Geographically, Trapani is an unusual Sicilian city for its westward position, which affords spectacular views of some of the Mediterranean's most beautiful sunsets. The surrounding coastal plain is distinguished for its rich salt deposits, and until recently the white mineral was ground by windmills seen along the coast, which lends the environs an faintly Dutch appearance. In fact, most salt is now ground using modern means, with the wind mills retained for their historical value.
Although the oldest parts of the city have been modernized in most respects, Trapani reflects much of its medieval past, if not its ancient heritage. During the Norman era, the city had a polyglot population not unlike that of Bal'harm (Palermo), with large Jewish and Muslim quarters. Like Marsala, it was an important port for trade with Africa. The Annunciation Sanctuary, in Via Conte Pepoli, was built in the fourteenth century in the "Romanesque-Gothic" style and still retains some splendid medieval elements such as the facade's portal and rose window, though the church's interior has been extensively modified over the centuries.What to see in Trapani.
There are several interesting churches in Trapani, including the town's restored cathedral, the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo which, despite its later Baroque makeover, dates to the fourteenth century. The excitingly-named Chiesa del Purgatorio is the home of the sculptures which are carried through Trapani during the town's famous Easter procession. On Good Friday these twenty wooden statues, known as the Misteri, are carried through the streets by robed citizens.
A bus trip into the modern part of town will take you to two more of Trapani's tourist attractions, the Santuario dell'Annunziata and the adjacent Museo Regionale Pepoli, the regional museum. The sanctuary is a grandiose and ornate church with chapels including the Cappella della Madonna, home of the town's cherished 14th-century statue of the Madonna and Child. The museum contains an assortment of local exhibits from all eras, including a guillotine, as well as a collection of medieval art. Visit early in the morning, or check opening times before you head to these two attractions: both close for hours at lunchtime and the museum is closed most afternoons. The town's tourist information office, where you can find information and advice on these and other sights, is located in the old town in Piazzetta Saturno.
Apart from the procession of the Misteri, Trapani's biggest events include the operas and concerts held during summer months in the leafy park of Villa Margherita. More processions take place on 7th August, the feast day of the town's patron saint, Sant’Alberto, and on 16th August when a firework display celebrates the Feast of Madonna of Trapani.
Around Trapani, places of interest include the medieval walled hill-town Erice, Marsala (famous for its wine) and the ancient Greek site of Selinunte. One of the best excursions - and an excellent base for a few days - is a three-island archipelago just off the coast, the Egadi Islands. Two of the islands can be reached from Trapani in only half an hour, and they are great places to relax, swim, dive, cycle and potter around.
Arriving in Trapani by road through drab suburbs of concrete block apartments and a confusing one-way system can be enough to make anyone bolt from what is, sadly, one of the worst abuses of unchecked Mafia construction. Ensconced in the tightknit historic centre, however, the environment softens with atmospheric pedestrian streets and some lovely churches and baroque buildings. Once situated at the heart of a powerful trading network that stretched from Carthage to Venice, the sickle-shaped spit of land hugs the precious harbour, nowadays busy with a steady stream of tourists and traffic to and from Tunisia, Pantelleria and the Egadi Islands.