Frequently overlooked by visitors to Sicily, Marsala is more than just a place to grab a bottle of the world’s best-known sweet dessert wine. Baroque buildings, charming piazzas and a pedestrian friendly old town centre all contribute to the town’s appeal.
A coastal town in western Sicily, Marsala was founded by the Phoenicians and subsequently conquered by the Arabs, who established it as a leading town with considerable traffic to and from Africa and gave it its current name Marsa Allah (Port of God). In 1860, it was the landing place for Garibaldi and his thousand men, which ultimately led to the unification of Italy. The town’s wine trade was established by two entrepreneurs from Liverpool at the end of the eighteenth century.
The attraction for most people is a tour of the wineries. Marsala can be sampled and purchased at enoteche throughout the town, in local cellars and along the Strada del Vino Marsala which connects wine producers who offer guided tours and tastings.
The town’s Cathedral, built on the site of an old Norman church and dedicated to Thomas a Becket, and its Archaeological Museum are also worthy of a visit. Other local attractions include the saltpans and nature reserve of Il Stagnone, the archaeological Phoenician island of Mozia and the Egadi Islands. At the neighbouring season town of Mazara del Vallo, there is one of the finest surviving ancient bronze statues in the form of the Satiro Danzante, gathered from the seabed by fishermen in the 1990’s.