Marsala (Sicilian: Maissala; Latin: Lilybaeum) is an Italian town
located in the
Province of Trapani
Province of Trapani in the westernmost part of Sicily.
Marsala is the most populated town in its province and the fifth in
The town is famous for the docking of
Giuseppe Garibaldi on 11 May
1860 (the Expedition of the Thousand) and for its
Marsala wine. A
feature of the area is the
Stagnone Lagoon Natural Reserve — a
marine area with salt ponds.
Marsala is built on the ruins of the ancient Carthaginian city of
Lilybaeum, and includes in its territory the archaeological site of
the island of Motya, an ancient Phoenician town. The modern name
likely derived from the Arabic مَرْسَى عَلِيّ (marsā
ʿaliyy, “Ali's harbor”), or possibly مَرْسَى اللّٰه
(marsā llāh, “God's harbor”).
3 Notable people
4 Monuments and interesting places
4.1 Religious architecture
4.2 Civil architecture
4.3 Military architecture
4.4.1 Enological establishments
7 External links
Situated at the extreme western point of Sicily, the town was founded
on Lilibeo Cape from where the
Aegadian Islands and the Stagnone
Lagoon can be seen.
The territory of Marsala, 241 square kilometres (93 sq mi),
has a rich cultural and landscape heritage; its area includes the
Stagnone Lagoon, a Natural Reserve in which is located the island of
The city of
Marsala had a population of about 86,000 until the end of
1970, when Petrosino, a village formerly part of Marsala, decided to
become a self-governing town after a local referendum.
The area of
Marsala is classified as a seismic zone 2 (medium). In the
last 200 years three earthquakes of medium-high intensity were
18 May 1828 – magnitude 5.17 (about VI Mercalli scale)
15 January 1968 – Belice earthquake which in
Marsala reached VII
Mercalli scale (although its intensity was as high as X in other
7 June 1981 – magnitude 4.60 (IV–V scala Mercalli scale) with
epicentre in Borgo Elefante in Mazara del Vallo, about 20 kilometres
(12 mi) from the town-centre of Marsala.
The weather is warm in summer with a maximum of 39 °C
(102 °F). Winters are rainy with temperatures
between 10 °C (50 °F) and 17 °C
(63 °F).
In 397 BC the Phoenician colony of
Motya on the southwestern
Sicily was invaded and destroyed by the Syracusan tyrant
Dionysius I. The survivors founded a town on the mainland nearby that
they called Lilybaion (Lilybaeum in Latin), "The town that looks at
Libya", on the site of modern-day Marsala.
First Punic War
First Punic War began here when the
Punic army landed at Lilybaion
in 265–264 BCE, then marched across
Sicily to Messina, where
the opening clash of the war took place.
Route taken by
Punic army in order to reach Messana.
Punic fortress Lilybaion was never conquered although it was
besieged several times, e.g. by
Pyrrhus of Epirus
Pyrrhus of Epirus and by the Romans.
In 241 BC it was given to the Romans as part of the peace treaty
First Punic War
First Punic War and became one of the most important towns
in Sicily. The commercial centre was enriched with mansions and public
buildings and dubbed splendidissima urbs by Cicero, who served as
quaestor in the region between 76 and 75 BC.
Vandals during the 5th century AD, the town was annexed in
the 6th century to Justinian's Byzantine Empire. In this period the
town was struck by dysentery, raided by pirates, and neglected by
Constantinople. The arrival of Arabic
Berbers at the nearby Granitola
mount in the 8th century entailed the resumption of commerce and the
start of the rebirth of the town. The town was renamed Marsa ʿAlī
"ʿAlī's harbour" or maybe, Marsa ʿāliyy, "Big harbour", for the
width of the ancient harbour, placed near Punta d'Alga. Another
possible derivation is Marsa Allāh, "God's harbour". Another theory
Marsala comes from mare salis, "salt pans by the sea" from the
presence of salt pans along the whole northern coast, although mention
of this theory cannot be found in contemporary references and the
installation of the bigger salt ponds on the group of islands
composing the contemporary single island "Isola Lunga" was made just
during the 19th century.
Since the end of the 11th century, the area has been conquered by
Swedish, Norman, Angevin and Aragonese troops. During this time,
Marsala became wealthy, primarily through trade. However the blocking
up of the harbour of Punta Alga, decreed by Emperor Charles V so as to
Saracen forays, brought an end to this period of prosperity.
The development of
Marsala wine at the end of the 18th century, headed
by English merchants settled in Sicily, considerably improved local
trade. This triggered an economic expansion in Marsala, including the
funding of infrastructure projects such as the current harbour of
On 11 May 1860
Giuseppe Garibaldi landed at Marsala, beginning the
process of Italian unification.
On 11 May 1943, in the lead-up to the
World War II
World War II Allied invasion of
Sicily, an Allied bombardment of the town permanently damaged its
Baroque centre and claimed many victims: "
Marsala Wiped Off the Map"
titled the New York Times on 13 May 1943.
Angelo "Bloody Angelo" Genna
Antonio Genna Jr.
Salvatore "Sam" Genna
Pietro "Peter" Genna
Ignazio Boschetto, tenor of the Italian operatic pop group Il Volo
Monuments and interesting places
Marsala Cathedral (17th century) dedicated to Saint Thomas of
Canterbury and built on a Norman implant dated to 1176. There is an
organ with 4,317 pipes.
Church of Purgatorio.
Church of Addolorata.
Church of Itriella.
Convent, church and belfry of the Carmine.
Church of Saint Matthew.
Church and monastery of Saint Peter.
Church of Saint John the Baptist.
Spanish Quarters (Town Hall)
VII April Palace (16th–17th century), built on the site of the Lodge
Communal theatre, built in 19th Century consists in 300 seats,
reopened during the 1994 and dedicated to Eliodoro Sollima.
Cine Teatro Impero, built during Fascism.
Agricultural Technical Institute With Specialized School Wine "Abele
Marsala – Aggregate IPSAA Strasatti With Hospitality
Section (state public high school).
Villa Araba, Carabinieri (military police, and public security),
Command Company and Operative Centre
Marsala (formerly a State Prison up to a few years ago)
Ancient Gates and walls of Marsala
Large-scale wine production started in 1773, encouraged by English
trader John Woodhouse. Important winemaking establishments include
Ingham-Whitaker, le Cantine Florio, Martinez, Pellegrino, Rallo,
Mineo, Bianchi, Baglio Hopps, Donnafugata, Alagna, Caruso e Minini.
Marsala cellars are famous not just for the production of dessert
wine, but also for red and white wines. They produce modern cellar
wine, such as Alcesti, De Bartoli, Fina, Vinci, Birgi, Mothia, Paolini
e Baglio Oro.
The main square, "Piazza della Repubblica", still called "Piazza
Loggia" by inhabitants
Porta Garibaldi, one of the two remaining ancient gates to the old
The Natural Reserve of Stagnone: salt pans and one of the wind mills
close to the wharf to Mothia
Il Cassaro (Via XI Maggio), the Main Street
Mozia seen from coast of Marsala
The Church of the Purgatory
^ "marsala Origin and meaning of the name marsala by Online
Etymology Dictionary". www.etymonline.com. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
^ Diodorus Siculus, Biblioteca Historica, 23.1.2
^ The New York Times, New York, Thursday, 13 May 1943
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Marsala.
(in Italian) Official website
Marsala 2013 - European capital of wine page (English)
Sicily · Comuni of the Province of Trapani
Campobello di Mazara
Castellammare del Golfo
Mazara del Vallo
San Vito Lo Capo