In Trapani, a location you can visit easily during your MSC Mediterranean cruise, almost everything of interest is found in the old town, west of the Villa Margherita gardens.
Churches and palaces have been renovated in recent years, and a plethora of bars and restaurants have opened along stylish pedestrianized streets – notably Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Via Torrearsa and Via Garibaldi. What is more, as you’ll be able to discover on a cruise excursion, the northern seafront, above the long beach, has also been considerably smartened up.
The nearest and most exhilarating ride from Trapani is to Erice, fifteen minutes away by cable car (funivia). It’s a mountain town with creeping hillside alleys, stone buildings, silent charm and powerful associations. The original city was known to the ancient world as Eryx, and a magnificent temple, dedicated to Venus Erycina, Mediterranean goddess of fertility, once topped the mountain. Though the city was considered impregnable, Carthaginian, Roman, Arab and Norman invaders all forced entry over the centuries. But all respected the sanctity of Erice: the Romans rebuilt the temple and set two hundred soldiers to serve as guardians of the shrine, while the Arabs renamed the town Gebel-Hamed, or “Mohammed’s mountain”.
A shore excursion to the bleak lava wilderness around the summit of Etna will instead greet you with the most memorable landscapes Italy has to offer. The volcano’s height is constantly shifting, depending on whether eruptions are constructive or destructive, and over the last century it has ranged from 3263m to the present estimate of 3340m. Whatever its exact height, Etna is a substantial mountain, one of the world’s biggest active volcanoes, and on a clear day it can be seen from well over half of Sicily.