We are at the extreme strip of Sicily, a marginal land open to exchanges of goods and cultures since the time of the Phoenicians. Here is the town of Marsala, where the windmills overlook the salt pans, origin of the wealth of this territory: the salt. The other one is the wine. We are in fact on the salt road, in a protected and delicate environment, based on the work of man and the effects of the wind, the sun and the sea.
The landscape at the Laguna Stagnone is misleading as, sitting at the blue little tables of the restaurant Mamma Caura which overlook the placid waters inflamed by the sunset, one has the impression of being in the Greek islands of the Aegean. But later, once we take the boat from the flat keel to have a tour of the island of Mothia, you are plunged in the oldest and most authentic of Sicily. In the lagoon of the Nature Reserve of the Stagnone, there are four islands, San Pantaleo, Isola Grande, La Scuola and Santa Maria and a lagoon of about 2000 hectares and between a meter and three-meters deep.
The island of San Pantaleo is better known as Mothia or Mozia and it preserves the excavations of the oldest Phoenician-Punic settlement in Sicily as well as the museum, founded by Joseph Whitaker, where the testimonies of the history of the island are gathered. Whitaker was the heir of the famous family of English wine makers, a singular entrepreneur and intellectual from Palermo, who opened the door to the excavations that brought to life the ancient necropolis, the Phoenician – Punic sanctuary of Cappiddazzu, the house of the mosaics, the tophet, and the areas of Porta Sud, Porta Nord and the Casermetta. The most important finds are all kept in the museum belonging to the Fondazione Whitaker, including the precious marble statue of the Youth of Mozia.
The access to the island is only possible by two private piers, that besides connecting Mozia to the mainland, make also possible visiting the other islands of the lagoon. You can go around or circumnavigate by ferries departing every fifteen minutes and by which you can also admire the remains of the walls and of the buildings, as well as the hidden small port where the locals used to dock their boats to keep them away from view of the enemy.
However, what really impresses is the way Mozia is connected to the main land: a stretch of land just below the water level, only known to the islanders, which once allowed the crossing to fleets and people, who had the impression of walking on the water. Back to the dock we are seized by the view of the salt pans with shimmering colors from pink to white, overlooked by the windmills used to pump water and to grind the salt produced. We are, in fact, in the salt pans Ettore and Infersa and you cannot miss a visit to the Infersa mill, which dates back to the sixteenth century and is home to the Salt Museum. Its structure reminds us of the most famous Dutch windmill forms, and in fact is called “star shaped”, or indeed, Dutch. The mechanism is almost all made of wood because the use of iron in the salt is reduced to a minimum to avoid corrosion.
What did we buy as a souvenir? “Fior d’Infersa” of course, the flower of salt picked in the salt marshes. Of an excellent quality, very soft, white and thin, it is also known as “puffs of salt” because it consists of the thin layer found on the surface of the tanks and that the salt workers collect skimming it by hand.
Besides the salt, Marsala is also famous for its wine. In the 1700’s the British Woodhouse and Ingham planted wine establishments whose model was later followed by Vincenzo Florio, who in 1832 started here his successful enterprise. The town, where on May 11th 1860 Garibaldi landed with his Thousand Men to reunify Italy, is elegant and rich in history whose testimonies are kept in the Regional Archaeological Museum “Baglio Anselmi”. The museum overlooks the waterfront and is located in a “baglio”, a former agricultural building erected towards the end of the 1800’s for the production of Marsala. Walking through four halls, you can read the history of Lilibeo, the ancient name of the town founded by the Phoenicians in 397 BC. To the right of the entrance is displayed the main attraction of the museum: the wreck of a Punic ship discovered in 1971 in the area off Isola Luna, near Punta Scario.
You cannot leave Marsala before having seen the sunset, when the red ball of the sun disappears behind the dark and irregular line of the island of Favignana, so close to the waterfront that it looks like you can touch it.
Excursions by motorboats in the Laguna dello Stagnone. Our pets are permitted on board. First departure 9.30 am ; last at 6.00 pm. Departures every 30 minutes. Duration of the tour 55/60 minutes.
Embarcation point: Saline Ettore and Infersa.
Info: +39 0923 989249 – +39 339 4904090 email@example.com
The salt pans Ettore and Infersa can be visited throughout the year, from November to March, by appointment.
Info: Tel: +39 0923 733003; Fax: +39 0923 1954608 firstname.lastname@example.org
Bar ristorante Mamma Caura
Contrada Ettore Infersa
Info: +39 388 8772499 – +39 348 7220539 email@example.com
Villa Carlo Resort
Contrada Madonna Alto Olivo – Santa Venera 118/C – Marsala
Info: +39 0923 968494 – +39 338 2251748 – +39 329 2214257 firstname.lastname@example.org
Why we chose it: the superb breakfast with delicacies ranging from sweet to savory, the free Wi- Fi and parking space, swimming pool, barbecue for the guests, a restaurant with good service and a great choice of dishes with fresh ingredients, and because four – legged friends are welcome.