bathroom+shower. Beautifully styled and decorated, modern furniture, top-notch facilities. Kitchen area with large fridge in the lower floor. The bed in the lower floor is a converted sofa. Flat screen TVs in both floors. A/C unit which doubles as a heater. Very good value at 65 Euro, although the breakfast is not included. Located in the centre of the historic core of Trapani. Fast WLAN available in the room. Very friendly and helpful staff.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with a few clouds. Cold wind blowing the whole day however, freshest day since we have arrived to Sicily. No rain.

We check out of the hotel in Palermo and finally start driving at 11:42am towards the Zingaro natural reserve close to Sicily's northwest tip. We quickly reach the motorway and reach the Zingaro area at 12:35pm.

Pretty nice scenery and coast, although the parts of the coast which are accessible are all private properties. The coast here is steep, i.e. there are few beaches and mostly it's rocks which plunge into the sea. Lots of flowers, despite the winter day.

After some photo stop here and there we reach the Zingaro reserve at 1pm. We leave the car at the big parking area and buy the tickets (3 Euro/adult, children don't pay).

The Zingaro reserve is a patch of coast through which a road was supposed to be built in 1980. However due to popular protest, the plan was scrapped and the area was instead converted into a natural reserve in 1981.

The vegetation in the reserve consists mainly of scrubs, bushes and smaller plants. Few trees are left here, probably the result of past logging activities. There is a 7km long coastal trail connecting the south to the north entrances (the Scopello and San Vito lo Capo entrances). In addition to this one, there are also a couple more trails.

The coastal trail is in good condition. The only problem is that the coast is facing north here, so on a winter day, the trail is quickly in the shadow. There are a few small beaches to which you can descend, otherwise it's all steep coast. There is also a small museum with a few exhibits of the local flora and fauna.

Hiking is good on this December day, However, since we have small kids and it's already late, we don't get far. We just hike for a bit over two and a half hours, then head back to the car.

We then drive to the nearby Scopello village, where according to the Zingaro reserve entrance ticket seller there is a bakery with a very special bread. Turns out that this bread (pane cunzatu) is rather unimpressive. In fact the lady preparing it, first empties lots of oil on it, then grabs tomatoes and cheese with her hands and puts them into the bread. All this without using silicon gloves, pretty disgusting.

It's 4 something pm when we finally drive towards Trapani. It's only 43km, but because of intermediate stops (lots of nice spots with great views) and heavy traffic jam in Trapani, we only reach the hotel after 6pm. We must have lost 30-60 minutes in the traffic jam in Trapani. But at least people here don't try to form multiple rows of cars on one lane.

In the evening we go out for dinner to the Beijing Chinese restaurant in the harbour area.

31.12: Trapani -> Erice -> Trapani
Cortile Antico B&B, Trapani.
Weather: same as yesterday: sunny, blue sky with a few clouds, cold wind blowing, no rain.

In the morning I check with the hotel reception what to do over the next couple of days. Getting to the islands supposedly makes no big sense because in winter there is nothing to do there. The receptionist initially suggests Segesta, Erice, Trapani, Marsala & Mozia and also suggests to have a look at the living nativity scenes near Trapani (presepe vivente). For the nativity scenes there will be no time, and in the end we swap Segesta for Selinunte which according to the receptionist is far more interesting.

Then, since we haven't had breakfast yet, I head out on the streets looking for a bakery and a food shop. The first bakery I head to is closed today, so I start wandering around the streets of Trapani. Lots of pubs, restaurants and cafes in this area, but it's very difficult to find places where they sell food. In the process I run up and down half of the historic core of Trapani. Finally I find the bakery and some food shop and head back to the hotel.

Around 12pm we have some sort of late breakfast/lunch, then leave the room. Following the instructions of the hotel we drive until the end of Fardella street and reach the base station of the cablecar to Erice. The tickets to Erice cost 6.50 Euro for an adult and 4 Euro for a child.

Erice is an ancient city, dating back to Greek times, built on a hilltop at 700m of altitude. It's supposed to be an interesting place from what I read. The cablecar trip takes about 10 minutes and offers nice view of the area. I notice that there is also a road connecting Trapani with Erice, so, well, I could have saved those 21 Euros.

From the hill station of the cablecar which we reach at 1:30pm, it's a 100m walk to the gate of the city of Erice. The entire city is walled and looks like the typical Italian medieval city.

Erice is kind of cute, but lacks colours, i.e. all buildings have the same grey-light brown colour. There is not a single building which is really impressive, such as a cathedral or castle for instance, also no big photogenic square. There are a few churches, the ruins of a medieval castle, but for the rest it's all narrow alleys criss-crossing each other. In a number of alleys there are souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants.

After exploring Erice for about 45 minutes (it's not a big place) and concluding that we have seen the highlights, we head to a cafe where Shirley and the kids have some simple lunch.

At 3pm we take the cablecar down to Trapani and then drive into town. We leave the car in a parking near Vittorio Veneto square (50 cents/hour, after 8pm and on public holidays the parking is free) and start exploring the historic core of Trapani.

We stop in a place for a yogurt shake, then continue walking around the historic centre. It's sort of cute, with its baroque and 19th century buildings, Parts of it are pedestrian areas. A few churches are nice, especially the facade of the cathedral.

Otherwise it is problematic walking in those narrow alleys. When a car is coming you have to squeeze against the wall or find a niche and let the car pass.

Around 6pm we buy some food in a Conad supermarket. This evening most restaurants offer the "cenone" sort of a big end-year dinner, with lots of dishes, quite expensive. To avoid wasting time finding a restaurant offering -la-carte meals, we simply cook some noodles at home and eat those for dinner.

It's also quite cheaper: for the pasta with tomato sauce we pay about 4 Euro for the four of us, while in a restaurant a pasta dish for one person starts at 8-9 Euro to which you have to add 1-3 Euro of coperto per person, i.e. your spend 25-30  Euro for a very simple dinner for four persons.

We spend the evening in the hotel.

1.1: Trapani -> Marsala -> Trapani
Cortile Antico B&B, Trapani.
Weather: mostly overcast today, some sunshine every now and then, some rain in Marsala around 2pm.

We manage to get out of the hotel only after 12pm. We get to the car and drive to Marsala, with the idea of visiting Mozia island first and then heading to Marsala.

On the way we stop at the salt pans near Trapani, more specifically at the Salt Museum in Nubia. It turns out that this salt museum is just a restaurant or maybe the salt museum is closed and only the attached restaurant is open.

Still, the view is pretty cool. Salt evaporation ponds everywhere, salt heaps partially covered with tiles, wind mills. I explain to the kids how salt production works.

After the salt museum, at 1pm we continue driving towards Marsala. Shortly before Marsala we take a small detour to the island of Mozia. We manage to get there at 1:40pm. Turns out that it's not possible to get to Mozia, because there is no boat (apparently today the boat service only runs until 1pm). But it seems we are not the only ones trying to get to Mozia, as there are also other tourists trying to get there.

So, after a brief stop, we continue driving towards Marsala, along the coastal road. The salt pan scenery here is more photogenic than the one in Nubia: more salt pans, more salt heaps etc. Open spaces of water, boats. This must be a cool place on a summer evening.

Since it is raining, we lose some time wondering where to go. Actually Shirley would like to have some lunch, so we initially head to a pizzeria only to find out that today they only serve a fixed menu at 20 Euro/person and no pizza. It then stops raining, so we leave the car outside Porta Nuova (the western gate of Marsala).

We enter the historic core of Marsala and look for a cafe or simple restaurant where to have a small thing. It's 2:30pm and it's too late to have a real lunch now anyway.

The historic centre of Marsala is relatively unimpressive. Only one square with the main church is interesting, otherwise it's all either modern buildings or relatively simple square block buildings.

Turns out that everything is closed today. All shops, all cafes, most restaurants. Marsala is like a ghost city. We find an open pastry shop, but the kids are not in a mode to have something sweet, so we continue looking.

In another restaurant they have a fixed menu for 40 Euro/person. It seems that today, on the first of the year, people in Marsala have a lavish lunch, perhaps to celebrate the new year.

In the end we eat something at the Luna Rossa restaurant. Actually they are closing, because it's already 3pm, and most of the dishes on the menu are not available today. But after a brief discussion they tell us they can make spaghetti alle vongole and tagliatelle with red scorpionfish fillet.

So we order that. Actually the staff is quite friendly, but my noodles which at 13 Euro are not exactly cheap are quite tasteless. They use spaghetti noodles instead of tagliatelle, lots of oil, but the whole thing has almost no taste.

I'm starting to wonder if Sicilians know how to cook, because so far the local food we have tried out has been far from impressive. Quite pricey, but not good at all.

After this meal, it's 4:15pm. We still walk a bit around Marsala, then head back to the car.

We drive back to Trapani slowly along the coastal road. Now the sun has come out and it's beautiful sunset colours on the salt pans. After a few stops we reach the hotel at 6pm.

Copyright 2013 Alfred Molon