Continued from Part 1
The ancient mountaintop city of Erice can be reached from the seaside city of Trapani via a cable car (funivia) ride that’s much longer and more dramatic than I expected.
After a very long, sweeping ride up the mountain, the car deposits you in a plaza just outside the main gate to the city. Go inside and you’re plunged into a distant century. Restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops line some stretches of the ancient cobbled streets, but in quiet corners you can easily imagine the modern era never arrived.
Further into town, we found the plain stone we trod upon giving way to beautiful architecture and lush ornamentation. Below are the outside, inside, and bell tower of the Chiesa Di San Martino.
Yours truly studied a map at the entrance to another old church, the Chiesa Matrice. Below that, the sublime interior.
The view from Chiesa Matrice’s famous bell tower was the last thing we saw with clarity before the fog descended.
It was just a fog, of course – nothing cataclysmic or supernatural. Our guidebook even mentioned it as a frequent phenomenon. But it came so thick and sudden that it felt like a wonder of nature, especially since it hit while we were atop the bell tower, the highest point of our excursion to Erice.
We descended into a damp and opaque world. We walked along the edge of town where beautiful mountainside views are to be had, but there were no beautiful views for us.
The Balio Gardens were picturesque in a particular, misty way.
But the city’s famous Norman Castle, on the site of an ancient Roman Temple of Venus, was practically invisible, so we stopped short of it, facing the fact that our magical, medieval day in Erice was drawing to a close.
The funivia ride back down the mountain started in dense fog with zero visibility. Raindrops spattered the car for a few minutes. Then, in a magical midair transformation, we descended out of the fog into a glorious sunset and a view of Trapani below (see Part 1.
Next, we hop a train for the big city, Palermo, for urban grit, more cultural and historic sites, and our very first taste of aranchini, those delicious rice balls with vegetable or meat fillings (aranchini are, sadly and mysteriously, pretty much absent from the menus of cosmopolitan New York City – why? Why???).
To be continued in Part 3.