Eatalian Travel Atelier

logo Eatalian Travel Atelier marchio registrato

Northeastern Sicily in the footsteps of the Florios of Sicily


July 2022: A trip in Northeastern Sicily

Day 1 | Arrival at Termini Imerese, Art Nouveau in Mondello, Balestrate

Day 2 | Trip to Erice, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy

Day 3 | Boat excursion to Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro and evening in Castellammare del Golfo

Day 4 | Afternoon on Macari beach and evening in San Vito Lo Capo

Day 5 | Excursion to Segesta’s Archaeological Park

Day 6 | Visit of the cellars and wine tasting at Assuli winery  

Day 7 | Walk in Trapani’s historic center, excursion to Riserva dello Stagnone and Mothia, sunset at Marsala’s salt pans

Day 8 | Trip to Favignana and visit of the former Florio tuna factory

Day 9 | Visit to the Cathedral of Monreale, arrival in Palermo and afternoon walk in the centre

Day 10 | Palermo, visit to Palazzo dei Normanni, dinner at Arenella 

Day 11 | Palazzo della Zisa and trip to Cefalù

July 2022: A trip in Northeastern Sicily

This summer we have opted for an itinerary in Sicily, more precisely in the north-western area, between Palermo and Trapani. The first 4 days we will be based in Balestrate, the next four in Trapani, and the last two in Palermo.

In Civitavecchia we take our car on the boat, the ship is directed to Termini Imerese. There are very few people on board, traveling in early July has many advantages.

Nave Vincenzo Florio
Ship named after Vincenzo Florio

Day 1 | Arrival at Termini Imerese, Art Nouveau in Mondello, Balestrate

The following morning, after disembarking in Termini Imerese,  we take the state road 113 Settentrionale Sicula which winds along the northern coast of Sicily, from Messina to Trapani, passing through Palermo. Our first stop is in Mondello, Palermo’s beachfront, an Art Nouveau milestone in Italy and in the Mediterranean, where beautiful Liberty style villas were built during the twentieth century. The most distinctive establishment on Mondello beach is the Charleston, a 1908 building raised on stilts which used to house one of the most elegant restaurants in Palermo until just a few years ago.

We head to Balestrate, where we will stay for the first few days. Although Balestrate does not offer any specific attraction, we have decided to stay there for its short distance from Segesta, Scopello, S. Vito lo Capo, Erice and Trapani. We are guests of a very original holiday home, Le Luminarie, which is part of a wider artistic and cultural project. The young owner, Nino, is a very pleasant and interesting person. All the apartments are furnished with pieces made by Sicilian artisans using recycled materials, they have a lovely sea view and are located 5 minutes’ walk from a sandy beach.

After reuniting with friends coming from Agrigento and a first dive in the Sicilian sea, we have dinner at  Al Paguro restaurant, where fish-based dishes are mainly served.

Sicilia nord occidentale carretto frutta a Mondello
Fruit cart in Mondello
Stabilimento Charleston a Mondello Sicilia nord occidentale
Charleston, Mondello
Villa art déco Mondello sicilia nord occidentale
Art Déco villas in Mondello

Day 2 | Trip to Erice, one the most beautiful villages in Italy

We allow ourselves a morning of relaxation and in the afternoon we head towards Erice which is about an hour away.

Erice, also known as the “City of a hundred churches” is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.  We start our walk from Porta Trapani along narrow streets and squares, lined with churches and noble palaces that open up to lovely landscapes. Virgil mentions Erice in the Aeneid, making it a stop on Aeneas’ journey.

Vicoli di Erice sicilia nord occidentale
Glimpses of Erice
Dolci di mandorle sicilia nord occidentale
Almond sweets, Erice

Erice’s icon is the Castle of Venus, built by the Normans. The castle was enclosed by towers, and from its English garden an extraordinary panorama of north-western Sicily can be enjoyed: on one side the Tyrrhenian coast and the Gulf of Trapani, with San Vito lo Capo tip on the horizon, on the other side the port of Trapani, with Saline (salt pans) and Egadi islands.

Castello di Venere Erice Sicilia Occidentale
Erice, the Venus Castle
Sicilia nord occidentale Trapani e Egadi viste da Erice
Trapani and Egadi islands from Erice

At the end of the walk we stop at Edelweiss restaurant bar, which is quite a weird name for a place in Sicily, but my doubts are soon dispelled by an outward waiter and the delicacies he brings, caponata, arancine and many other delights.

ceramiche sicilia nord occidentale
Sicilian pottery, Erice
Bar Edelweiss Erice sicilia nord occidentale
Bar Edelweiss, Erice

Day 3 | Boat excursion to Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro and evening in Castellammare del Golfo

One of the most beautiful stretches of coast in north-western Sicily is the Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro. Since there are 12 of us, I have booked  a 3 hour boat excursion with Blue Marine, starting from Castellammare del Golfo. We’ll have the boat all to ourselves and will make several stops for a dive.

Castellammare del Golfo
Castellammare del Golfo

The boat goes by the entire coast along the Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro’s inlets . We stop at Grotta della Madonnina for a dive in Cala Bianca and at Faraglioni di Scopello from which we can see the ancient fishing village of Tonnara in the distance. Once back at the harbour, we have dinner, at La Cambusa restaurant. Castellammare del Golfo is a pretty village with a lively evening and night life, strolling along its alleys full of shops and cafes is very pleasant.

Faraglioni di Scopello sicilia nord occidentale
Faraglioni di Scopello
Tonnara di Scopello Sicilia nord occidentale
Tonnara di Scopello

Day 4 | Afternoon on Macari beach and evening in San Vito Lo Capo

San Vito lo Capo is one of the most famous seaside resorts in north-western Sicily. We leave after lunch with the intention of stopping in Macari’s beach for a swim in its renowned crystalline waters.

Indeed, the sea is beautiful, but honestly I find Macari a bit overrated. The only “equipped” lido that rents out sunbeds and umbrellas has neither toilets nor bar, nevertheless we pay €25 for two deckchairs and an umbrella for a 2-hour stay, in the late afternoon, from 5 to 7 pm.

We spend the evening dining in San Vito Lo Capo at U Sfizziusu, on the seafront. Their huge apericena (happy hour with a light dinner) and the barman’s cocktails are amazing.

This is our last night all together, tomorrow our friends have to go back home.

Spiaggia di Macari Sicilia nord occidentale
Macari beach
arancine sicilia nord occidentale
Aperitivo time in San Vito lo Capo
caponata e arancine sicilia nord occidentale
Caponata and arancine

Day 5 | Excursion to Segesta’s Archaeological Park

Balestrate has proved to be an excellent choice. It is not a touristy place at all. I appreciated the authentic atmosphere, the delicious pane cunzato from the bakery, breakfasts at the bar in the piazza, the morning walks along the corniche and, above all, the sweet sound of the surf coming from the beach at night.

Le Luminarie Balestrate Sicilia nord occidentale
Le Luminarie holiday home, Balestrate
Pane cunzato Balestrate Sicilia nord occidentale
Pane cunzato

Before saying goodbye to our friends, we go and visit the Archaeological Park of Segesta, one of the most fascinating and mysterious sites of Magna Graecia. Its ancient theater is considered to be one of the most beautiful of the age, due to the excellent state of conservation and the magnificent position above the Gulf of Castellammare on the hills. Every summer, the theater resumes its original function, becoming a lively place with shows and concerts.

After Segesta we head to Trapani where we will spend the next four nights. We will stay at Agriturismo Duca di Castelmonte, a baglio (the typical sicilian country estate) surrounded by mediterranean vegetation with palms and olive trees, an ideal accommodation for a family holiday.


Segesta Sicilia nord occidentale
Segesta Archeological Park
Segesta Sicilia nord occidentale
Sicilia nord occidentale Parco Archeologico di Segesta
The amphiteatre

Day 6 | Visit of the cellars and wine tasting at Assuli winery  

I was told about Assuli as one of the most interesting organic wineries in this area, so I booked a wine tasting.

We are warmly welcomed by Gaspare, who shows us the cellars and then we go for a taste of their delicate white wines, fresh wines,  sapid wines recalling the sea and red wines  influenced by the heat and the wind. The whole estate Baglio di Assuli was recently renovated and accommodation will soon be ready too.

Cantine Assuli Sicilia nord occidentale
Assuli wine cellar
Baglio di Assuli Sicilia nord occidentale
Baglio di Assuli
Baglio di Assuli
Baglio di Assuli

In the afternoon we rest at the farmhouse. The luxurious garden is equipped with a children’s playground and a small farm with donkeys and goats.

However, my daughters prefer to have fun in the pool.


agriturismo Duca di Castelmonte
Agriturismo Duca di Castelmonte
Agriturismo Duca di Castelmonte sicilia nord occidentale
Agriturismo Duca di Castelmonte

Day 7 | Walk in Trapani’s historic center, excursion to Riserva dello Stagnone and Mothia, sunset at Marsala’s salt pans

Our day begins with a walk along the streets of the historic center of Trapani. The city preserves beautiful buildings and churches that are worth a visit.

We walk along the Walls of Tramontana, a remnant of the ancient defensive wall built by the king of Spain and Sicily, Charles V of Habsburg, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Along the promenade there are accesses to the historic centre, a porch, a couple of stone steps. One of these accesses goes down to Porta Botteghelle from which a pretty cove and the beach can be reached.

Trapani, historic centre
Porta delle Botteghelle Trapani Sicilia nord occidentale
Trapani, Porta delle Botteghelle

Mothia and Marsala’s salt pans are among Sicily’s must see’s. We will go there in the afternoon.

The island of Mothia was an ancient Phoenician colony, an important trade hub between East and West. At the beginning of the twentieth century the island had been bought by Joseph Whitaker, an archaeologist, heir of an English family who had moved to Sicily and made a fortune producing Marsala wine. 

Joseph Whitaker was Benjamin Ingham’s nephew, the mentor of Vincenzo Florio, the businessman born in a poor family of spice traders who immigrated from Calabria to Sicily in the early 1800s. In just a few decades the Florios managed to set up an industrial and commercial empire on which Sicily’s economy depended.

The compelling story of the Florio family is told in Stefania Auci’s novel “The Florios of Sicily”. 

Joseph Whitaker had the first archaeological excavations carried out on the island of Mothia and today a museum displays the artifacts he found.

Mothia can be reached with flat-bottomed boats made for navigating the shallow waters of Laguna dello Stagnone, an extraordinary natural landscape with colours, scents, white salt pans and windmills that make it a somewhat magical place.

Mulino saline di Marsala Sicilia nord occidentale
Laguna dello Stagnone, Marsala
statua del Giovane di Mozia
The Mothia Charioteer

Sunset at the Marsala salt pans is considered to be one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. The sun’s rays reflected on the saltpan basins waters and the windmills make the whole scene unique, in fact along the coast there are many small bars that get filled with a young and lively crowd in the afternoon.

We dine at Ristorante Pizzeria Cothon. Although the place is a little dated and seems to be stuck in the 80s, their Trapani style couscous (made with fish) and busiate allo scoglio are  amazing and the dishes are huge.

Aperitivo alle Saline di Marsala Sicilia nord occidentale
Aperitivo time at Marsala saltpans
Tramonto alle Saline di Marsala
Sunset at Marsala saltpans

Day 8 | Trip to Favignana and visit of the former Florio tuna factory

Egadi islands (Levanzo, Marettimo and Favignana) are among the most famous and visited destinations in Western Sicily.

Today we will go to Favignana and will be back in the evening.

We must leave in time enough to find a parking space at the port (€25 for the day) and take the ferry. The boat trip is about 30 mn.

Favignana is considered to be the best cycling island in Europe, motor vehicles are practically banned, the cycling path is almost 20 kms long.

There are many rentals at the harbour. Prices are around €5 per day for a traditional bike, €15 for an e-bike. 

Equipped with a map, we set out to discover Favignana.

After just a few hundred meters one of our bikes breaks so we have to stop and wait for it to be replaced. When we set off again it’s late and hot, so, as we reach the first cove we dive from the rocks. We are in Cala Burrone. The sea is a dream.

mare di Favignana Sicilia nord occidentale
sea colours in Favignana
scogli Favignana sicilia nord occidentale
Cala Burrone, Favignana

Our bicycles are in very bad condition, we should have taken the e-bikes

 We continue under the scorching sun towards renowned Cala Azzurra. This tiny bay must be enchanting in May, but in July there are loads of people.

Quite disappointed, we decide to proceed along the southern coast of the island, longing to dive again, but when we stop  the sea is so cold in that area that no one dives.

Let’s relax and have a look at the sea colours.

When we get back to the village it’s afternoon. We return the bicycles and head towards the tonnara. Crossing the main square we cannot fail to notice the monument to Vincenzo Florio, a myth on this island and throughout Sicily.

In Favignana everything speaks of the Florios.

Between the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, they were among the richest families in Italy, the time of Belle époque. They owned a fleet of 99 ships. The corporate empire ranged from chemicals to wine, from tourism to tuna industry.

Favignana was bought by the Florio family in 1874. A large tuna fishery was built and a new production method was tested. Instead of preserving the tuna in salt, as usually done at the time, tests were carried out on preserving the tuna in oil and keeping  it in cans, a method which spread throughout the world.

Villa Florio Favignana Sicilia nord occidentale
Villa Florio, Favignana

Among the things to do in Favignana, a visit to the former Florio factory, one of the largest tuna traps in the whole Mediterranean, cannot be missed. Visiting Tonnara di Favignana is like taking a trip back in time, to discover the millenary traditions of tuna fishing, handed down from generation to generation. This establishment was the place where the equipment, anchors and boats of the slaughter were kept and is one of the most famous examples of industrial archeology in Sicily.

Tonnara di Favignana sicilia nord occidentale
Tonnara di Favignana, former Florio tuna factory
Lattine di tonno Florio Favignana Sicilia nord occidentale
Florio tuna cans, Favignana
Tonnara di Favignana Sicilia nord occidentale
Former Florio tuna factory, Favignana

The visit exceeded my expectations, thanks also to the engaging explanation of the guide.

We go back to the harbour  and take the ferry back to Trapani.

I leave Favignana with a little regret. I haven’t had enough time to appreciate it. We should have stayed a few more days.


Day 9 | Visit to the Cathedral of Monreale, arrival in Palermo and afternoon walk in the centre

The last stop of our holiday will be Palermo, but first we will stop in Monreale.

Monreale Cathedral, is a Sicilian masterpiece, one of the best examples of coexistence between Islamic, Byzantine and Romanesque cultures. The interior is richly decorated with Byzantine mosaics and the site is part of the Arab-Norman Palermo route and the Cathedrals of Cefalù and MonrealeUNESCO World Heritage Site.

Duomo di Monreale Sicilia Nord Occidentale
Monreale Cathedral
Duomo di Monreale Sicilia Nord Occidentale
Monreale Cathedral interior

Next to the Cathedral stands the Benedictine cloister, a wonderful example of Byzantine architecture recalling Granada’s Alhambra in Spain. The arches on each side of the cloister are hold by very elegant smooth marble columns, inlaid with mosaics, carved with arabesques.

particolare del Chiostro del Duomo di Monreale Sicilia nord occidentale
Monreale cloister
Chiostro del Duomo di Monreale Sicilia nord occidentale
Monreale cloister
colonne chiostro di Monreale Sicilia nord occidentale
Carved columns, Monreale cloister
colonne chiostro di Monreale Sicilia nord occidentale
Inlaid columns, Monreale cloister

It’s time for lunch and we don’t know where to go. We stumble upon Litria by chance, a tiny bakery where they make a delicious pane cunzato.

Forno Litria Monreale Sicilia nord occidentale
Litria bakery, Monreale
Pane cunzato Forno Litri sicilia nord occidentale
Pane cunzato, Litria bakery, Monreale
Forno Litria Monreale Sicilia nord occidentale
Litria bakery, Monreale

In the afternoon we are in Palermo.
Driving a large car through Palermo’s narrow streets is not easy and in general I do not recommend it, however, if you need an accommodation with parking in Palermo, the port area is very convenient. We stayed two nights at Ibis Styles Palermo President hotel which is located in front of the piers where the ships for Naples, Genoa and Civitavecchia leave. I found it really convenient, it has free parking, the room was very large and the breakfast was very good. The center of the town is just a 10-minute walk. Time to freshen up and we are out.
Palermo is a city with a huge cultural heritage. A crossroad of cultures and traditions testified by churches, monuments and priceless works of art, where sumptuous noble buildings stand next to popular neighborhoods.

Palermo centro storico Sicilia nord occidentale
Palermo centro storico Sicilia nord occidentale
Palermo, Vuccirìa quarter
Palermo centro storico Sicilia nord occidentale
Teatro Massimo Palermo Sicilia nord occidentale
Teatro Massimo, built with Ignazio Florio's generous financing

Day 10 | Palermo, visit to Palazzo dei Normanni, dinner at Arenella 

A city of Phoenician origins, dominated by the Romans, the Arabs, the Normans and the Suevians, Palermo brims with evidence of its glorious past.
We owe the monuments with marble inlays and golden mosaics to the Byzantines.
In 827 AD. the Arabs arrived and built mosques and beautiful palaces.
Around 1000 AD, the Norman kings created an avant-garde state where different religions and ethnic groups coexisted peacefully. That was the heyday.
In the Middle Ages the Arab-Norman architectural style reigned, which we can still admire today.
During the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies the Bourbons ruled Palermo until the arrival of Garibaldi and the annexation to the Kingdom of Italy. It was the period of the great Liberty buildings.
Strolling along via Maqueda, we cross Piazza dei Quattro Canti, and passed the Fountain of Shame we enter the vicoli. We go in the Church of Gesù di casa Professa, a Baroque jewel with splendid marble inlays located at the edge of the famous Ballarò market.
One of the most visited monuments in Sicily that you really can’t miss is Palazzo dei Normanni, currently the seat of the Sicilian regional assembly. The palace is the oldest royal residence in Europe, the residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Sicily, seat of the historic Sicilian Parliament.
The apartments are decorated with with hunting scenes mosaics and the Palatine Chapel is decorated with incredible Byzantine mosaics, the most beautiful in mosaics in Sicily. The Palatine Chapel was defined by Guy de Maupassant as “the most beautiful in the world, the most marvellous religious jewel envisioned by human thought and created by the hands of an artist” and represents, on an architectural and decorative level, the encounter between different cultures and religions, since Byzantine, Islamic and Latin workers were involved in its construction.

Palermo Fontana Pretoria Sicilia nord occidentale
Palermo Fontana Pretoria known as The Fountain of Shame
Palermo centro storico Sicilia nord occidentale
Palermo centro storico Sicilia nord occidentale
Chiesa del Gesù Palermo Sicilia nord occidentale
Chiesa del Gesù di Casa Professa, Palermo
Cappella Palatina Palermo Sicilia nord occidentale
Palatine Chapel Palermo, Palazzo dei Normanni

To remain in the footsteps of the Florios of Sicily, we end our day at Arenella fishing village.

You can still see here the former Tonnara Florio and Palazzina dei Quattro Pizzi, one of Palermo’s most unique buildings, where Vincenzo Florio’s used to live with his family and hosted the Bourbon kings and Tsar Nicholas I of Russia.

From the terrace of Ristorante Trizzano restaurant we enjoy a privileged view of the marina and have a wonderful dinner, probably one of the best ones of our holiday.

Quartiere dell'Arenella Palermo Sicilia nord occidentaleQuartiere dell'Arenella Palermo Sicilia nord occidentale
Arenella fishing village with Palazzina dei Quattro Pizzi on the left

Day 11 | Palazzo della Zisa and trip to Cefalù 

Last day. Before leaving Palermo we will visit Palazzo della Zisa, an Arab Norman masterpiece and one of the most important sites in Sicily, Unesco World Heritage Site.
Palazzo della Zisa, in Arabic al-ʿAzīza, or “the splendid”, stood outside the walls of the city, in the Norman royal park, the Genoardo, in Arabic Jannat al-arḍ or “garden” or “heaven on earth”,  with beautiful pavilions, lush gardens and water basins.
Today, all that remains of the splendid gardens and fountains is a dry lawn and dirty semi-dry basins. Such a pity.
Sumptuous and decadent is how I perceive Palermo.

Palazzo della Zisa Palermo Sicilia nord occidentale
Palazzo della Zisa, Palermo

Before leaving, we have a light lunch at Spinnato, a historic café with pleasant exteriors on the pedestrian part of the elegant Via Principe di Belmonte. Their classic Sicilian rotisserie and granita are gorgeous.

Carretto siciliano da Spinnato Palermo Sicilia nord occidentale
Spinnato, Palermo
granita da Spinnato Palermo Sicilia nord occidentale
sicilian granita, Spinnato, Palermo

We have to leave the hotel. The check out scheduled for 12 was very kindly extended to 2 pm at no extra cost. Last refresh and go.

Considering that we have to be at the ship’s embarkation around midnight, we still have the whole afternoon and evening at our disposal. So we decide to go to Cefalù, another village included in the list of the most beautiful in Italy.

One of the main attractions of Cefalù is the Cathedral, a true jewel of Arab-Norman architecture, a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Cefalù è una cittadina medievale davvero graziosa e curata. Il Borgo marinaro dalle antiche case fronteggianti il mare è particolarmente suggestivo, tant’è che vi fu girata un’indimenticabile scena del film di Giuseppe Tornatore, “Nuovo Cinema Paradiso”.

Facilmente raggiungibile anche in treno, è una destinazione molto adatta per una gita giornaliera da Palermo, per una breve vacanza con bambini oppure come base per esplorare le vicine isole Eolie

Cefalù Borgo Marinaro
Cefalù, fishing village
Cefalù tramonto
Sunset in Cefalù
Duomo di Cefalù facciata
Cefalù's Cathedral

With this beautiful sunset, our day in Cefalù ends and with it our long and intense holiday in Sicily.