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Blessed with crystalline waters, golden sunshine, fertile land, and unspoiled nature, western Sicily is an extraordinary place known for its prized wines, olive oil, and rock salt. The influence of Phoenician and Arab culture can still be felt in its cuisine and architecture, giving the area a North African feel.

The capital of the area, Trapani, has a peculiar sickle shape stretching out to sea and its shoreline is dotted with centuries-old tuna processing plants that are a testament to its vibrant fishing industry. Connoisseurs from around the world (even from as far as Japan) flock here to buy the prized tuna.

Marsala, further down the coast and where Garibaldi landed in 1860 in the name of Italian Unification, is known for the dessert wine of the same moniker. This is also Elymian country, where the refugees from the war of Troy settled and which they turned into their legendary kingdoms. The greatest legacy left by the Elymians is Erice; the historic town perched on top of a rocky crag not far from Trapani has sweeping views that, on a clear day, stretch as far as Tunisia.

Western Sicily wasn't immune to Greek influence. The mighty Selinunte, founded by settlers of Megara in this unexpected part of Sicily (Greeks predominantly populated the east) in fact has the largest extension of Greek ruins in Europe, including Greece itself. Segesta, also an Elymian city, equally felt the influence -- this is the best-preserved Doric temple in the world with a stunning Greek theater (still used for summer plays).

The tiny, privately owned island of Mozia  with its archaeological site is in the Stagnone lagoon off the coast of Marsala and is as close as you'll get to Punic (Carthaginian) civilization in Sicily without crossing over to Carthage. This is also the place for some serious swimming -- the area offers a plethora of choices, from the Caribbean-like sands of San Vito Lo Capo to the protected area of Lo Zingaro.

The lone island of Pantelleria in the Sicilian channel, with its exotic surroundings and dotted with converted dammusi (lava-stone former peasant homes), is a jetsetters' paradise and is as close as you'll get to Tunisia without leaving the country.