The Greeks called it Drepanon, sickle, the Romans Drepanum, reconnecting the city’s origin to the myth of Ceres, goddess of grain crops, who desperate to find her kidnapped daughter Persephone, lost  the sickle she was holding in her hand, precisely where Trapani appeared. The layout of the city –  a double sickle that juts into the sea almost dividing the Tyrrhenian Sea from the Mediterranean, still  refers back to the ancient name.

Trapani’s Elymian-Punic origins saw its emergence as Erice’s port and fishing village. Hamilcar Barca around 260 BC built the Castello di terra (Castle on the Land) and the Sea Castle,  the first facilities of the city defensive system. For centuries, Trapani’s history and economy have always been strongly connected to the sea, due to the favourable position of its port, facilitating trade with Africa. Trapani became particularly important under the Arabs to whom we owe the layout of the oldest urban fabric. James of Aragon in 1286 enlarged it, while Emperor Charles V, stopping over in Trapani on return from Tunis in 1535, ordered the extension of the walls to the west.

It has a picturesque historical centre which in the oldest part, preserves paved streets and houses with courtyards of Arabic influence.

The wealth of the architectural heritage from the 14th to the 20th century is represented by the 14th  century churches of St. Augustine and St. Dominic with characteristic Chiaramonte Gothic rose windows, the beautiful church of Santa Maria di Gesù in late-Gothic style, the 16th century Giudecca in Plateresque style with a tower covered in diamond pointed bossages, the 17th century Palazzo Senatorio, the baroque church of the Jesuit College, internally decorated with magnificent stucco and variegated marbles, the austere cathedral of San Lorenzo (17th cent.), with a narthex by Trapani’s own G. B. Amico.
No less significant outside the historic centre is the 14th-century Sanctuary of the Annunciation, with a rose window on the main façade and remarkable 14th and 15th-century chapels. Next to the Sanctuary rises the former convent of the Carmelites, now the Regional Museum “Agostino Pepoli”, with a splendid  cloister.

Outside the historical centre is the 14th-century sanctuary of the Annunciation, home to the precious marble statue of the Madonna di Trapani, by Nino Pisano (c.1360). The adjacent former convent of the Carmelites is now the seat of  the “A. Pepoli ” Regional Museum which houses collections of paintings, sculptures and decorative arts; and a well documented production of Trapani coral, with works from the 17th and 18th centuries.


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