“Trapani, the town of the primitives and an ancient place of
residence, is surrounded by the sea from all sides. The sea
enters the town by means of a bridge from the eastern side.
The port is situated in the southern part: it is a tranquil
port without movement. Here a large number of sailing ships
spend the winter sheltered from the winds since the sea
remains calm here while waves rage outside. An abundance of
fish is caught in this port; large tuna nets are also set, and
coral of the finest quality is found in the sea of Trapani. In
front of the entrance to the town lies a salina (saltworks)”.
With these words Al’ Idris, an Arab geographer at the court of
King Ruggero, speaks of Trapani and its economy.
Over the centuries the town has undergone several changes
while maintaining its characteristic sickle shape. It is
situated three meters above sea level and covers a surface of
about 4000 square meters. Its position is at 38° 4’ of
northern latitude and at 30° 40’ of western longitude. It has
69497 inhabitants (according to the October 2001 census). The
town is characterised by the presence of four sighting towers:
Torre Vecchia, Torre del Castello di Terra, Torre Pali, Torre
di Porta Oscura or Dell’Orologio. During the Punic War, the
Carthaginian General Amilcare Barca built the fifth tower, the
Castello della Colombaia. The four towers surrounded the town
with quadrilateral boundary walls. The boundaries were marked
by the current Via Garibaldi, Via XXX Gennaio, Via Torre Pali
and Via Torre Arsa. The eastern walls ended with a moat,
followed by a navigable canal. The urban centre was enlarged
in the Aragonian period.
The “di mezzo” (middle) or San Nicola district and the Palazzo
district were added to the original “Casalicchio” or San
Pietro district. In this period the Rua Grande (the present
Corso Vittorio Emanuele) and the Rua Nova (the present Via
Garibaldi) were built. The defences were strengthened by the
construction of a boundary wall and reinforced with bastions.
The town had eleven entrances and numerous new defence
bastions. In 1671 Torre di Ligny was built under the order of
the Viceroy don Claudio Morando, the Prince of Ligny. It still
exists today. Inside Torre di Ligny, situated at the furthest
end of the sickle, there is the Prehistory Museum. In 1862 the
Italian Government, with a Royal Decree, withdrew the town’s
status as a Piazza d’Armi (Parade Ground), which had
previously obliged it to maintain fortifications.
The bastions and the boundary wall were therefore knocked down
and the town expanded towards the east. The area of Marinella
in the Salina del Collegio was drained and reclaimed; the
navigable canal was filled. Rua Grande and Rua Nova were given
their current names. The roads were paved and others were
built, such as the Sea Front, Piazza Marina and Via Fardella.
The construction of the Palazzo delle Poste (Central Post
Office), the Provincia (Province), and the Capitaneria di
Porto (Port Authorities) also date back to this period.
Following the expropriation of the Church estate and the
abolition of the religious confraternities, several properties
were passed onto the Municipality, the Province and private
individuals. They became public offices, schools and
institutes. Other buildings were demolished, such as the
convent of Sant’Agostino and the Monastery of Santa Chiara.
The bombardments of the Second World War determined a new
urban asset in the town. The San Pietro district was rebuilt
with the creation of a new road, Corso Italia. The districts
of Palma, San Giuliano (which fall back onto the territory of
Erice) and Cappuccinelli were added to the traditional
districts of San Pietro, San Francesco, San Lorenzo, San
Nicola, Maria Ausiliatrice, Sacro Cuore and Borgo Annunziata.