Windmills Tour Trapani and Marsala
Trapani and Marsala are famous for more than wine and seafood. Trapani, in particular, boasts some of Europe’s oldest salt marshes, and is still home to some of the windmills once used to drain water from the basins (containing ponds). Drawing salt from water remains a slow process, similar to desalination, something talked about more and more with the serious water supply problems confronting Sicily. The evaporation procedure utilises the flat marshlands of Trapani’s coast and the long, dry Sicilian summers.
Salt extraction was a technology known to the ancient Egyptians, and in Sicily dates at least from the time of the Greeks and Romans. It has flourished in the Trapani area unto the present day, not for a lack of “dry” salt deposits in Sicily (where there are several mines), but because many cooks prefer sea salt to that harvested from other sources. The windmills, however, were a medieval development.
By the nineteenth century, Sicilian sea salt was exported to European countries as far away as Norway and Russia. Several of the British firms involved in other Sicilian exports, namely Marsala wine and sulpher, helped develop the international trade in sea salt.
Trapani, ancient Drepanum, was the port for Erice, and the town’s fortunes have always been tied to the sea. By the nineteenth century tuna had become an important product. It still is. Salt is just one part of the picture.
The road from Trapani to Marsala skirts round the edge of the lagoon and the island of Mozia providing fine views of the local saltworks: panels of mirror-like water, held by thin strips of earth, synchronise to form an irregular and multicoloured scene.
Mozia is small (forty hectares), but historical island which, along with Isola Lunga, Santa Maria and Isola della Schola, forms a small archipelago in Stagnone, the biggest lagoon in Sicily and one of the most humid zones in Europe. Mozia became one of the most important Phoenician and Carthaginian settlements in the Mediterranean due to its proximity to the powerful Carthage.
Visit the Whitaker Museum (founded by Giuseppe Whitaker who organized the first excavation of Mozia in 1875).
Here one can find many objects of Phoenician origin and one of the most notable finds of the past few years, the Giovinetto di Mozia, the statue of a young boy which dates back to the 5th century BC. This excursion also includes a trip to the windmills and saltpans.