The Gulf of Castellammare ("Castellammare del Golfo") is a wide and deep inlet on the northwest coast of Sicily in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea.
With its long and remarkable coastline, the Gulf of Castellammare is between the peninsula of Cape San Vito to the north and Cape Rama to the east: the coast of the eastern and western regions is characterized by cliffs while the central part has sandy beaches, together forming a lovely part of Sicily.
We suggest you start your visit to Castellammare in the centre of the Old Town with the Mother Church.
Situated in the 'Matrice Square', the current church here dates from 1726. The façade is simple and well-proportioned and clearly follows the classical tradition.
The three portals of the facade correspond to the three aisles of the interior, which is enriched by a variety of decorations of Baroque style, such as stuccoes, frescoes and marbles.
The aisles are separated by square columns that support the arches, and the central vault is decorated by three precious frescoes by Giuseppe Tresca*, painted in the 18th century and representing Biblical stories, and the “Assumption of the Virgin Mary”
* Giuseppe Tresca is one of the great Palermitan painters from the 18th-19th centuries, best known for using a “measured” Baroque style.
The church also holds some interesting works of art in addition to the frescoes by Giuseppe Tresca and Velasco.
There is a red marble baptismal font dating from the 17th century, also a painting by Orazio Ferraro (a Mannerist painter, 1573-1657), and a majolica statue of the “Madonna del Soccorso”, attributed to the school of Luca della Robbia (1400-1481).
In addition to the Mother Church, Castellammare del Golfo contains numerous small churches, some of which hold valuable works of art.
Among these, we mention in particular the 16th century Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, decorated with the portal, a tympanum, and a bas-relief depicting the “Madonna and Child with Saints and the Crucifix". An earlier church on this site seems to date back to Norman times.
Just as important, in the Old Town there is the Church of Saint Mary by the so-called “Agonizzanti”, with the adjoining convent by the “Crociferi”, and dating from the 17th century.
See also the 17th century Church of the Madonna delle Grazie, which houses a painting representing the “Madonna and Child” from the 18th century.
Finally, along the "Via Garibaldi" is the church of Saint Anthony of Padua, already here by the mid-17th century, and the small Church of the Purgatory, built toward the beginning of the 15th century and in which there are some 17th-18th century paintings.
Also worth visiting in Castellammare del Golfo is the castle, that now holds the Mediterranean Museum. The msueum is divided into four sections with various exhibits including some relating to farming tools and techniques and ancient lifestyles and handmade instruments.
In the museum archaeology section there are some Roman amphorae and anchors.
For nature lovers, we recommend an exploration of the surounding environment - perhaps to Scopello, an ancient village built, according to some scholars, on the site of the ancient settlement called Cetaria*.
Ancient Cetaria was was destroyed by the Arabs who, in the same place, built a fishing harbour.
The coast just east of Castellammare del Golfo is flat and low with sandy beaches. By contrast the part further away, in particular to the west is highly indented, with rocks, caves, coves and cliffs.
The nature reserve called “Lo Zingaro” (The Gypsy) is particularly striking and is rich in Mediterranean vegetation, with rare plants, various species of birds and traces of prehistoric settlements in the “Uzzo” Cave.
Nearby there are also the characteristic "Bagli" (fortified homesteads) with all the buildings arranged around a central courtyard. Sometimes small villages developed around these bagli, such as the ones at Scopello and Balata di Baida.
Castellammare has extremely fertile lands which produce white and red wines of remarkable quality. Also among the local products to try we recommend the so-called “cunzato” (seasoned) bread of Scopello.