The name of the town made it around the Globe thanks to the local wines, but the fact of the matter is that Marsala has much more to offer: a look into Italy’s ancient history, a rural countryside, wonderful cuisine and last, but not least, it’s the perfect sailing holiday location
One of Italy’s most Western Mediterranean ports, Marsala’s name derives from “Marsa Allah” which basically translates to “Allah’s Port”, a name given by the Arabs to underline its great size. The city stands on the site of the ancient Roman city of Lilybaeum, of which there are few remains today but the basic town architecture still retains the Roman camp outline.
Situated in the Province of Trapani on the Italian island of Sicily, the town has a low coastline which makes viticulture a prosperous activity here. In fact, the town is surrounded by vineyards producing the famous local Marsala wine.
Travel & Arrival
The preferred way of getting to Marsala for foreign tourists is by airplane. The Trapani-Birgi Airport is just 20 km from the city, with daily flights from major cities in Italy such as Milan and Rome. There are also flights from the neighboring island of Malta.
Anyone who has come down here before will tell you that it’s wonderful driving in the Sicilian countryside. Your party can take the A29 highway from Palermo and from there you have 150 km which translate into about an hour’s drive. There is no toll to pay for getting on this highway, but there aren’t any gas stations either so make sure you’re not running on empty.
Also from Palermo, the group can take a train. There are daily trips that last a little over 3 hours. For a cheaper option you can book a bus ticket from Autroservizi Salemi which is conveniently based in Palermo too.
The nearest commercial port is Trapani, 31 km up the coast, but Marsala has a number of harbors that provide mooring in case you travel here by boat.
Avant & Apres Sail
Some of the devotees out there might know the name Marsala from the famous fortified wine which is similar to Port. While a famous product of the town, there are also some other interesting facts that make Marsala worth visiting.
The old town of Lilybaeum can be seen in the form of old city walls, some building foundations by the sea and some squared stones. But Marsala isn’t just about ancient history, as visiting tourists will see in the Cine Impero, a building in the Italian futurist style that was popular in the fascist era.
Some religious landmarks that might appeal to visitors are the Complesso Monumentale San Pietro, a former Benedictine monastery that today acts as a gallery, the Convento del Carmine also turned into an art gallery and the Marsala Cathedral situated in the town’s central market – the Piazza della Republica.
Though Sicilian cuisine is considered to be Italian, the Arab influences can be quite evident even today, as the locals use apricots, sugar, citrus fruit and typical eastern spices even in fried dishes. The most famous recipe and the one you’ll have to try while here with your friends is chicken Marsala, a dish made with mushrooms and the local wine.
The nightlife isn’t as bustling as you’d expect, but this is an old, sleepy town where traditions are paramount. However, you and your friends should be able to find a café in the town’s center that stays open past midnight.
Events & Actions
The lack of a consistent nightlife sadly translates to the events held in Marsala. However, there are plenty of things to see in and around town. When you’re done walking the promenade, you can always head to the beaches and the bathing establishments which are free for locals and tourists alike.
Outside of town there is the Stagnone lagoon with small islands such as Moti where you’ll find a natural reserve and the Salinas, a very beautiful place with numerous sea salt-production installations including windmills.