The town of Marsala is located on Lilibeo Cape, which is the westernmost point of the island of Sicily. The modern town is the fifth largest in Sicily and was built on the ruins of the ancient Carthaginian city of Lilybaion. Alongside the large harbour is the 'Stagnone Lagoon', a natural reserve consisting of a shallow marine area with salt pools. Salt is an important export of the area and is produced in various salt pans that feature prominently along the northwestern coast.
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Garibaldi Gate, Marsala - Photo: www.understandingitaly.com
Although best known for the production of sweet dessert wine, Marsala is also famous as the landing place of Guiseppe Garibaldi at the start of his 'Risorgimento' campaign to unify Italy in May 1860. An imposing gateway situated at the edge of the town commemorates the arrival of 'i Mille' (The Thousand).
Marsala has been struck by three major earthquakes over the last 200 years, the last one in 1981. The town also suffered extensive damage and loss of life during the bombardment leading to the allied invasion of Sicily in May 1943. These events permanently damaged the Baroque centre of the town although some historic buildings remain.
Marsala Cathedral - Photo: www.understandingitaly.com
The town overlooks the Aegadian (Egadi) Islands, Favignana, Marettimo and Levanzo. Located a few miles off the coast, their rugged terrain and crystal clear water make them a popular tourist destination, especially for visiting yachts and pleasure craft during the summer months.
The main street, Marsala - Photo: www.understandingitaly.com
Nearby is the pretty town of Erice which, at 750 metres, enjoys panoramic views over the surrounding area. The attractive cobbled streets wind around the town leading to historic churches, the ruins of ancient city walls and two castles: Pepoli Castle built by the Saracens and Venus Castle built by the Normans.
Population density: 343.2 per square km
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