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134km (83 miles) NW of Agrigento, 301km (187 miles) W of Catania, 124km (77 miles) SW of Palermo, 31km (19 miles) S of Trapani.

A thriving little port on Cape Boeo, the westernmost tip of Sicily overlooking the Egadi Islands and Tunisia, Marsala is where the world-famous Marsala sweet wine is produced thanks to the area's fertile red earth, sunshine, and sea breezes. This is an elegant town with baroque buildings, Roman ruins, a lively fish market, and a long sandy coastline stretching to the north and south.

Like the town itself, Marsala wine has antique origins, but it was first popularized in 1770 when an English trader, John Woodhouse, was forced to anchor here during a violent storm. Woodhouse headed for a tavern, downed some local wine, and realized it had commercial potential: The rest is history. You can drink some of the amber yellow Marsala in one of the town's quaint wine shops, or head through the hills along roads lined with prickly-pear cacti to one of the vineyards nearby. Townspeople drink the dark, vintage Marsala, which is best sipped as a dessert wine with hard piquant cheese, fruit or pastries, and it's also used to flavor the local cassatelle cakes made from fried ricotta and cinnamon.

Wine isn't the only gastronomic delight in Marsala; it's a good place to try what's considered to be the oldest handmade pasta in the world, busiati. The curly pasta has a firm texture and mealy taste, and is good eaten with pesto sauce made Trapanese style with cherry tomatoes.

The best time to visit the town is in early May when its inhabitants don red shirts to re-enact one of the most important events in Italian history: The landing of Garibaldi and his brigade of Red Shirts at Marsala on May 11, 1860, which was the start of the freedom-fighter's campaign to unify Italy.