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Postcard from Marsala, Sicily

The crest above the town gate of Marsala, Sicily

An eagle crests the town gate of Marsala

Marsala, situated on Sicily's western coast has given its name to the famous sweet wine that is produced in this area. The region, in fact, produces a variety of tipples including a very decent chardonnay.

The town of Marsala is situated on the coast, but it lacks a "big ship" harbor so most of the shipping uses the port of Trapani further North. There is an impressive road entry to the old part of the town, through an arch that is headed by an eagle with wings flared.

Most cars, however, park outside the old town centre as this is reserved for pedestrians and the occasional commune car or delivery vehicle. That is a pleasant change to dodging the scooters and playing street poker with other drivers (negotiating your way across a street even at a pedestrian crossing in Italy is best likened to the card game of poker - it's a process of who can bluff who in taking right of way!).

There are the usual impressive places of worship, and some good portals to be added to "Doors of Italy" (we'll let you know the publishing date). The locals are very friendly - we couldn't get past the gate to the town municipal offices, the gate guard insisted that we go in and have a look around.

If you came here to sample the booze, you can buy the local wine at the main street shops and the wineries sell direct to the public at reasonable prices.

For more cultural pursuits, there is an extremely impressive display of ancient wall tapestries up a narrow staircase in a building at the rear of the cathedral.

Just north of Marsala you join "The Salt Road", a delightful tourist route that follows the coast where sea salt has been collected for centuries. Some experts suggest that process could have been in practice as far back as the 14th century.

A rally along the salt coast.

Boys at play

In ancient times when you sat down to dinner, your position in relation to the salt on the table indicated your status. Below the salt was not a good place to be. I betcha these guys sit above the salt.

Sea water is pumped into a series of shallow basins that look a bit like paddy fields. As the water evaporates, the salt solution that remains becomes more and more concentrated. Eventually a crust forms and the salt is collected into huge dunes which are then covered with tiles and left to dry.

Looking at the workers scooping up the salt with shovels, it would seem that the collection process has been the same for hundreds of years.

Picturesque windmills dot the coast, and the contrast of the white salt dunes, the shimmering salt pans and the blue sky is memorable.

Read about Vincenzo and Guiseppa

More photos of Marsala

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