Erice is a lovely little village on top of a big hill appropriately named mount Erice in the very western part of Sicily with a lovely view onto the surrounding area. It has had an long and convoluted history, as many of Italy’s city have, having been at one point in time Greek, Phoenician, Roman, Trojan and eventually (destroyed by the) Carthaginian.
Supposedly the city was founded by Aeneas and is living proof that really, all Romans are actually Greek or all Greek are actually Romans, which came as a surprise to me, since to my knowledge Aeneas was supposed to be Trojan. Nevertheless he came to Sicily and created several villages in the western part of the island (because that’s the part closest to Troy and Greece, right..).
On the very top of the hill, where the castle shown below is now located, he built a temple for Venus and/or Aphrodite depending on who was in charge of the village. This temple must have gained some notoriety as it is said that sailors would pilgrimage to this temple to pray for a safe journey. This they did by bedding one of the priestesses working in the temple in exchange for only a small amount of money. I couldn’t help but notice that this profession nowadays has quite a different name…
Erice today shows little traces of this very early part of its history. In fact there is only one trace, which consists of a the foundations of a stone ring, which may or may not have been where the priestesses of Venus used to bath in the temple . Today it is a medieval town, plastered with churches and small, crooked houses. All streets are still paved with cobblestone and not one is large enough to allow for a car to pass through, making it a huge care-free zone.
The little village sports over 20 churches, which I made an effort to visit all, but some must’ve been so small or so inconspicuous that even with a map and pictures I could not find them. At least that’s what some of the churches I did find, like the one on the right, led me to believe.
Most of the churches are being restored with the funds that the entry fees provide, this means, however, that many of these churches actually have very little to no restoration at all. This isn’t surprising, if you consider that I paid 5 Euros for a global ticket allowing me to enter all historical buildings and museums in Erice.