The final stage of my tour covered the western part of Sicily including the vineyards and salt production areas around Marsala, the hilltop town of Erice and the Segesta archaeological site.
The road journey from the Central Region and Agrigento to Marsala on the West Coast looked to be straightforward – about 85 miles heading north-west along the main coast road.
However, unknown to us, bridge repair work was being carried out, resulting in a two hour detour through the surrounding hills along narrow roads with many hair-pin bends and lots of heavy traffic in both directions. Looking on the bright side it did give us a chance to see many attractive little towns and villages way off the tourist trail.
Arriving late to our accommodation, the Baglio Donna Franca hotel on a wine production estate, I was pleased to find that it had a restaurant which provided excellent Sicilian food. Also, before dinner, we were given a tour of the vineyard and tasted some of their excellent red Cipponeri, white Abbess and fortified Marsala wines.
Marsala is a pleasant town of some historical interest, although I passed through fairly quickly en route to the nearby salt-producing areas. Obviously in late February salt production by evaporation was not taking place, but there were many neat piles of salt covered with tiles. The scene is set off by traditional windmills with their distinctive red roofs.
By chance near one of the windmills we came upon a ferry to the small island of Motya (Mozia in Italian) in the Stagnone lagoon. Archaeological sites on the island, which were worked on by Joseph Whitaker of marsala wine fame, date back to the Phoenicians and include a necropolis, barrack buildings (casermetta) and an artificial port. The Whitaker Museum brings together a wide range of artefacts from the island including a fine marble statue of a charioteer. Unfortunately when I visited it was in the British Museum.
The town of Erice perched high on a hill can be seen from a wide area of Western Sicily and invites exploration. The road up has many hair-pin bends but has been designed for tourists coaches in the Summer so is relatively wide. The town itself seemed almost deserted and rather bleak and grey, with narrow streets and steep stairways. But the views of the surrounding countryside were superb and made the journey worthwhile. Like Taormina, Erice is probably best enjoyed in summer sunshine.
The final stop on my journey around Sicily was one of the highlights – the archaeological site at Segesta. What set this site apart from previous ones I had visited in Sicily was the isolated positions of the well-preserved 5th-Century BC Doric Temple and the Greek Theatre. The latter required a two mile uphill walk (or use of the shuttle bus), but was well worth it.
Finally to Palermo airport and handover of a surprisingly undamaged hire car! See: Sicily Touring Holiday – Getting There and Driving Around for car hire details.
That completed a memorable touring holiday which I recommend highly to fellow Senior citizens. All the Sicilians we met were friendly and helpful and readily engaged us in conversation in restaurants we visited.
Visiting out of season allowed us to get good discounts on travel and accommodation and, most importantly, to enjoy archaeological sites without being part of a tourist throng.
Free entry to such sites for EU citizens over 65 was an added bonus.