Saturday 19 September 2015

We head across the south west corner of the island today to reach Marsala which is a small attractive town on the western coastline.

Marsala joins a list of British influenced places producing fortified wines – Madeira, Jerez and Porto – to name but three others.  Inevitably therefore a Marsala tasting at the Pelligrini facility has been included in our tour.  The older wines are fortified in oak barrels for up to thirty years.  Younger wines are not exported but are apparently all consumed within Italy (if not just Sicily).  There are a number of wine houses around the town, although the one we visited remained family owned and was investing in new buildings and facilities – so the business must be doing well.  Too sweet for me of course – but I do partake in the tasting!

Marsala is an attractive little town although we had little time to experience the sights as we wandered around.  As in most places we ar dropped near the town gates and the coach then has to go away and return at the appointed time.  This time the party were foregathered with only one exception – the tour guide!

Photographs can be found here.

We travelled a little way along the coast to look at the extensive salt drying basins.  Historically the salt water was moved between th basins using windpower but the ancient windmills are abandoned as the water is now moved using diesel power.  As the water moves it evaporates leaving the salt behind which then is piled in huge mounds awaiting removal – these days there are conveyor belts to help the salt movements so less dependent on man power.

We take a small boat out into the almost land locked harbour to visit the island of Isola San Pantaleo or Mozia and rather than walking the length of the island in the extreme heat we slowly progress around the island on the water to enable the Carthiginian works to be appreciated.  The Whitaker foundation – from Joseph Whitaker – owns the museum which is in the centre of the island and was responsible for the initial investigation into the island.  Much has now been pieced together of the Carthiginian history – including the clear evidence of fresh water availability on the island.  A recurring feature is that Sicily was once blessed with far more fresh water than is now the case.

We move onto Erice – a hillside town a little to the north east of Trappani.  Hilltop is more accurate – we have a fairly demanding stroll up the hill, admiring the views on the way to the western part of the island (including Trappani), eventually reaching the fort at the top of the hill which then also has commanding views over the north western tip of the island and towards Palermo.  Photos for this can be found here.

We return to Marinella by a faster road and during this trip I am woken to see a train – but my camera is not to hand.

This evening we are taken to sample another aspect of Italy (and Sicily) with a meal at an “Agriturismo” restaurant.  Nothing quite as simple as a farmhouse holiday – this is a serious restaurant cooking some excellent food – and majoring on olive oil which is the key item of produce.  “Agriturismo” is extensive across Italy as a way of promoting farming and local produce.  The anti-pasti was again memorable and only the local speciality of barbecued meats was not generally well received – although we had consumed so much of the earlier courses it did not matter greatly.

Time for bed.