Erice is one of those little towns that are a reason to love Sicily. If you catch a cheap flight to Trapani and are wondering where to get some spectacular views, head over to Erice. While Trapani is not huge, it has a feel of a city, still. Erice, on the other hand, is a small village you can tour in a few hours, time for a capuccino included. While literally all the Erice guides recommend taking the cablecar to get up to the village, here I am with my empty pockets – really, hiking up to Erice on a sunny day is a treat of a view.
In our case, time was not an issue and so we took it slow. We went up to Erice, spent a night in an abandoned hotel with a magnificent view and explored the village on the next day. We got to watch a car race too and continued walking down to Tonnara di Bonagia, where we camped on the beach.
Hiking from Trapani to Erice and on to Tonnara di Bonagia: a medieval fairytale and panorama views
While there is a main road leading to beautiful Erice, it was closed because of the oldie car race (or whatever you call it when old cars in Italy swish up and down the hillside while the whole village cheers by the road , drinking beer and eating pizza) which was a lucky coincidence. Even though the people we asked told us it is impossible to go up walking, it was just due to the fact that people here probably rarely choose to hike. Correct me if I am mistaken, but we haven´t met a single soul in the mountain that day. So if your question is:
Is it possible to hike from Trapani to Erice?
Short answer: Yes.
You need to walk out of Trapani (this will take perhaps half an hour to an hour) and take the Via Santa Ana. Turn right where you would turn left towards the cablecar (funivia in Italian) and go up up up until you get out of the town, then follow the red and white sign. It will lead you zigzaging uphill and make you go all oooh and aaaah with its vistas. You will pass under the cablecar at times, go through a forest and pass a casa forestale as well. Then you will go by the abandoned hotel where I slept and soon you will enter the village.
Timing & Distance
It took us an afternoon to hike up from Trapani to Erice (about 10 km I believe) with all our equipment. Going down to Tonnara di Bonagia took perhaps the same time. I have found very weird information regarding the distance from Trapani to Erice, sometimes the estimated time of walking was even 9 hours which is exaggerated if you take the way we did. (I am really not sure where you would have to go to take NINE hours to get up. Erice is not Mt. Everest, it´s just 750m above the sea!)
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You can see the possible paths on google maps – the way we took was not a paved road and as I said, you have to take the Via S. Ana then turn right instead of turning left (which leads you towards the funivia – cablecar and the main road for cars), continue uphill for a bit and then leave the town of Trapani.
This way will join in some point with the main road (paved) – it is a nice view point too! – but I personally wouldn´t recommend walking on the paved road as it is rather narrow and has sharp angles. That in combination with Italian drivers might result in an accident. (But who am I kidding…I have been walking on this kind of roads, afraid for my life but always managed to survive, so…do what you please!)
What to see in Erice
The tophill marvel of Erice is fairly small and so you can thoroughly explore it without much trouble. The narrow streets and cobblestone maze are obviously photogenic enough to keep you entertained for quite some time! Worth seeing are two castles (Castello di Venere and Castello Pepoli – they have paid entrance though so I didn’t go, oops), many churches and the gate along with the fortifications. The Chiesa Madre (also paid entrance, but check out the Tourism center located in its tower) is also worth your time and I would be almost sorry not to have seen its majestic white marble ceiling, have I not been to many other churches before. (You know, after all, a church is a church. I go to the free ones and spend the money in food instead.) Ah, you know. If I´m back, I´m going to suck it up and pay that entrance. I saw photos and…you must go. Spend the money you saved on the cablecar and go hungry!
Walking down to Tonnara di Bonagia
To leave Erice, you can take the road directing to Valderice and then turn to a walking path. (Or you can continue down to Valderice which was our original plan but due to the car race, we couldn´t stick to it.)
You can continue following the red and white signs from Erice down to Tonnara di Bonagia; the way will lead you around two abandoned chapels. Then it splits in several points and if you want to get to Tonarra di Bonagia, you need to take to the left, which will take you around a donkey stable. Eventually, you will see amazing caves in the rocks – at that point you will be almost entering the village.
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This way is not paved either; there is a main road for cars, but if you look for it, you will turn left to a walking path soon after leaving Erice.
There are not many great camping spots at the Tonarra di Bonagia beach, but you can find some. From there, you can whether hike on by the beach all the way to the nearby natural park Monte Cofano, on to San Vito lo Capo or Castellamare del Golfo (where there are also some good squatting opportunities, to be honest with you), or hitchhike to Palermo as we did.
Hitchhiking to Palermo is easy, as if often the case with cities (it is much harder to hitchhike out of Palermo), especially the road Trapani – Palermo is frequently used which gives you a good chance of getting picked up.
Good (free) sleeping spots around Trapani, Erice and Bonagia
You can camp without trouble at the Trapani city beach; it is very near to the police station, but that shouldn´t lead you on to believe that it is the safest spot around – we have seen a lady getting robbed right here. (A man jumped down from the sidewalk, snatched her stuff, threw it up to his complice and then they both sped away on a motorbike.) Mind your belongings! We had no problem with the police though.
We slept in a scary abandoned hotel in Erice, but there are also some fine camping places around. The abandoned church on the way down to Bonagia is open and can give you shelter for the night too, although there are some fallen rocks inside. If you have hiked and camped enough, you know that there is always a spot to pitch your tent, no matter where the dark catches up with you.
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In Tonnara di Bonagia, you can camp at the beach too. We camped near a big house with a tall wall – the people saw us but didn´t say anything so I think it´s ok. It was a bit windy but the view in the morning was worth it.
Hiking from Trapani to Tonnara di Bonagia via Erice
While it is not that common to hike here (most people prefer the cablecar and even locals from Trapani weren´t able to advice us on what way to take when walking up), there are red and white marks that signal the path. I heard they have good maps in the tourism office down in Trapani so you might want to pay them a visit – the google maps don´t really cover this area so well. If you are not in a hurry during your Sicily travel, this is a nice area to explore where you are not going to run into crowds.
Hiking is for free. Yipeeee!
Cablecar from Trapani to Erice costs 9€ a return ticket (4€ for kids 3 – 16 years old)
Entrance to Chiesa Madre is paid, so are the two castles and going up the Chiesa Madre tower. I hear there is a 15€ Erice card that includes all the entrances but haven´t tried this myself.
Cappuccino (I only drink cappuccinos in Italy because man, they are cheaper than in my home country!) costs 1,50€
Those pastries on the picture surprisingly also cost like 1€ a piece!
Have you been to Erice? How did you like it? Have some more tips? Share your experience in the comments section!
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We are currently hitchhiking our way from Europe to India, exploring strange places, making friends and yes, sometimes squatting.