Visit Castellammare del Golfo
The Gulf of Castellammare ("Castellammare del Golfo") is a wide and deep inlet on the northwest coast of Sicily in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea, 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 an interesting part of Sicily to visit.
The town has been occupied as a centre of commerce since ancient times, first by the Ancient Elymians and then by the Romans. In medieval times the Arabs built the castle, then later the Swabians were in control. Throughout much of this history Castellammare has been an important port and tuna fishing centre.
Explore Castellammare del Golfo
Italy This Way comment: Castellammare del Golfo is an interesting town to visit as part of your tour of the coast of Sicily and Zingaro nature reserve, but it is not a major destination and we would would not make it the centre of a longer visit to Sicily
Castellammare del Golfo is a small seaside resort with a curved harbour and streets leading along a promontory to a castle at the end of the bay. Behind the town is a backdrop of mountains. Your visit will include a walk along the waterfront around the harbour, and a stroll through the small old town of Castellammare.
There is a small beach next to the harbour and another to the east of the castle although the best beaches are a drive or bus ride along the coast. Around the edge of the harbour there are a number of bars and restaurants. On an evening when it is closed to traffic it is a popular spot for an evening stroll and dinner or drinks.
Although it is rather run down in places, it is clear the town are improving the centre, with a new promenade and new paving in the town centre: all the ingredients are here for a pretty seaside village and in a few years I think that Castellammare could become quite an important destination for Sicily
In the quiet streets of the old town one of the most important buildings is the "Mother Church". Situated in the Matrice Square, the current church 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.
Three of the frescoes are by Giuseppe Tresca, painted in the 18th century and representing Biblical stories, and the “Assumption of the Virgin Mary”. Other works of art in the church include a red marble baptismal font dating from the 17th century, 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. The 16th century Church of Our Lady of the Rosary has a decorated portal, 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.
In the Old Town there is the Church of Saint Mary by the so-called “Agonizzanti”, with an adjoining convent by the “Crociferi”, dating from the 17th century and you can also see 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.
You can also visit the castle on the port in Castellammare-del-Golfo, that now holds the Mediterranean Museum and merits a visit if you are in the town.
The museum 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. There is also an exhibition about tuna fishing which was once an important industry in the area.
On the 13th July every year in the Madonna del Soccorso festival the town re-enacts an event that allegedly took place in the 18th century when the Royal Navy chased a Spanish boat into the harbour of Castellammare-del-Golfo. The defenders opened fire but the Royal Navy's superior fire power had the locals fleeing up the mountain until a vision of the Madonna appeared and a flock of angels scared the English away.
If you follow the main road to the north-west (SS187 towards Saint Vito lo Capo) you reach the Belvedere above Castellammare which has great views of the town and sea below: most photos you see of the town are taken from here.
For nature lovers, we recommend an exploration of the surounding environment - perhaps to beautiful Scopello, an ancient village built on the site of the ancient settlement called Cetaria. Ancient Cetaria 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 Zingaro 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. The reserve is popular with walkers and has some pretty coves with small beaches.
To the west of Castellammare and reached by boat there are various sea caves. The best of these is Santa Margherita whose walls are covered in religious frescoes from the early Christian period. Nearby there are also the characteristic "Bagli" (fortified homesteads) with the buildings arranged around a central courtyard. Sometimes small villages developed around these bagli, such as the ones at Scopello and Balata di Baida.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.