Situated on the extreme Western
coast of Sicily, Marsala is well known for its wine.
The City was founded by the inhabitants of Mozia, a Phoenician
city founded in the 8th Century BC, to allow commercial control
of the Western coast, which was destroyed by Dionysius II
of Syracuse in 397 BC. The citizens escaped and founded Lilibeo,
which means “Looking at Libia,” known today as
In 350 BC, the Phoenicians erected imposing walls to protect
During the First Punic War (264-241BC) Marsala was besieged
for 9 years starting from 250 BC, by Roman troops under the
command of the Consul Gaio Arilio Regolo and Lucio Manlio
Vulsone, who destroyed some of the towers in the defence walls.
As a result of the final outcome of the Battle of the Egadi
Islands, in 241 BC, Lilibeo passed hands to the Romans, who
made it their main naval base and main town of its Western
province. It then because richly populated with villas and
splendid public buildings, and thus called splendidissima
urbs by the Cicerone.
The end of the Empire also signalled its end: it was devastated
by the Vandali in the 5th Century BC.
During the 6th Century, it passed hands to the Byzantine Emperor
Giustiniano, but they were not healthy centuries as the Emperor
was not very interested in Sicily, which was frequently pillaged
In ‘830, it was conquered by the Arabs, who made it
a main centre of exchange with Africa and gave it the name
of Marsa Allah (Porto di Ali – Port of Allah).
Marsala developed its town-planning according to Arabic plans:
a City protected by quadrangular walls and a castle for protection.
The Normans arrived in 1072, followed by the Swabians (1194)
after Enrico (Henry) VI of Swabia’s marriage to the
Norman, Costanza d’Altavilla (1185), mother of Federico
II, the stupor mundi ("wonder of the world"). The
Angioini followed (until the 13th Century) and then the Aragonese
(14th Century), under which the City was populated with churches,
monasteries and public buildings. The Emperor Carlo V, slowed
down the development in 1575, by burying the flourishing port
to stop the continuous Saracen incursions.
After its decline over two centuries, during which the City
assumed its Baroque appearance in the churches and buildings,
Marsala resumed development thanks to the wine industry, introduced
by the Englishman Giovanni Woodhouse (1773), followed by other
families, including the Florio Family (1833).
On the 11th March, 1860, Garibaldi embarked in Marsala and
began shipment of the thousands.
In the City Centre, in Piazza della Repubblica, one can visit
Saint Thomas of Canterbury’s Cathedral (1628), the Saint
Joseph Church (1680) and the Palazzo VII Aprile (1576). Nearby,
one can also find Saint Peter’s Monastery, seat of the
Civic Museum, the Purgatory Church (1569), and the Church
and Convent of Carmine.
One cannot miss a visit to the Archaeological Museum along
the seafront. It is also possible to visit the remains of
the Roman district in Viale Vittorio Veneto, amongst which
a detached thermal building from the 3rd Century AD.