Marsala stands on the extreme western tip of the land of legends, Sicily. Its name is linked to marsala wine and tothe history of our Republic, when - on 11th May 1860 - Garibaldi started his march towardsthe unification of Italy. A stroll along the main shopping street (the cassaro)or a walk outside the city gates, will give you an idea of the resources and beauty of Marsala, the fifth largest city in Sicily with 85,000 inhabitants.So, you will discover a modern,mediterranean city, divided between land and sea; indeed, both are interwovenwith its history until wine became a dominant figure. The Phenicians settled onthe nearby island of Mozia, which is the archaeological treasure in the Lagoon of the Stagnone and was destroyed in 397 B.C. The survivors escaped to the main land and founded Lilybaeum, which then passed under Roman rule. Arabpirates (VIII Century) renamed the town Marsa Allah, from which it takes its present name. Then, came the Normans, the Swabians, the Angevins, who turned Marsala into a flourishing wheat-growing area. The decline of seafaring activiti esbegan with the arrival of the Spanish who closed the Port.The sea became important once again when the English man John Woodhouse started exporting wine to Liverpool in 1773. This was the birth of marsala wine. So, both sea and land joined together to the advantage of the economy of the town, which soon attracted other merchants. First theEnglish; then the Florio. In 1860Marsala became part of Italian history, when Garibaldi and the Thousand landed in Marsala and were joined bythe local men. The rest is the recent history of a town which wants to cut outits rightful role in the Mediterranean; a role with its own identify, between ancient and modern.Marsala has innumerable tokens of the past. Its artistic heritage is vast: sanctuaries, grottos hypogeums,necropolis, Roman baths, shipwrecks and amphorae.The planks of the oldest PunicWarship ever found are on display in the Baglio Anselmi Museum, which also contains other preciousrecent finds such as the statues ofVenus Callipige and Isis. The streets, lined by baroque houses, lead thesightseer to imposing churches, monuments, the works ofart in the "Convento del Carmine", the Flemish Tapestries in the museum of the Cathedral and the beautiful affrescoes in the municipal theatre. The Phoenicio-Punic and Roman remains areconcentrated in the old town centre and, overall, on the island of Mozia (SanPantaleo) which was the theatre of many battles. Mozia can be reached by boatin a few minutes and a marble statue of the young charioteer Alcimedonte can be admired in the museum.
It is enclosed by ancient defense walls and most of the old buildings have been restored. The real heart of the city is Piazza Loggia. The square is dominated by the Cathedral of St Thomas Becket and Palazzo VII Aprile (which commemorates the first revolution in the 1800's). Today via XI Maggio cuts the city into two parts.One part is the Spanish Quarter with its "Porta a Mare" the Santuario dell'Addolorata and the church of Purgatory. Piazza San Girolamo and Carmine with its bell-tower. The other part is the Jewish quarter where the 16th century San Pietro complex rises and nearby the sanctuary of the Madonnadella Cava, patron of the town.Continuing along via XI Maggio, our eye iscaught by 18th century Palazzo Fici and Porta Nuova. This city gate is the entrance to the archaeological area of Capo Boeo, which contains the RomanStreet (decumano maximo) and the church dedicated to St. John the Baptist,built above the Lilybaeum Sybil's grotto. There is still a fresh - water springin this evocative hypogeum.
The territory of Marsala is unique in its landscape comprising the enchanting countryside, beaches, the Stagnone and the Phoenician Mozia. The vineyards with their regular lines of vines are the protagonists of the surrounding agricultural land scattered with bagli (rural fortified structures) and the vine producing companies are the protagonists of the access roads to the inhabited centre. But the real protagonist of this landscape is man who has been able to cultivate vineyards as far as the sea and has even cultivated the sea itself, with the salt pans which produce salt, making use of the wind and heat of the sun. The water of the salt pans with their windmills offer spectacular sights, when at sunset they become tinged with red, and the salt pools become pink in colour thanks to the particular archeobatteri alofili (archae), or in the period between June and September when the snow-white accumulations of salt appear. From Capo Boeo and Rakalia, there are stupendous views over the coast, the Egadi islands, of the Stagnone and as far as Mount Erice.