When the island-city of Mozia was put to fire and sword by the Syracusans, the surviving Carthaginians founded Lilybaem (Lilibeo), modern Marsala, 10 km to the south. Lilibeo, the most important Punic city in Sicily , and the only one to resist the pressure of the Greeks during their expansion to the west, finally succumbed to Rome in 241 BC, after a siege that lasted ten years, and not long after it was used. as a base for attacking Carthage itself. Its position on the western tip of Sicily later made it the main Saracen base on the island; the Saracens renamed it Marsah Alì " port of Ali " (Alì son-in-law of Mohammed), hence the current name.
The city played an important role during the Risorgimento: here on 11 May 1860 Garibaldi landed with his Mille , starting the campaign to drive the Bourbons out of Sicily and southern Italy. Every year on 11 May, Garibaldi's local fans wear red shirts and parade through the door to celebrate the exploits of the Thousand.
Marsala is perched on a small promontory overlooking the Mediterranean. The old town is gathered around the tip, separated from the sea by Via Lungomare Boeo . The main access road to the old city is Porta Nuova , at the end of Viale Vittorio Veneto. Another access road is the oldest Porta Garibaldi, which can be reached by going north along Viale dei Mille from Piazza Piemonte and Lombardo. Piazza della Repubblica is located about halfway along Via Garibaldi. The railway station is instead located to the south-east of the historic center.
What to see in Marsala
Bagli Anselmi Regional Archaeological Museum
The most precious jewel of Marsala, which deserves a stop in the city, is the Punic warship partially guarded here. The ship was sunk off the Egadi Islands during the First Punic War almost 3000 years ago and its delicate remains are the only remaining material evidence of the naval genius of the Carthaginians . The wreck was discovered in 1971 in the Stagnone lagoon; in reality only a small part was recovered, which was then carefully rebuilt to give an idea of the original appearance of the boat. Managed by 68 rowers and 35 m long, this warship would have been part of the Carthaginian fleet which in 241 BC clashed with the Roman one in the battle of the Egadi.
Visiting the museum after having seen the excavations of Mozia is extremely interesting, as it allows you to get closer to this civilization that was wiped out by the Romans. The collection of artifacts exhibited in the museum also includes objects found on board: ropes, pottery fragments. In the adjacent room you can also admire two splendid mosaics dating back to the III and V century AD
One of the possible entrances to the historic center is through the Porta Nuova, a large Renaissance arch. The central nucleus of this area is made up of Piazza della Repubblica , an elegant public space dominated by the imposing city cathedral, in Baroque style. On the eastern side of the square stands the Palazzo Comunale , a building characterized by large arches in the past known as Palazzo Senatorio .
Flemish Tapestry Museum
Located behind the cathedral, there are eight magnificent tapestries made in Brussels between 1530 and 1550 which depict episodes of the conquest of Jerusalem. Philip II of Spain paid them homage to Antonio Lombardo, archbishop of Messina, who in turn donated them to the cathedral.
Monumental complex of San Pietro
It is a former Benedictine monastery from the 16th century, where today you can admire a permanent exhibition on Garibaldi and a collection of finds from the necropolis of Lilibeo .
Parties and events
Holy Thursday processions
The Thursday before Easter takes place the most important event of the year, a centuries-old tradition that stages the passion and death of Christ.
Marsala Jazz Festival
Sponsored by the wineries of Marsala, this event is held in July in the historic center and attracts a growing number of famous artists.