Like the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz, Erice is melting. After several days of storms, during which the hilltop town was blanketed in snow and cut off, the sun has come out and is turning the streets into slushy streams. It’s not the most romantic of conditions under which to view the ancient city of Eryx, supposedly the site where Daedalus landed after fleeing from Minos. In season, a trip to Erice usually starts with a ride on a cable car offering exciting views back down to Trapani, the coastal salt pans and the Egadi Islands. This time of year it involves a drive up a steep road to get the same views but it is definitely worth it.
I’m disappointed that the museum, the castle (built on the temple of Aphrodite Erycina) and all of the churches are closed but I guess that they weren’t expecting anyone to be visiting given the extreme weather. I have the streets to myself most of the time but I do chat to a lovely local man, out walking his dog, who had no idea that he’d been cut off from civilisation. Hopefully the few residents that do live in the town year-round had a good supply of food in their cupboards as there are no supermarkets in Erice. As a last resort I’m sure they could raid the souvenir shops which stock an extraordinary selection of local products at equally extraordinary prices.
Opposite the post office is a small café where they could also dine on arancini and marsala. When I enter my nostrils are assailed with the scent of mulled wine and, though it is tempting, it is still only 10am so a hot coffee seems more appropriate. Having warmed up I continue my wander around the town, taking care not to slip on the icy north-facing steps but enjoying the magnificent views down towards Trapani and also to the east where my next destination lies. San Vito di Capo is a beach resort, though somehow I don’t think I’ll be doing any sunbathing.