Sunday, June 05, 2005

Segesta, Trápani and Selinunte


Wednesday morning we got an early start - we had a jam-packed day planned and we wanted to be at Segesta when it opened so as to avoid the crowds.

Segesta - Temple

We arrived at Segesta about 15 minutes before it opened and waited along with several other cars just outside the gate. Once the gate was opened we quickly got our tickets and then literally ran up the path leading to the temple. Our hope was that we would get there before anyone else and have a couple of minutes to enjoy it and take pictures before the others arrived. We were successful and had the temple all to ourselves for what seemed like 10 or 15 minutes - it was fantastic! It is such a beautiful place - you can easily understand why the people of ancient Segesta would have chosen it for the site of their temple.

Segesta - near the amphitheatre

We spent quite a bit of time in and around the temple and then took the bus up to the amphitheatre. While the amphitheatre itself is impressive, the views from the amphitheatre were amazing. What a gorgeous backdrop for a performance!

Trápani - Salt Museum

I was intrigued by the salt flats south of Trápani, with their beautiful old windmills, from the first photo I saw in a Sicily guidebook. Windmills were once used to grind the salt and to pump water from one saltpan to another. The windmill at the Salt Museum (above) is a Dutch windmill with six wooden-framed vanes. We also saw the more utilitarian looking American windmills (with 24 iron vanes). The salt flats form a striking landscape - pools of shallow water separated by thin strips of land and dotted with the occasional windmill.

The Salt Museum has a small restaurant and originally we planned to have lunch there. However, while we were waiting for it to open, a tour bus pulled into the parking lot. We decided to drive into Trápani and get lunch there. What a lucky decision that was!

When we arrived in Trápani, we not only managed to find a parking spot, we found one right in front of the tourism office. We stopped in to pick up a map and get our bearings and Chuck also asked for a restaurant recommendation. Without any hesitation, they suggested the nearby Ai Lumi. We found our way there, but tried the door and found it locked. We then noticed a small sign, "Bussare / To Knock". So we did, and shortly we were ushered in. Ai Lumi isn't especially big and didn't strike me at first as noteworthy in any way, but our lunch there was possibly our most enjoyable meal in Sicily.

Ai Lumi Tavernetta - Pasta con il Pesto Trapanese

Bob and I both ordered salads, so a tray of local olive oils and vinegars was brought to the table. They were delicious olive oils, with what Bob aptly calls the smell of cut grass, and we not only dressed our salads with them, we hungrily dunked our bread in them. By this point we were enjoying our lunch immensely and had high expectations for the rest of our meal. We were not disappointed. Chuck had Pasta con il Pesto Trapanese and Bob and I both had Cassatelle al ragù di salsiccia. Both were wonderful. We all would love to be able to replicate the pesto on Chuck's pasta. I had just a taste, but it was incredible. What Bob and I had was like large raviolli filled (I think) with ricotta and topped with one chubby sausage link and tomato sauce - simple and delicious. Unfortunately, we were much too full to even consider dessert.

Ai Lumi Tavernetta - Cassatelle al ragù di salsiccia

After lunch we took a quick look at the cathedral and then returned to the car and drove down to Selinunte. Some of the temples at Selinunte have been reassembled, but I think the tumbled blocks, column sections and capitals made the greatest impression on me. It was as though some celestial child had taken a swipe at his toy-block masterpiece in a fit of anger or mischief (but I think it was really earthquakes). This picture gives you no sense of the size of these "blocks", but they are huge.


One of the great things about both Segesta and Selinunte is that you can climb around on the ruins, even the ones above that appear a little precarious. There's something about walking on/in and touching the remains of these temples that intensifies the experience. Plus it's just plain old fun!


Next time - Agrigento

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