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Trapani

Trapani (2004 population 67,456) is a city in the west coast of Sicily in Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Trapani and is located at 38°01′N 12°31′E. Girolamo Fazio has been the mayor since 26 November 2001.

The ancient name of Trapani was Drépanon or Drepana, the Greek word for "sickle", because of the shape of its harbour which curves out into the Mediterranean Sea. The city was built to serve as port of the nearby city of Erice (Eryx), which overlooks it from Monte San Giuliano. Two ancient legends tell of mythical origins for the city. In the first legend, Trapani stemmed from the sickle fallen from the hands of the prosperity goddess Demetra while she was seeking for her daughter Persephone, who had been kidnapped by Ades. The second myth features Saturn, god of the sky, who eviscerated his father Chronos with a sickle which, falling into the sea, created the city. In ancient times Saturn was the god-protector of the Trapani. Today Saturn's statue stands in a piazza in the centre of the city.

As for the true story of Trapani, Drepanum is known to have fallen to the Carthaginians in 260 BC. Subsequently, it passed to the Romans in 241 BC. Thenceforth it followed the history of southern Italy generally, and Sicily in particular through the Middle Ages and into the Modern Era. Trapani was heavily damaged by Allied bombardments during World War II.

Over the centuries the salt-pans and related salt industries along the coast have created a unique environment of great cultural and economic relevance. This route is called Via del sale ("the salt road"). Several still active salt mills lie along this road. Fishing also flourishes, especially the famous tuna or tonnare which are caught by fishermen who still use the mattanza technique to catch the tunnies. Other local resources include marble and coral. The port exports salt and wine

Trapani has had problems in recent years as a centre for drug-trafficking, since it is the major port on the western end of the island.

Trapani is an Episcopal seat and has many interesting monuments. The main ones are:

  • The Church of Sant'Agostino (14th century, with the splendid rose-window
  • The Church of Santa Maria di Gesù (15th century-16th century)
  • The magnificent Basilica-Sanctuary of Maria Santissima Annunziata (also called Madonna di Trapani was originally built in 1315-1332 and rebuilt in 1760). It houses a marble statue of the Madonna of Trapani, which might be the work of Nino Pisano Fontana di Tritone (Triton's Fountain)
  • The Baroque Palazzo della Giudecca or Casa Ciambra
  • The Cathedral (1635)

The main attractions of the region are the Egadi Islands, which are linked to Sicily by ferries going to and from Trapani, the Erice mount, which is reachable by cable car from the city, the old Greek city of Segesta with one of the best preserved Doric temples in the world, and the Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro (Natural Reserve of the Gipsy).

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