Imagination can disappoint, raising expectations without cause, but in Erice it failed to overpromise. The town is perched above Trapani and the Mediterranean just beyond, so I was prepared for a sweeping view from the third row of a crowded café. It is much more.
Erice has what another town has Caprisciously abandoned—good taste. It is warm and charming, without a gauntlet of designer stores nipping at the fatted wallets of the savage rich. The art works in Erice are unique; the famous pastries, unreplicated at Starbucks; and the stonework, outstanding.
La funivia is a cableway system to rise the 703 meters (over 2300′) to the city gate. It is 10 minutes well-invested. The city of Trapani makes the scale of the lift tangible. Everything is stone and the claim is that the cable system did not exist when someone lugged this stuff up the hill. Ouch.
Walking through the gate of ancient Erice, one quickly realizes that this is a special spot. Even the paving stones are both irregular and congruent, their varied surfaces polished smooth as St. Peter’s foot by the touch of the adoring multitudes. The gentle slope passes a series of small shops, lacking the intimidation of the pretentious Capris.
Stephanie discovered a marvelous pottery shop, securing the lightest gift the owner had, and it was free: restaurant advice. As a result, our lunch was an outstanding pleasure.
Rod and I shared ravioli with a swordfish stuffing and grilled onions, while Rick and Stephanie had beef carpaccio with rocket and parmesan. These were so delicous that my readers were forgotten until the crisp, fresh cannolis ended the lunch. (How on earth did they cut them in half? They shatter with each bite. Did they use dental floss? A laser?)
We walked off lunch (I wish) with a hike to the far end of the city where a castle stands prepared to defend the Erice against any threat, excepting aeronautics and gunpowder. It worked for quite a while. Had they had the foresight to build greenhouses and water pumps, even sieges might have failed.
The return to Castellammare del Golfo had us looking for a bar, which happened to pop up across from our parking spot. The British-accented Italian bartender made up two negroni cocktails, a beer, and a lemonade for €18. He included a ham sandwich cut into four, a bowl of chips, and a cup of olives, without charge. I could get to like these prices…except for the ham.