Marsala - Welcome
History plays a lead role in every part of Marsala: in the remains of the ancient Lilibeo, founded by the Phoenicians of Mozia who survived the destruction of the city in 397 B.C which can be seen in the roads, the buildings and the churches. Passing into the hands of the Romans, it became a splendidissima urbs - very splendid city - as described by Cicerone who was quaestor here in 75 B.C.- and it was a fervid commercial and strategic pole thanks to its port which was appreciated also by the Arabs for its vicinity to Africa. When, in the XVI century, Carlo V ordered the burial of the port to avoid the pirate attacks the city lost its marine importance and assumed a strategic and military importance. The nineteenth century history includes Garibaldi who with the Historic Landing of The Thousand, on the11th of May 1860, began the liberation of the island from the Bourbons, and also includes the English traders - Woodhouse, Ingham, Whitaker - and the Florio family who discovered the wine and sent it all over the world.
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.
Limpid water, uncontaminated nature, strips of land rich in history and archaeological remains, working salt pans, low sea beds, shallow water, which in some points can be passed over on foot characterise the Riserva Naturale Orientata Isole dello Stagnone – Oriented Nature Reserve of the Stagnone Isles, one of the first to be established in Sicily (1984); it protects the Stagnone lagoon, a pool of water separated from the open sea by the Isola Grande, with three small islands inside, Mozia, Santa Maria and Schola. Along the banks of the canals of the salt pans halophilious plants are present, including the suaeda maritima, glasswort, salsola soda, limonium, inula, and limoniastrum. Already from July the Stagnone receives the autumnal migrating birds: the curlew and the glossy ibis; with the cold weather, the ducks arrive together with the duck-hawk who lies in wait for them, the dun birds, teals, coots, wild ducks, pintails, and the garganeys. Superb and proud herons search for food in the pools of the salt pans.
Taking part in the Maundy Thursday procession are the Veroniche, young girls who parade in precious dresses with their faces covered in a white veil: the girls wear an extraordinary quantity of gold objects on their hands, arms and necks and also decorating their heads like enormous turbans. Family jewellery is used but jewellery is also lent by relatives and friends for the occasion. During the invito di San Giuseppe - invitation to Saint Joseph, a lunch is offered to three people, symbolising the Sacred Family, before an altar decorated with characteristic loaves of bread, still today, in a few districts like Bufalata and Paolini, it is customary to invite the puisiaturi who recite poetry in rhyme with each dish. According to an ancient belief, the water in the Sibilla well, under the church of San Giovanni, on the day of the same Saint becomes miraculous and able to cure illness. For this reason, in past times many invalids would immerge themselves in it.
RELIGION REMEMBERENCE BONDS
A significant moment during the rites of Holy Week is the Via Crucis on Maundy Thursday with characters who parade through the main streets of the city interpreting the roles with great emotional involvement: the falling of Christ carrying the cross, which is repeated a few times during the route, is suggestive. A moving representation of the Crucifixion takes place in the evening of the same day. The Good Friday procession with the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows following Crucified Christ is very well attended. To the Madonna della Cava, patron saint of the city, Marsala dedicates, on the 19th of January, a devoted procession and dedicated to the co- patron San Giovanni, on the 24th of June, there are festivities which unite the sacred with the profane. The sanctuary Santo Padre delle Perriere, is a pilgrimage destination. It is inside a cave dug into the Tuff stone, in the place of a miracle where in the XVIII century a worker sculpted the bust of San Francesco di Paola.
The Mother Church is a real treasure chest of art, and holds two fine Renaissance Gagini sculptures including San Tommaso, a masterpiece by Antonello, the graceful Madonna del popolo by Domenico, and the stupendous marble icon from the chapel of SS.Sacramento, by Bartolomeo Berrettaro and the same Antonello. No less interesting are the paintings including the painting by Antonello Riccio (XVI century) and two paintings by Domenico La Bruna ( XVII century). A splendid Intercessione della Vergine per le Anime Purganti, attributed to Vincenzo and Antonio Manno (XVIII century), brightens the vault of the chiesa del Purgatorio – church of purgatory; an extraordinary Madonna di Loreto (1491-92), considered to be one of the best works by Domenico Gagini, together with a considerable stucco decoration (XVIII century), enrich the church of San Francesco d’Assisi. The Fontana del vino - Wine fountain by Salvatore Fiume (1978) pays homage to the city and its wine.
Parts of walls of houses, tombs, the remains of the fortifications like the great moat, and pieces of walls are to be found in the urban tissue and document the Punic phase of the city. The area of Capo Boeo holds the most tangible of the traces of the Romans and conserves the remains of a villa (end II century- beginning III century A.D) complete with thermal baths with marvellous mural floors. Under the San Giovanni church there is an ancient hypogeum known as the grotta della Sibilla which is a rare example of transformation into a Christian baptistery (V century A.D.). Another extraordinary hypogeum is Crispia Salvia (end II - beginning III century A.D.) decorated with frescoes. And then there is Mozia, an uncontaminated island, the proud guardian of the remains of a Phoenician city destroyed in 397 B.C. by Dionigi di Siracusa: the walls, the tophet, the cothon, the statue of the Youth of Mothia and the objects of the Whitaker museum, are rare and significant remains.
Sumptuous churches, monastic complexes, ancient buildings, two urban gates, a military quarter, the historic wine cellars make up the monumental patrimony of the city. The majestic Mother Church of presumed Norman origins, which was completely renovated in the XVII century, and the palazzo VII Aprile, with a sixteenth century appearance, with their façades, although different in style, animate the piazza Loggia, while the complex of San Pietro (XVI century) with the high sixteenth century observatory dominates the Cassaro, the main street. The Churches of Purgatorio, San Giuseppe and San Francesco, with their evident Baroque stamp create a pleasant union between architecture and the urban context. The magnificent cloister (XVIII e XIX century) of the Carmine Monastery, the church, the bell tower with an astonishing winding staircase, and the splendid square make the complex a place of rare beauty and one of the most suggestive of the city.
MUSEUMS SCIENCE EDUCATION
Marsala boasts museum institutions of great importance and archaeological and painting laboratories. The Regional Archaeological Museum “Baglio Anselmi“ holds artefacts from the ancient Lilibeo, including the beautiful statue of Venere Callipige and the interesting wreck of a Punic ship whose sinking is dateable to the mid III century B.C., coinciding with the battle of the Egadi islands (241 B.C). The ex monastery of San Pietro is an important multipurpose centre with the municipal library, conference and exhibition room, video library, children’s recreation centre: Today it is home to the interesting Civic Museum, divided into three sections: Risorgimental-Garibaldian, Archaeological and Popular Traditions. Eight magnificent Flemish tapestries, donated to the Mother Church in 1589 by Mons. Antonio Lombardo, make up the museum attached to the same church. The Archivio Storico Comunale - (Historical Municipal Archive) and the Ente Mostra di Pittura Contemporanea Città di Marsala - Contemporary Painting Exhibition City of Marsala are contained in the Carmine complex.
Strongly linked to the wine production of the city is the fine manufacturing of barrels, casks and kegs made with handcrafting methods by expert barrel makers. Oak and chestnut oak are used which are compact and with a fine grain. The staves, obtained with the cleaving technique which respects the integrity of the fibres, are matured naturally for 24 months. After a careful selection, the craftsman cleans and trims the staves which are then assembled in the first head hoop. The next stage is the toasting phase, using the ancient fire method, which requires a lot of experience as a burning brazier is put inside the base of the barrel. In keeping with the best Sicilian tradition high quality, craft made, artistic ceramics which are finely decorated by hand are produced in Marsala.
WINE AND FOOD
Numerous wine producers and cellars produce the famous Marsala DOC, from the Grillo, Catarratto, Damaschino, and Inzolia, grapes; those made from white grapes include Pignatello Calabrese, and those made from black grapes include Nero d’Avola and Nerello Mascalese. The maturation happens in oak barrels, for a variable number of years from a minimum of one to ten according to the type that is to be obtained: Fine, Superior, Virgin. Wine production is followed by the cultivation of citrus and other fruits, which is flanked by greenhouse cultivation of vegetables and flowers and salt in the salt pans. Exquisite pastries and cakes are craft made as is pasta, following the technique of slow drying at low temperatures, to conserve the nutritional values. There is a particular type of bread with fennel seeds, called squarato because before being baked it is blanched in boiling water.
SHOWS AND EVENTS
Connected to the wine, there are events such as Vinoro, an international show which promotes the knowledge of the sweet, passito and dessert wines, and contributes to the growth of the territory of origin; Calici sotto le stelle - Chalices under the stars which, during the night of San Lorenzo, proposes the tasting of local wines; Marsala DOC Jazz Festival which combines wine with jazz music. Marsala, city of the Thousand, celebrates every year the historic landing of Garibaldi with re-enactments, conferences, forums about the Risorgimento, guided visits and tasting. Estate insieme - Summer together, has a rich calendar of music, theatre, cabaret folklore and various entertainment appointments in the most suggestive parts of the city, including the monumental complex of San Pietro where the Cinema all'aperto - Open-air cinema takes place. The concert and theatre season is also rich and takes place in the Teatro Comunale (Municipal Theatre) and Teatro Impero (Impero Theatre).
ENTERTAINMENT, SPORT AND FREE TIME
The city offers many possibilities for free time and sporting activities. It has municipal facilities, like the indoor stadium, the stadium with a connected light athletics track, two football pitches, a bowls area and a multipurpose structure in Strasatti, which are flanked by private gyms, structures and circles which promote the practice of various sporting disciplines from tennis to horse riding. As is the rule for a seaside city, it has a tourist port, beaches and well deserving societies and circles which organise important international events and promote, aimed particularly at the young, nautical sports - sailing, kite skiing, canoeing, windsurfing - in the waters of the Stagnone and along the coast and the beaches which have many times been awarded the European blue flag. There are also many discos, pubs, wine cellars and wine bars.