Marsala

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Marsala | 📷 Paola Licari @skinny_apple

The sleepy city of Marsala, 70km (43 miles) north and west of Selinunte, has a long and raucous past. The Phoenicians settled here in the 8th century BC, abandoned the city when they made the island of Mozia their stronghold, and came back when the Siracusans routed them in 397BC. After a ten years siege, the Romans took the city in 241BC. Lilybeaum, as the city was then called, become the seat of the Roman governor of Sicily, by the time Caesar arrived on his way to Africa in 47BC, Cicero had dubbed Lilybaeum a civets splendidissima.
The port also proved to be a convenient gateway for the Arabs who overran Sicily in the 9th century, they called it ‘the harbour of Allah’, or Marsa al Allah. On 11 May 1860, the port of Marsala welcomed Garibaldi and the Thousand, the red -shirted freedom fighters who freed Sicily from Bourbon rule to unite Italy as a republic. Marsala bears its past glories with modesty. Of the ancient city, little remains but fragments of the Roman walls, some baths and a 3rd century villa that’s decorated with mosaics of hunting scenes and the four seasons. These are concentrated in the archaeological zone on the Capo Boeo promontory at the western edge of the city, which also happens to be the westernmost point in Sicily.
The nearby Museo Archeologico displays more Roman finds, including some colorful wall paintings and Phoenician ceramics. Most interesting, though, is a Phoenician warship that the Romans probably sank in the First Punic War. Discovered in 1971 on the seabed just north of Marsala, the boat is one of the few warships to survive from antiquity and has provided archeologists with a wealth of information about the arts of ancient warfare.
The Old Town
The sweet, pleasant scent that pervades the city us that of an elixir that brough Marsala fame and fortune in the 18th century, Marsala wine . British warships sent to protect England’s interests in the Marsala business proved to be convenient for Garibaldi, who assumed they would also protect him when he made his landing here in 1860.
Garibaldi’s presence in Marsala is commemorated by the Porta Garibaldi and the Via Garibaldi, which leads north form the port to the Piazza della Repubblica, the centre of town. The Palazzo Comunale and the Duomo face the square. Both have Baroque, 18th century facades, sculptures by Antonello Gagini decorate the church.

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