Castles in the Air in Erice

As the crow flies, the distance from Trapani to Erice is only about five miles, but the crow has a distinct advantage over me when it comes to gaining altitude and, since Erice stands 750 metres above sea-level, I decide to travel there by cable-car.

The cable-car station, Funivia Trapani-Erice, lies to the west of the town, at the point where the Strada Provinciale 31 begins its series of hair-bend contortions up the mountainside, looking like a vast boa constrictor in the grips of its final, painful death throws.

The cable-cars themselves are small, compact pods, which you have to be swift to clamber aboard before they spin around on their rotating turntable and launch off into the blue yonder.  It is only a very short time before Trapani, the north-western coast of Sicily and the Mediterranean beyond have transformed into a remote scene far below.  In the hazy distance, it is possible to see the Aegadian Islands of Levanzo, Favignana, and distant Marettimo.

Erice is a beautiful, hilltop, medieval town, of narrow, cobbled streets and ancient stone buildings.  Dominant amongst all its buildings, is the 12th century Castle of Venus, built upon an earlier temple dedicated to the worship of Venus Erycina, the goddess of fertility.  It’s clifftop location is spectacular, but my eye is drawn to a smaller, but even more perilously-placed structure.

This is the Torretta Pepoli, built atop a rocky outcrop, amidst a picturesque mountainside forest.  The original construction dates from the late 19th century, but it evokes a spirit of much older fairy tales and legends.  For me, too, it brings to memory the front cover of a book I had much enjoyed in my youth, called Castles by Alan Lee.  I had always supposed the cover image to be a work of imagination, but here it is, that fantasy of turrets and towers brought to life.

While I am admiring the view of the Torretta Pepoli, a nervous-looking young Malaysian man approaches me, and asks me if I will take his photograph in front of the scene; he has no camera of his own and solemnly hands me his business card so that I can email my photograph to him later.

I completed this duty upon returning home; also, hunted out my old copy of Castles by Alan Lee.  Funny the tricks memory can play on you; the cover image was nothing much like my photograph of the Torretta Pepoli after all.

© E. C. Glendenny

E. C. Glendenny is always on the hunt for a nice view.

More of E. C. Glendenny’s travels in Italy can be discovered in the book Easy Pickings: Selected Travel Writing

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