Marsala is a town located on the western coast of the Island of Sicily. This town is the most populated in the province of Trapani with a current population of approximately 82,000 – it is also the fifth largest town by population on the island. Marsala should not be confused with the Indian recipe although it is known for its own culinary delight in the form of the popular Marsala Wine. Furthermore, this town was the original landing site of the legendary Giuseppe Garibaldi during his infamous Expedition of the Thousand.
In terms of tourism, Marsala is not your typical holiday destination and it is often overlooked for other Sicilian cities such as Palermo, Catania and Messina. That being said, Marsala does have a great deal to offer in terms of historical sites, gorgeous beaches, and of course the various islands that are situated in close proximity to its coast. Historical structures such as the Chiesa del Purgatorio provide insight into the town’s history, whilst the Isola Favignana and the Isola di Levanzo are both interesting places to explore. Finally, Marsala has some high quality restaurants and bars, and a host of gorgeous beaches in close proximity that are perfect to relax on.
Let’s have a look at the best things to do and see in and around Marsala:
1. Isola Favignana
Favignana is the largest of the Aegadian Islands that lie off of the coast of Marsala.
The current population of Favignana is approximately 4,300 and these inhabitants are mainly based in the town of the same name on the north coast.
This island is known for its multitude of caves and calcarenite rock formations and a boat trip around the island is a fantastic way to see these natural sites.
Furthermore this island is perfect for those who enjoy scuba diving and snorkelling due to the relative clear waters.
The town of Favignana is a great place to visit, and the beach there is also a great place to relax.
2. Isola di Levanzo
Levanzo is the smallest of the Aegadian Islands and can be found to the north of Favignana.
This small island has an area of just 5.82 square kilometre and a population of only 450 inhabitants.
The main village of Levanzo is truly picturesque and the houses and shops snug the enclosed bay.
Here you can find a small beach and crystal clear waters that are perfect for swimming in.
This island is famous for the Capo Grosso Lighthouse and the Genovese Caves that are decorated with Neolithic cave paintings.
Consider taking a ferry to the island and exploring the hidden bays and rugged coastlines.
3. Isola San Pantaleo
Also known as Motya or Mozia, this small island once held a powerful city and was joined to the Sicilian mainland by a huge man-made causeway.
Tours can be taken to San Pantaleo from the small canal that runs through Battello Isola di Mozie.
This island is covered in ancient remains and ruins from the various civilisations that held Motya as an important stronghold.
Furthermore, the island also contains two museums – The Giuseppe Whitaker museum and the Museum of Mozia – both museums contain some amazing artefacts from the island and provide insight into its illustrious history.
4. Isola Grande
This island sits close to mainland Sicily and is the largest of the Stagnone Island chain.
In recent history, this fascinating island has formed several lagoons that are full of salt deposits – the resulting water that occupies these lagoons is a brilliant shade of light red and is a strange phenomenon to witness.
There are stone walkways that cross the lagoon that allow you to get up close to the salt flats and see the red water.
This whole island is a wonderful place to explore and you could spend hours walking the paths, strolling along the beaches and hiking through the forests.
5. Porta Garibaldi
Marsala once had an impressive defensive network including city walls and a series of opulent gates.
Few structures of this defensive complex remain today, but one of the best preserved is the Porta Garibaldi.
This gatehouse is located in the historic town centre close to the main port on Via Scipione L’Africano.
On either side of the gatehouse you can see a plethora of decoration such as intricate stonework, huge columns and a range of Latin inscriptions.
Furthermore the gatehouse has some ornamental sculptures such as a Lion and the heraldry of Marsala.
6. Lido Marakaibbo
Further down the coast from Marsala you can find a series of beautiful golden beaches and coastal resorts.
Lido Marakaibbo and the Playa Blanca in particular provide a long stretch of sand and some fantastic beach amenities.
The sand is golden and the waters that gently caress the beach are warm and pleasant to swim and paddle in.
Lining the beach is a range of beach bars, restaurants, cafes and small hotels – if you want to get away from the busy cities and relax, this stretch of coastline is the perfect place to do so.
7. Museo Archeologico Baglio Anselmi
This museum is the prime archaeological museum in the region and boasts a huge array of artefacts and relics.
You can find this museum near the westernmost point of Marsala on the Via Boeo and it is housed within an ancient Baglio.
The main attraction of this museum is the famous Punic Ship – this ship was discovered in 1969 and has been preserved in a fantastic condition.
Details of the keel, hull and bow all remain and the condition of the materials are fantastic.
Furthermore surrounding the ship is a series of findings that help to tell its history and importance to Marsala.
8. Piazza della Repubblica
The Piazza della Repubblica is one of the main squares within the historic town centre and is a great place to people watch and to start a walking tour of Marsala.
Located on this square you can find the immense Chiesa di San Tommaso, the Palazzo VII Aprile and also the Chiesa del Purgatorio.
Furthermore, this square has several bars and cafes and the surrounding streets are great for shopping.
9. Chiesa del Purgatorio
Marsala has several important religious structures and the Church of Purgatory is one of the most well-known and revered.
This church was created in the 16th century and features a two tier Baroque façade.
The Chiesa del Purgatorio is located in the heart of the town centre next to the Church of San Tommaso.
The second tier of the façade contains two ornate bell towers and the doorways are framed with opulent artwork and stucco plaster designs.
Within the confines of this fantastic religious building you can also find a plethora of decoration and colourful frescos.
Finally, in front of the church is a beautiful fountain made from the same material as the doorways.
10. Take a trip to Trapani
Trapani is one of the main cities on the western coast of Sicily and is a fantastic location to visit from Marsala.
Trapani can be reached from Marsala within 50 minutes by car or by bus.
Within this city you can find an extensive port and harbour that is a great place to walk through and watch the commercial shipping activities.
Furthermore on the northern coast of Trapani there are several beautiful beaches such as the Spiaggia di San Giuliano.
If you are interested in history and want to learn about Trapani throughout the ages, consider visiting the Museo Regionale Pepoli.
Not far from this city, you can also find the gorgeous and ancient Castello di Venere and the village of Erice.
11. Lido Torrazza
Further down the coast from the Lido Marakaibbo is another fantastic and secluded beach – the Lido Torrazza.
This stretch of beach is much quieter and at certain times of the day you could find yourself as the only person there! At the western edge of the beach there is a small harbour complete with a myriad of fishing and sailing boats, whilst at the eastern end there is a single beach bar with dedicated parking.
The sand is gorgeous and the landscape is inviting and idyllic – if you want to relax and enjoy the Sicilian sun then take a day trip to the Lido Torrazza.
12. Baluardo Velasco
The Baluardo Velasco is part of Marsala’s ancient defensive network – this guard tower has stood for hundreds of years and is a reminder of the once powerful status that this city had within Sicily.
The bastion is situated in some beautiful gardens and stands in close proximity to the Porta Garibaldi.
The only downside to this attraction is that it remains closed at most points during the day so in most cases you can only view the structure from the outside.
13. Try some sumptuous seafood at The Osteria Siciliando Restaurant
This restaurant is one of the most highly regarded in Marsala and is a fantastic place to try some fresh seafood.
Osteria Siciliando is located near the Porta Nuova and the archaeological park and is easily reachable from the town centre.
At this restaurant you can enjoy a variety of finely cooked dishes such as seafood, meat course, pasta and some traditional Italian meals.
The meals are cooked to perfection and you can tell that the ingredients are fresh.
Furthermore, the service is second to none and the atmosphere is relaxed and charming.
14. Relax near the port at the Bar Oltremare
The Bar Oltremare is a fantastic place to relax and enjoy a drink and take in the gorgeous views of the harbour and boats.
This establishment offers high quality food and drink such as pastries, desserts, cakes, doughnuts and ice cream.
Furthermore you can enjoy a range of freshly prepared sandwiches and light snacks.
If you enjoy a glass of wine or beer, Bar Oltremare also has a fantastic alcoholic beverage selection.
The décor of the bar is vintage and you can find a brilliant display of wine bottles and old photos.
You can visit this bar at breakfast, lunch or during the evening and the service and quality remains the same.
15. Take a walk along the Lungomare Boeo
The Lungomare Boeo and the surrounding area is a great place to walk on the southern coast of Marsala.
Starting at the Museo Archeologico and carrying on towards the port you can enjoy a fantastic stroll through some beautiful gardens and down a tree-lined promenade.
The garden has a host of trees, flower displays and looks out onto the sea – there is also a crazy golf course, several monuments and statues, and next to the Monumento ai Mille, there is usually a small fairground.
If you want to enjoy the last rays of sun as its sets or take a quiet walk after your evening meal, this is the place to come!