Erice, Sicily – Staying in one of Italy’s finest medieval town

The Castello di Venere in Erice, Sicily
Image by sctkirk via Flickr

Planning a trip to Western Sicily presents a delightful dilemma: Should you stay in the charming coastal town of Trapani or venture into the enchanting ancient village of Erice? Both destinations offer distinct experiences that cater to different preferences. I wholeheartedly recommend staying in Erice to travelers seeking an unforgettable experience in this off-the-beaten-track historical gem.

Is Erice, Sicily worth visiting or overrated?

Erice (pronounced EHR-ee-chey) leaves nobody indifferent. Some people consider it a destination worthy of extra time, while others view it primarily as a touristy day trip spot. The town can be crowded during the day and completely deserted at night. But the truth is: Erice’s charm lies in its ability to be both very popular while maintaining its enchantment. Particularly so, during Holy Week and Easter when the town holds unique celebrations.

Erice has indeed managed to preserve its medieval authenticity throughout the years.

Meandering through the winding lanes, enjoying the breathtaking view from the castle, and indulging in a delightful takeaway lunch in one of the charming little piazzas, I found Erice laid-back and inviting. The labyrinth formed by the monochromatic stone perched atop the hill is hard to resist. One particular highlight of Erice is the awe-inspiring vistas from the Castello di Venere, rivaling the sweeping panoramic views from idillyc Anacapri.

Erice is a particularly nice place to visit starting in April because of its beautiful gardens. Wandering through the picturesque streets, you may encounter the sweet perfum of blooming jasmine and bougainvillea. The air fills with their delicate during the spring and summer months.

The streets of Erice in Italy
Image by Dan Masa via Flickr
Erice, Sicily
Image by Dan Masa via Flickr

Is it better to stay in Trapani or Erice?

Trapani and Erice are excellent starting points for exploring Western Sicily, but each offers a different experience.

Staying in Trapani

Trapani, with its array of amenities, presents a charming coastal old town that can easily be explored on foot, along with beautiful beaches to unwind. Furthermore, more easily visit nearby towns using public transportation and transfer services and can conveniently embark on a ferry journey to the Egadi Islands. Trapani boasts a broader selection of accommodations and restaurants, ensuring a comfortable and fulfilling stay.

Staying in Erice

On the other hand, Erice, a remarkably ancient village perched atop a mountain, offers a unique and enchanting setting. 

Getting carried away in time and to another era is the easiest thing when you’re here. Its romantic streets and archways invite us to explore the town and discover its secrets. While its steep terrain may pose some challenges for walking day after day in its alleyways, the village’s picturesque allure is worth the pains.

The town takes on a completely different magic once the crowds have departed in the evening. You watch the sunset over the archipelago, leisurely stroll to your restaurant and hotel in the slowly dimming light, and remember the moment for years to come. 

While its limited public transport and accommodations make it more suitable for day trips from Trapani, having the narrow alleys to yourself is undoubtedly worth it. 

The beach in Trapani
Trapani, Image by A S via Flickr
View from the Castello di Venere in Erice
Walking around the Castello di Venere, Image by A S via Flickr

Things to do in Erice

Castello di Venere (Castle of Venus)

There’s no doubt: If there’s one thing you must do in Erice, it’s visiting the Castello di Venere.

While the castle’s exterior is the most impressive thing about it, some even saying it may not be worth paying to go inside, I’m not sure I would agree. The castle’s ruined temple, hidden behind the heavily fortified walls, evokes a majestic and eerie atmosphere.

However, the top act is undoubtedly the stunning panoramic view of Sicily’s north and west coasts.

The Castle of Venus is situated on the side of a cliff, letting you see all the way to the neighboring blissful islands, Favignana and Levanzo. If you’re interested in the fortress’s history, the only inconvenience is that some of the information boards are misplaced.

The Castello di Venere
Castello di Venere, Image by A S via Flickr
Erice, Sicily - Staying in one of Italy's finest medieval town
View from the Castello di Venere, Image by Hari Seldon via Flickr

Balio Gardens

Just beside the castle are the Giardino del Balio: the manicured lawns of this fine English garden are a nice addition to your visit of the cliffside location.

Cyclopean walls of Erice

The cyclopean walls of Erice stand as an austere and monumental testament to its ancient past. What makes these ramparts remarkable is their construction without any binding materials. These colossal boulders were skillfully assembled, reaching a towering height of up to four meters and a thickness of up to three. 

Porta de Spada
Porta de Spada, Image by markus plock via Flickr
Cyclopean walls of Erice
Cyclopean walls, Image by markus plock via Flickr

Spanning over an impressive length of seven hundred meters, the mighty defensive walls are not only Erice’s most significant architectural feature but also the oldest, dating back over 2600 years. Legend weaves fascinating tales about their origin, pretending there were erected by the mythical Cyclops. However, the Cyclopean walls were built by the same civilization responsible for the Temple of Segesta. Rows of smaller stone blocks were later added to further fortify the walls.

If you want to explore the Phoenician Walls, the main entries are the Porta de Spada (Google Maps), the Porta de Trapani, and the Porta de Carmine.

Although the interiors is not well cared for, with weeds and wildflowers growing wild, the almost 1 km walk is a fun way to discover Erice’s underbelly. 

Cyclopean walls in Sicily
Cyclopean walls, Image by Allie Caulfield via Flickr
Cyclopean walls in Sicily
Cyclopean walls, Image by Allie Caulfield via Flickr

Taking the Cableway (Funivia)

Riding the cable car is a fun way to visit Trapani from Erice. Once aboard, you can sit back and soak in the sights as you descend toward the port city. Despite the glass not being the clearest for photography, the views are simply fantastic.

The cost of a roundtrip ticket for the funicular is 9 euros, and the journey itself takes less than 10 minutes each way. 

 It’s worth noting that queues can start forming as early as 10 am during the high season, but they tend to move quickly. Plus, checking the weather conditions before heading to the funicular is always a good idea. If it gets windy, the cable car to Erice from Trapani shuts down, and you’ll have to take the bus or a taxi.

If you travel to Sicily in the fall, know that the funicular closes for maintenance during that time of the year.

Should you Park in Trapani or Erice?

Being in a small European town with winding narrow streets is lovely… until you have to drive a car.

Parking within Erice can indeed be challenging, considering the medieval city is primarily pedestrian, with restricted vehicle access. Cobblestone streets can be difficult to navigate, and travelers driving up to the mountaintop location may have trouble finding somewhere to park. (Although it is certainly easier than parking your car in Florence.)

Cable car to Erice from Trapani
Image courtesy of Karl Borg via Flickr
 Chiesa Madre
Chiesa Madre, Image by penyuan via Flickr

You should probably park your car in Trapani.

Since Trapani has more parking facilities and better infrastructure to accommodate visitors, leaving your rental car there is more convenient.

That’s why it is generally recommended to park in Trapani rather than in Erice itself.

Beware of the people trying to steer you away from the parking lot near the cableway station in Trapani. There’s no problem parking there.

If you really want to park in Erice…

Parking in town costs about 4 euros for 3 hours.

With the panoramic landscape unfolding before you, driving up the hill with your car can be tempting. If you want to park in Erice, look for a parking spot in the city’s southwestern corner. 

The best place to park your car is near the Chiesa Madre, which stands near the Porta di Trapani. (Google Maps)

Where to stay in Erice? Hotels, Agriturismo and more

Mid-RangeHotel Moderno3.5 / 5From € 72 / night
AgriturismoAgriturismo Tenuta Pizzolungo4.5 / 5From € 90 / night
AgriturismoDon Carlo4.5 / 5From € 80 / night
LuxuryI Mulini Resort4 / 5From € 115 / night

Agriturismo Tenuta Pizzolungo

Agriturismo Tenuta Pizzolungo offers its guests a delightful stay on the slopes of Mount Erice. The farmhouse is peaceful and provides an immersion in the beautiful Italian countryside. The rooms balance coziness and rustic charm perfectly while being spacious and well-maintained. The onsite restaurants serve authentic Sicilian cuisine that will surely be the highlight of your stay in Erice. It’s a unique opportunity to appreciate the region’s traditional flavors. You need a car to take the most out of the place, its situation, and its charm!

Overall, Agriturismo Tenuta Pizzolungo is a charming retreat where visitors can relax and experience the genuine hospitality of Western Sicily.

I Mulini Resort

If you want a delightful and luxurious experience, head to I Mulini Resort. The elegant and serene setting creates a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the more touristy streets of Erice. The rooms are modern and stylish, providing an inviting space for guests.

Unwind at the resort’s spa and swimming pool before grabbing a bite at the hotel’s restaurant. There, you’ll be served with a fusion of traditional Sicilian cuisine with a contemporary twist.

How to get to Erice

Being up on a cliff, there are only a few routes that can take you to the medieval town.

You must almost inevitably first get to Trapani. 

Going with your car, once you’ve entered Trapani, take the SP31 or the SP3 directly to Erice.

Alternatively, you can take one of the AST buses departing from Piazza Montalto. (Some buses also leave from Trapani’s port.) These buses operate hourly from early morning until 7:30 PM. The journey from Trapani to Erice takes approximately 50 minutes, allowing you to put your feet up and enjoy the scenic view.