Arriverderci Palermo! Time to pick up our hire car and see what other offerings are on the Sicily platter. Heading west of Palermo, we stopped in at Erice, billed by Lonely Planet as ‘Western Sicily’s prettiest hilltop village.’ The drive there, I kid you not, was heart thumpingly nail biting. Dozens of switchback twists and turns meant we couldn’t see cars travelling towards us. When we arrived at the top (elevation 750m) and parked, an elderly Sicilian man told us that we had taken the wrong road; we had in fact taken the road that gives people heart attacks and we should have taken the ‘other road’. Duh! We gave him 3 euros to keep an eye on our hire car since we had all our luggage in it and ventured into Erice.
It’s touristy – what a shame; the narrow cobbled lanes were full of eager eyed camera laden tourists, just like us really. We strolled around, found some alleys that were tourist free, had a good look at the stone work, took in the fantastic views from way up top, ate our first cannoli and stared in disbelief at the touristy funicular. Erice taught us a good lesson about the ‘madness’ of tourism in Italy. Beautiful places like Cinque Terre have started to limit day trippers and in other villages like San Gimignano, residents are quite rightly concerned about losing their souls and their way of life to the tourist euro. I’m not sure what the solution is.
South west from Erice is Marsala, famous for its sweet dessert wines. Marsala’s main piazza is lovely; marble streets, baroque style buildings and lots of good places for apertif.
Not too far from Marsala is the ancient site of Selinunte. In 623 BC, Selinunte was a rich and powerful Greek city of 100,000 people. It is set high overlooking the sea. Two rivers once ran between the city but these have now silted up. Excavations began in 1823 and you have to take your hat off to the archaeologists who have worked tirelessly over the years to piece this giant jigsaw puzzle together. Still a long, long way to go though to complete the project.
Agrigento is another famous ancient site worth visiting. In the fifth century BC, it was the fourth largest city in the world. The Valley of the Temples is UNESCO listed and is home to some surprisingly intact temples. You might recognise the temple in the first few photos; it’s used for the UNESCO logo.
Will leave you with a couple of pics of the roads we drove. Sicily definitely does bridges and tunnels well.