Towering over the west of Sicily at 751m above sea level and often covered in its own personal cloud, Erice is a wonderfully preserved Mediaeval town offering the most breathtaking views and a palpable sense of history.
Originally an Elymian city (the Elymians were around before the Greeks ever set foot in Sicily) Erice, or Eryx as it was first called, was a town of no little importance and renown and is said to have attracted the likes Hercules and Aeneas.
Like so many Sicilian towns, it passed from one invader to another as all the usual suspects came and went, leaving their architectural calling cards and their cultural footprints. The name changed from Eryx, to Erice to Gebel Hamed and Monte San Giuliano but its essential character remained, obstinately repelling any attempt to change its real identity.
Amongst the most visited sites are the two castles, Pepoli Castle and Venus Castle. The former was built by the Arabs while the latter was a Norman construction with imposing towers that derived its name from the fact that it was built on the site of the ancient Temple of Venus, allegedly founded by Aeneas.
Other attractions include the sixty churches including the Gothic Chiesa Madre (1314) and the Mediaeval Church of Saint John the Baptist. Otherwise the maze of cobbled Mediaeval streets are a pleasure to wander around and the views are stunning. On a cloudless day, the Egadi Islands off the coast of Trapani are vividly visible, rising from the sea like giant, motionless whales while to the west the panorama takes in vast swathes of eastern Sicily, the Tyrrhenian Sea and the coastline towards San Vito Lo Capo, Monte Cofano and the Gulf of Castellammare.
Erice today plays host to a series of renowned international scientific conferences and, in particular, an annual congress dedicated to Astronomy