Towns & Architecture

Erice the pearl of western Sicily

The splendid town of Erice, perched on top of Monte San Giuliano,has very ancient origins.

The splendid town of Erice,

perched on top of Monte San Giuliano,

has very ancient origins,

as is shown by the cult of the goddess of fertility,

Venus Erycina.

Laid out on a triangular plan,

the town has preserved its medieval character,

with fine city walls,

beautifully paved streets,

stone houses with decorated doorways,

small squares and open spaces with numerous churches,

including the medieval Chiesa Matrice,

many of which have recently became venues for scientific and cultural activities.

Main sights:

Cyclopean walls of Erice

These extend for 700 m (2,296 ft) on the northern side of Erice,

from Porta Spada to Porta Trapani.

The lower part of the wall,

with its megalithic blocks of stone,

dates back to the Phoenician period;

some of the letters betb, ain and phe of the Phoenician alphabet are carved in it.

The upper part and the gates were built by the Normans.

Porta Spada gate owes its name to the massacre of the local Angevin rulers during the Sicilian Vespers.

Pepoli Castle and Venus

This Norman castle was built on a isolated rock over the ruins of the Temple of Venus Erycina.

Entrance is gained via a tower,

the only remaining original part of the castle,

with Ghibelline castellation.

It was used as a prison and watchtower.

Above the entrance,

with its pointed arch,

is a plaque with the coat of arms of the Spanish Habsburgs,

surmounted by a 14th-century double lancet window.

Inside are a sacred well and the ruins of the temple of Venus Erycina,

a Phoenician house and a Roman bath.

The Castle is the starting point of a system of fortifications including the Torri del Balio,

formerly the headquarters of the Norman govenor.

Further down,

on a ledge over the Pineta Runzi pine forest,

is the Torretta Pepoli,

built as a hunting lodge in 1872 and one the symbols of Erice.

In front of the castle are the 19th-century public gardens,

Giardini del Balio which link the zone with the eastern side of Erice.

Erice, Chiesa Matrice

This church is dedicated to our Lady of the Assumption.

It was built in 1314.

The austere facade has a portico with pointed arches surmounted by a beautiful rose window;

it faces the detached campanile with double lancet windows,

which was built in 1312 as a lookout tower,

The interior was drastically restored in 1865,

and little remains of its original look.

You are welcome to include this magnificent jewel of architecture

in your private week tour of Sicily.

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