Towns & Architecture

Marsala

Marsala is famed for the robust wines which bear its name,

Marsala historical facts.

The name Marsala is Arabic and derives from :

Marsa alì or Marsa Allah (the port of Alì or God).

Some traces of the old Arab town can still be seen in the modern urban layout.

However, originally, the town was Phoenician.

It was situated on the promontory of Lilybaeum (now Capo Boeo),

in the far west of the island,

and thus became a naval base of key importance in Roman Times.

Marsala is famed for the robust wines which bear its name,

which were first exported in the late of 18th century by the English merchant,

John Woodhouse.

Marsala has also the distinction of having witnessed a particular moment of Italian history.

It was here that,

on May 11, 1860 Garibaldi and his Thousand disembarked,

to begin the historic expedition which would eventually lead to the Unification of Italy.

The historic center, which is well preserved,

consists of a square surrounded by 16th-century walls and old districts with elegant Baroque buildings.

Main sights.

  • Via XI Maggio, which follows the line of the old Carthaginians “cassarò”,

is the town’s main thoroughfare, and ends at the 18th-century Porta Nuova (New Gate),

built into the 16th-century walls.

Nearby is the public garden of Villa Cavallotti.

The focus of the city is:

  • Piazza della Repubblica: Palazzo Senatorio,

finished in the 18th-century with an arched facade and a square clock-tower,

and the Baroque Duomo dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury,

begun in 1628 on the site of an earlier Norman foundations.

Inside are sculptures by the Gagini and their pupils (16th-century).

  • Museo degli Arazzi (Tapestry museum), is housed in some rooms near the apse of the Duomo.

It has some extremely fine 16th-century tapestries,

given by Philip II of Spain to the Archbishop of Messina,

and by him to Marsala’s Mother Church.

In the area towards Capo Boeo is the Insula Romana,

where excavations have brought to light a villa dating from the 3rd century AD

and two smaller houses of a later date.

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