Castellammare del Golfo
A places so beautiful it's been named among Italy's prettiest towns, Castellammare del Golfo does have a castle on the glittering gulf. The town of 14,600 people is in northern Sicily between Palermo and Trapani. It sits protected between two promontories, the Capo San Vito and Capo Rama. Its territory takes in several districts, including the rocky and romantic Scopello with its medieval fishery and its picturesque faraglioni rocks rising out of the water. The Cala Mazza di Sciacca cove is a natural beauty, connected to a nature preserve, Orientata dello Zingaro. There are numerous coves along the spectacular seafront. With a mix of reefs, sea caves and sandy beaches, it's really a stunning coastline.
The town has ancient origins, having been originally called Emporium Segestanorum, meaning the port of Segesta, named by the Greeks who had become Italicized by the local Italic tribes. The Arabs arrived in the 800s and named it, Al-Madarig, or "the stairs" for the long staircase that led from a hilltop fortress down to the quay. They were the first to build a seaside castle, which was then enlarged by the Normans, who called it Castrum ad Mare de Golfo. It passed to the Swabians, the Angevins and Aragons in succession and the area was under feudal control of noble families for centuries. It was primarily to provide services to inland residents and ship the cultivated grains for export. In 1521 the first protective walls were built around the hamlet, expanded in 1587 to enlarge them and include three gateways. In 1374 there were just 413 residents; in 1630 only 790. By 1798, it had grown to 6,000. The expansion came with growth in agriculture, especially viticulture, and more warehousing and shipping capacity at the port.
The 11th century church of Maria Santissima Annunziata was built at the Cala Marina seafront district, still an important chapel to the local population. Palazzo Crociferi is now the town hall, and one of the town's oldest structures after the castle, of course. The main church, or Chiesa Madre, has a maiolica statue of the patron saint, Madonna del Soccorso, who is celebrated annually with a large festival in August. There are a dozen churches and chapels around town.
A line-up of Saracen towers along the coast provided look-out points and a coastal protection system, and are still standing as lovely backdrops. The whole coastline is beautiful, so take a boat trip or rent a boat to visit the coves, see the beauty and enjoy that clear water. Over in Scopello, the old fishing village atmosphere remains, and the evocative faraglioni lend more charm.
There are lots of hiking trails in the hills above the sea with stunning views. Above Castellemmare is a belvedere, which literally means beautiful view, so there you have it! A panoramic point, ready made for photos and deep sighs at the views. Obviously, there are plenty of beaches to enjoy, and the food is a highlight, with a delectable blend of seafood and hill cuisine.
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