A Day Trip to Erice and How to get to Erice from Trapani – Sicily, Italy
For one of our afternoons during our stay in Trapani, we visited the historic hill town of Erice – a popular excursion when staying in Trapani. Sitting 750 meters above sea level, this 12th century preserved Medieval town has an abundance of history. The fact that it is elevated atop a mountain in a natural fortified position and has the sea just below in Trapani, it was a sought after spot by many different conquerors including Phoenicians, Spartans, and Romans. There are pieces of the original walls that are over 3000 years old! The name Erice comes from the ancient name Eryx from Greek mythology and legend has it that Eryx lost a boxing match to Hercules and is buried under the mountain. The town is referred to as one of the top beautiful towns in Italy and a short trip from Trapani.
There is a cable car that connects Trapani to Erice and from what I read it was an easy trip that was well worth it. But I have to say, finding a way to get to the cable way was very difficult as we discovered the cable car is not in the tourist area of Trapani – an important point that many fail to mention when planning this trip. And now that I have become an expert, I am going to explain exactly how to navigate this. Here are the options for your journey from Trapani to Erice:
- If you have a vehicle, you can simply drive to the cable way station. There is a parking lot and it costs 3 euro to park.
- If you do not have a vehicle, you have a few options but there are pros and cons to each:
- You can take a bus. Use the Moovit app to get up to date information on buses. Most buses run through Piazza Vittorio Emanuele which is the closest bus stop to the downtown area. If you choose this option, ensure you are visiting Erice when buses are operational both when you visit and when you come back down to return back to Trapani.
- You can take a cab directly to the cable way. If you choose this option, ensure you have an option to find or call a taxi when you are done visiting Erice when you come back down to return back to Trapani.
- You can walk to the cable way. From the tourist area of Trapani, it is a 4km walk or about an hour to get to the entrance of the cable way.
The cable way itself has varying operating hours so check to make sure they meet your plans. I had originally planned on visiting Erice on a Monday evening but the cable way closed at 8PM which was when our dinner plans were so we would have no way of getting down to Trapani. I changed our plans to Sunday when the cable way was open late into the night (130AM). While I had to foresight to change plans around the cable way operation I failed to look at how that impacted how to get to the cable way. From reading other bloggers, it sounded like the cable way was directly in the tourist area of Trapani based on how easy they all claimed it was to visit. However, the cable way station is 4km from the downtown area. Our plans were for a Sunday when taxis and bus services are far less routine. We could not find a taxi and the buses were very difficult to navigate. Once we found the Moovit app indicated on bus signs, it was much easier to figure it out. Unfortunately, there was only a bus an hour and the service would not continue into the night. And so, we decided to walk – at least we could burn some calories to earn our pasta dinner.
In summary, when you are planning a visit to Erice without a car and do not want to walk – avoid Sundays or holidays and perhaps plan on going for lunch instead of dinner if the bus schedule does not match your plans.
To be honest, we did not mind the walk. The walk was very straightforward and took us 50 minutes to complete from our Airbnb to the cable way. When we arrived, we got in line and purchased our round trip cable way tickets for 11 euro. Since it was slow, we were able to get a cable car all to ourselves for the beautiful journey up the mountain.
After a 10 minute ride, we arrived in Erice. It reminded us of other historic towns atop hills like Motovun and Perouges filled with historic buildings, stone roads, winding alleys. There is a well organized self walking tour of the town that can be completed – a red route (the 4km ‘long tourist circuit’) and a blue route (the 3km ‘short tourist circuit’). While we did not have time to complete the entire circuit, we enjoyed reading about some of the sites we passed along our journey. The streets here were bustling and full of activity.
After wandering around the central areas of Erice, our first stop was for drinks at Domus Blanca which had a beautiful outdoor “secret garden” area. The kitchen was not open during our visit so we ordered some time to enjoy the scenery.
While sipping our wine, we looked up the things Erice is known for and pastries are one of the specialties, specifically the genovesi being one with origins to here. The art of Erice pastries is credited to the monks and nuns dating back to the medieval times. We walked over to La Pasticceria di Grammatico Maria and the smell coming from the bakery in the streets was intensely delicious. While everything on display looked amazing, we were here for the genovesi made with flour sugar margarine eggs milk cream lemon. Maria herself was there at the register with some guests snapping a selfie with her – a local celebrity. The genovesi was amazing – for such a simple looking pastry, it had a soft shortbread like flavor with a delicious custard inside. Definitely grab one of these when you visit and say hi to Maria. We should have bought a bunch to snack on from the rest of the trip (throw back to Orvieto).
Our dinner tonight was next door to the pasticceria at Ristorante Monte San Giuliano. In order to access the restaurant, you actually need to go around the back through an alley then up some stairs. We arrived at a beautiful terrace that had a panoramic view and we had the good fortune of being seated with a front row view of the sunset. Even though it was cloudy so we could not see the panoramic view, we would definitely see the sun setting into the clouds and that was an unexpected surprise and very exciting.
For dinner we started with house white wine before diving into our entrees. There are many dishes that are local to this area of Sicily and I wanted to make sure we tried as many as we could – fortunately we were able to order two dishes off the menu to help us reach that goal.
Linguine nere all’uovo di pesce e bottarga Well this dish looked stunning as it was placed onto the table. The linguine is infused with squid ink is common in this area to give flavor and color to the pasta itself. On top was fish eggs and bottarga. Bottarga is known as “poor man’s caviar” and is made from Sicilian tuna roe that is salted, pressed and dried to create what looks like a bar of soap. It is grated over pasta to give a savory, salty and fish flavor. This was an excellent pasta and I really enjoyed all the elements.
Cuscus con pesce – cipolla, aglio, pomodoro, mandorle, pressemolo, brodo di pesce, pesce da zuppa did not expect to find cuscus in Italy but since Sicily has so much influence from neighboring Arab and African areas, this dish is a signature for the Trapani region. The cuscus had a few pieces of fish filet on top. The fish broth was insanely delicious and so rich with flavor – not fishy at all somehow. We could not stop sopping up every last drop with bread. The soup is poured over the cuscus to complete the dish.
Cannolo – Did we have lots of desserts already today? Certainly. But this evening was too wonderful to end so we split a cannolo. It was delicious and a perfect way to end the meal.
What an incredible meal! I think this has to be one of the best spots to have dinner in Erice. When you come to Erice, definitely book a reservation here, request a view by the balcony to have the best view of sunset.
Wow, for a visit to Erice that almost did not happen as we could not find a way to the cable car, it was an incredible part of our trip that I am so happy we did not miss. And we got to watch the sun set into the clouds which was magical. From the cobblestone alleys to the unique pastries, Erice is very special. We will not forget our time visiting Erice.