Looking for a Marsala winery tour? Today we will explore the many facets of this amazing Sicilian town. Get ready to discover what to do in Marsala and join the best Marsala wine tour!
Today’s protagonist is Marsala, the most populated town in the province of Trapani. This city is located at the westernmost point of Sicily, cradled by the sun and the sea breeze.
With around 80,000 inhabitants, the town is famous for Giuseppe Garibaldi’s landing on 11 May 1860. It is also famous for its vast territory. In fact, Marsala includes the Stagnone Lagoon, the largest lagoon in Sicily, and its salt pans.
However, Marsala has an additional attraction. You may have already heard of the renowned Marsala wine, one of the most popular fortified wines in the world. So, if you are a wine lover, this place is perfect for you! You cannot miss to visit a Marsala winery and taste this fine wine.
In spite of its size, the town has got an enchanting historical centre, with its architecture and Baroque style.
Marsala is the perfect destination for a trip including art, history, nature, food and wine. For this reason, today I am going to tell you more about Marsala and its surroundings. I will give you all the ideas you need to organise a great holiday!
Visit Marsala: top 10 tourist attractions
There are many places to visit and discover. But to help you organise your visti in the best possible way, I recommend 10 unmissable sights:
- Porta Garibaldi
- Piazza Repubblica
- Duomo of Marsala
- The Keep
- Old Market
- Porta Nuova
- Museum of Flemish Tapestries
- The Salt Pans and the Stagnone Lagoon
- Stagnone Islands
- Marsala winery tours
What are you waiting for? Let’s discover together what to do in and around Marsala!
What to see in Marsala, Garibaldi’s town
Although Marsala is not large in size, its historic centre contains a huge and priceless treasure. A good reason to visit the town. Not to mention the fact that the tour is very comfortable, because you can get around easily on foot!
A great place to start our itinerary is Porta Garibaldi, one of the best-preserved gates to the city. Originally called “Porta di Mare”, it was built in 1685 at the behest of King Charles II of Spain and Sicily. Only later was the gate renamed in honour of Giuseppe Garibaldi. In fact, Porta Garibaldi is a fundamental symbol in the history of Marsala. On 11 May 1860, Giuseppe Garibaldi entered the city through this gate, declaring Marsala part of the new Kingdom of Italy.
Continuing straight along Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, you will reach Piazza della Repubblica, the heart of the historic centre. Also known as Piazza della Loggia, it has been referred to as Marsala’s “living room” on several occasions.
After all, the square is the heart of town life and a meeting point for all inhabitants. With its characteristic tufa stones, it is also an excellent point of reference for tourists, being full of bars, shops and much more. A real living room, “furnished” by Marsala’s most important church, the Duomo.
The Duomo, the Cassaro and the Old Market
According to tradition, the Duomo was built around 1176 and is the largest church in Marsala. Also known as the “Mother Church of Marsala”, the imposing cathedral is characterised by its beautiful façade, with two different orders, one baroque and one late baroque.
At the same time, the interior of the church is predominantly Norman in style, but with a constant presence of Baroque. Several treasures from the past are kept inside, including paintings from the 17th century and liturgical objects made of gold and silver.
But the real curiosity is that Marsala Cathedral is dedicated to St Thomas Becket, an English Catholic martyr killed in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. The cult of this saint was introduced to Sicily because of its close relations with England and in memory of a shipwreck that occurred near the coast of Marsala. A ship loaded with Corinthian columns was to arrive in England for the construction of another church dedicated to the saint.
From Piazza della Repubblica, you will see a large street, Via XI Maggio, affectionately known as the Cassaro. This street is Marsala’s main street and is perfect for a pleasant walk, being exclusively a pedestrian street. Crossing it, you can enjoy the beauty of Marsala, including healthy shopping or an aperitif at sunset.
Otherwise, a great place to relax is the Old Market. During the day it is a fish market, but in the evening it turns into a place for fun, thanks to the many bars where you can drink and eat until late.
The second surviving gate: Porta Nuova
Continuing our itinerary and reaching the end of Via XI Maggio, we come across another symbolic gateway to Marsala. You should know that, in addition to the more famous Porta Garibaldi, there were four other gates in Marsala that delimited the perimeter of the city. One of these is Porta Nuova, while the other two gates, Porta Mazara and Porta di Trapani, have been destroyed.
Porta Nuova is very simple in its decoration, typical of 16th-century Classicism, although the model of the single-arched triumphal arch recalls the Roman style. Inside, there are two plaques: the first commemorates King Vittorio Emanuele III’s speech at Italy’s entry into the First World War and the second commemorates General Armando Diaz‘s victory speech at the end of the war.
Museum of Flemish Tapestries
Just a 5-minute walk from Porta Garibaldi, there is a perfect museum for art lovers. This is the Museum of Flemish Tapestries and it is one of the best known and most visited museums in Marsala. Run by the Mother Church, the museum houses a series of eight 16th-century Flemish tapestries, donated by the Bishop of Messina Antonio Lombardo. These depict the main events of the Jewish War that broke out in 66 AD, in which Vespasian and his son Titus led the army of the Roman Emperor Nero. A unique and fascinating opportunity to visit Marsala, discovering history.
Salt Pans and Stagnone Lagoon
So far we have discovered together the many historical and artistic treasures of the town. But as I have already told you, Marsala is a triumph of unmissable tourist attractions, not only made up of palaces and architecture, but also of scenic amenities. In this regard, I’ll tell you about the real gem of this town. For your trip to Marsala, visiting the Salt Pans and Stagnone Lagoon is a must.
The Oriented Nature Reserve “Isole dello Stagnone” is a protected natural area, located a few kilometres from the city centre of Marsala. Extended on the west coast, precisely between Capo San Teodoro and Capo Boeo, the reserve includes the four islands of San Pantaleo, Isola Grande, Schola and Santa Maria.
Its name derives from the “Stagnone”, Sicily’s largest lagoon, which the Reserve itself hosts. With its characteristic shallow water, the lagoon is the ideal habitat for fish restocking. Its vegetation shines with jewels such as the sea lily, crystal grass and Marigold maritima. This gives you an idea of the enormous natural beauty of this area. After all, the Reserve is regarded as a magical place where flora and fauna reign supreme.
Also included within the reserve are the Salt Pans, which link Trapani to Marsala along the coastal Salt Road. They include Ettore and Infersa Salt Pans, Genna Salt Pans and San Teodoro Salt Pans.
The Salt Pans are a true natural oasis, whose evocative landscape is characterised by pools, mills and ponds. A perfect place to relax and admire the nature or for nice one-day hikes. Not to mention their beauty at sunset, when the light reflects off the water creating beautiful colours.
During your tour in Marsala, you can’t miss a visit to the pink salt pans. Yes, I said pink! They are distinguished by their colour, due to the presence of a bacterium that lives in environments with a high concentration of salt. An amazing effect that should be photographed!
Marsala and surroundings – Stagnone Islands
The Stagnone islands are a true natural masterpiece of Marsala, so deserving of a visit at least once in a lifetime, perhaps through a nice tour of the islands!
San Pantaleo island, one of Sicily’s most impressive archaeological sites, is a must. The island was once the site of the Phoenician city of Mozia, which was taken and destroyed around 400 BC by the Syracuse tyrant Dionysus I. As a result, it is almost entirely occupied by the ruins of the ancient city, remains of fortifications and other Phoenician constructions. The entire coastline is sandy and there are numerous beaches. With its natural pools of pleasant warm water, you’ll feel like you’re in the Caribbean!
As well as on Isola Grande. Identified as the largest island of the Stagnone Lagoon, it is characterised by its elongated territory. It can be reached either by boat or on foot, by crossing the northern mouth of the Stagnone, a stretch that connects San Teodoro beach and the island itself. A fascinating walk through the crystal-clear waters of Sicily’s most beautiful beaches.
Between Isola Grande and San Pantaleo, there is another island, La Schola. It is the smallest island in the Stagnone Lagoon. La Schola was so called because during the Roman period there was a school of rhetoric there. It is thought that Cicero himself taught there!
Finally, there is Santa Maria island, located further north. Decorated with palm trees and maritime pines, it cannot be visited as it is entirely private. It can therefore only be admired by discreetly circumnavigating it.
Visiting a Marsala winery
One last unmissable stop on your itinerary is at a historic Marsala winery. The history of sweet Marsala wine is so fascinating that having it told in the historic winery makes the experience even more impressive.
Perhaps your Marsala wine tour should also include a final tasting, complete with food and wine pairings.
There are several historic wine cellars, among them Cantine Florio, Italy’s first Marsala winery, Cantine Marco de Bartoli, Cantine Pellegrino.
Some Marsala wineries offer guided tours with wine tastings, picnics in the vineyard, dinner in the vineyard, aperitifs in the wine cellar and many other fantastic activities.
What is Marsala wine? history and curiosities
Marsala is a fortified wine produced in this city. It is one of the most important wines from Sicily, considering that it was the first DOC wine in Sicilian history.
Its origins are linked to a rather interesting story, which, here too, takes us back to England. In 1773, during a storm, the English merchant John Woodhouse stopped off at the port of Marsala. Perpetuum, a strong local wine similar to Madeira and Port, was very popular there at the time. It consisted of replacing a quantity of wine with the same quantity of young wine.
Woodhouse particularly liked it and so sent some 320 hectolitres home. But beware, because the crux of the story lies here! Fearing that the journey might cause the wine to be altered, Woodhouse decided to add 2% wine spirit, a fortification technique he had learned during his trips in Spain and Portugal. Once back in England, the wine was a great success and Marsala wine was born!
There are various types of Marsala wine, which differ according to colour, sugar content and ageing period. As for the colour, we have the gold and amber Marsala, with white grapes, or ruby Marsala, with black grapes. While, with regard to the sugar content, you can obtain dry Marsala wine, semi-dry or sweet Marsala. A truly versatile wine, so much so that it can be tasted either cold, warm or at room temperature.
What to do in Marsala
Among the many activities that can be carried out in this Sicilian town, in addition to an exciting Marsala wine tour and tasting, you can also take the opportunity to visit the Stagnone Lagoon with its salt pans. As already mentioned, this is the perfect place to relax and admire the surrounding nature, perhaps thanks to a guided wellness tour.
Or you can visit beautiful beaches. The beaches on San Pantaleo island and Isola Grande have a Caribbean feel, with their sandy shores and transparent waters. On the latter is the Borea beach and San Teodoro beach, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in Sicily. With Mount Erice, the Stagnone behind and the Egadi Islands in front, it feels like paradise!
There are plenty of activities available, from hiking to cycling, not to mention island hopping and water sports. In addition, you can take part in activities such as a guided photo safari, exploring the island’s most beautiful spots, perfect for nature lovers.
For the latter, birdwatching is a must. This is a fantastic experience, discovering pink flamingos! Sicily and Sardinia are the perfect areas where to spot these magnificent creatures. Right in the Stagnone Nature Reserve, you will find a colony of pink flamingos, which have found the ideal environment to live all year round.
Alternatively, the Salt Museum is ideal for history lovers. Thanks to a guided tour, you can retrace the steps and events of a centuries-long history, and discover the harmony of an area that unites land and sea. You will also have the opportunity to learn more about the curious world of salt.
What to eat in Marsala
In addition to the renowned Marsala wine, you can’t miss to taste Sicilian cuisine during your tour in Marsala and its surroundings. At the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, Marsala is not only based on the wine industry, but is also rich in gastronomic tradition.
Its cuisine, rich in flavours linked to both the sea and the land, has a soul of its own and a history waiting to be discovered. Marsala’s traditional dishes include aubergine caponata, busiati with pork ragout and bucatini with broccoli. Local specialities include the focaccia di Marsala, a bell-shaped focaccia stuffed with chicken ragout and peas.
In addition to local delicacies, there are also some well-known Sicilian recipes. These include the famous arancini, one of the cornerstones of Sicilian cuisine. Among the desserts, cassata and cannoli are a must.
How to get to Marsala in Sicily
There are several options for getting to Marsala. If you arrive by plane, the nearest airport is Trapani-Birgi, which is closer to Marsala than Trapani! Once there, you can take a bus that connects the airport to the city centre, which is very convenient!
If you arrive by land, you can take either the bus or the train. For the more adventurous and independent travellers, the ideal solution is to hire a car to get around the most beautiful places in complete freedom!
Marsala wine tour & Events in Marsala
During Holy Week in Sicily, there is a sequence of representations and processions. In particular, Maundy Thursday is characterised by very old traditions in many cities and towns. The Maundy Thursday Procession in Marsala is one of the oldest processions in Sicily and consists of a living representation of the passion and death of Jesus Christ. For generations Marsala has been handing down this tradition, which took the name “Sacred Representation of the Passion of the Lord” in 2013.
Another fascinating event held in the Sicilian town is the grape harvest. This ancient event best represents the history and culture of wine. It takes place at the end of summer and is an important symbol of community unity and celebration of the work of the land.
Did you know that Italia Delight allows you to take part in the grape harvest at a family-run organic farm in Sicily? With the additional possibility of an overnight stay.
After all, Italia Delight offers you plenty of experiences of this kind in Sicily:
Now that you know what to see in Marsala, all you have to do is get your loved ones together and organise a tailor-made trip to Sicily! Rember that Italia Delight offers food experiences and foodie holidays in Italian regions, with selected Local Experts!
All that remains is to wish you a pleasant trip to discover a Marsala winery and more! 😉