I packed up bright and early and headed to the train station to pick up my rental car. Although I had initially planned to take public transport, I reluctantly concluded that it was impossible to execute my itinerary without a car. Segesta was particularly inaccessible but there were other places where public transport seemed dubious.
Upon arriving at the Maggiore desk I was immediately confronted with a hard, hard sell to buy extra insurance. “Uh-oh. I really should have researched this. Should have read the contract more carefully. What exactly is included?”, thought I. But isn’t a vacation supposed to be, I dunno, a vacation? I declined the extras and was then informed that €1800 was to be blocked on my credit card in case of damage that was supposed to be covered by the CDW I already bought. I started to feel kind of stupid particularly when I drove off without getting clarification on how the radio worked. Or if there was one. I saw no dials or numbers or anything really indicating a radio.
Oh well. The GPS got me to Segesta without too much difficulty. First up was the ruins of the ancient city which, cleverly enough, was built on top of a steep hill. A free shuttle brought visitors to the top but, as always, the stamina of ancient peoples is impressive. On the way we glimpsed the Doric Temple, a good way downhill from the city.
Excavations revealed Roman and medieval ruins in addition to those of the ancient city which was destroyed by the Visigoths. Apparently Segesta was not the best defended of Greek city-states. They were always appealing to someone stronger for help against Carthage or Rome whether it was Athens or Syracuse. Given that the city was on top of such a steep hill I wondered how the attackers managed to get the better of them.
There was a Roman area, an Arab-Norman area and of course a Greek area. There were panels with explanations in archaelogese and maps but it was not entirely clear what was what, probably because the city plan at the top of the hill has not been completely understood. There are ruins of a market, a Muslim mosque and a Norman castle but imagination is required to visualize the structures.
No such imagination is necessary to visualize the Greek amphitheatre which dates from the 6th century BC.
The setting is dramatic. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be sitting there and seeing Aeschylus for the first time. I wished that I could visit the site at night under the stars just as the ancient Segestans did. What I like about Greek amphitheatres is that they were used for plays, not tearing apart slaves and Christians or watching gladiators murder each other. Fortunately, there were few tourists to gum up the ambiance.
I took the bus down, again admiring the temple and then took the short walk up to see it. You don’t need to be an architect to know perfection when you see it. For scale, notice the people to the right.
From Segesta I drove on to Trapani, which I wanted to visit because it’s considered part of “African Sicily” and is known for its fish couscous. I had some trouble finding the Salamureci B&B which I chose because it had parking and was on the edge of the pedestrianized Old Town.
Arriving in mid-afternoon, I found the town nearly deserted. Where is everybody? I took a walk around and particularly liked the seaside stroll. But where was the Moorish African influence? Nowhere that I could see. The architecture was all Bourbon with a smattering of regal churches built under Spanish rule. Unlike the Normans, the Spanish felt no need to do anything other than stamp out Islamic influences.
Later, the streets of the Old Town begin to fill, but not too much. There were a fair number of tourists and. . .I don’t know, some locals. Unlike Palermo and (later) Catania, it was ethnically homogenous. It didn’t seem to gel somehow. I thought it would be more interesting.
The fish couscous was unexpected but good. The couscous grains were savory liked spiced rice and there were slices of grilled fish on top.
I turned in to my B&B. The room was fine but I was colossally annoyed to learn that the included breakfast was down the street and not in the hotel. Walking 100m in the morning without caffeine? I made sure to pick up a cup of takeout espresso to drink for fortification in the morning.