What a beautiful village Erice would have been, had it not been for the tourists.
But without the tourists, Erice would probably have also been dead.
Erice is situated on top of a mountain of the same name on the western coast of Sicily. It is where Venus was once worshipped. The remains of the temple, built in the Middle Ages and where Venus’ devoted bathed and then celebrated their goddess, can still be found perched on one of the mountain’s precipices.
The narrow, winding roads of the village take you on an adventure of discovery. With almost every twist and turn in the road lies an ancient monastery or church, all adorned with antique statues and paintings.
There is a certain peace and serenity about some of the churches of Erice; that is, once the tourists have left for the day. It is almost impossible not to want to remain within their grounds.
The stone walls of the Real Duomo, the Royal Cathedral, were constructed in the early 1300s by stones taken from the Temple of Venus. Lie down on the stone-slab bench right in front of the Cathedral early in the morning before the tourists arrive. Listen to the birds chirp, absorb the warm Sicilian sun, and allow the Cathedral’s stone walls to speak to you. If you open your heart and mind just enough, time will become suspended and the Cathedral will connect you to people of times long gone. The people will tell you how they built the church with devotion and sweat. They will tell you the story of the village of Erice and how they spent their mornings in happiness, their days hard at work, and their evenings in love. They will also tell you that all material things in this world are unimportant and what matters is the love of God.
As you roam through the alleyways of Erice, you will come across the occasional nun and priest. Most of them you’ll find are laughing. It is a blessed village, Erice.
Although discovering Erice takes no more than one day, stay overnight and make sure not to leave before 10am the next day. The truth of Erice is only revealed once the tourists have left and before they arrive. Take a walk along the circumference of the mountain top; something that should take no longer than two hours at a very leisurely pace. All along your left you’ll see the Mediterranean and the Sicilian countryside. About midway along the left-limb of the triangle that forms Erice, stop at the Church of Caterina. This church is closed to the public, but make your way behind it to the small watch tower that looks over the sea. Climb the ladder up into the hatch to get some stunning pictures of Sicily. Make sure to watch your step, though. The wooden floor is old and fidgety.
The nuns of one of Erice’s abbeys were well known for the sweets they made. These sweets can still be found in the village, reportedly made according to the traditional recipe. Do not underestimate the sweets by their small size. A few bites from one are guaranteed to fill you. It is well worth buying one at a time at intervals along the day to get a taste of as many of them as you can stomach.
And bong, bong, bing, ring the church bells, announcing it is 2:15pm. Time for a Sicilian lunch!