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Mozia

2km (1.2 miles) W of Marsala, 15 km (9.3 miles) SW of Trapani.

For lovers of ancient art, Mozia is a delight. Located on the tiny island of San Pantaleo - one of the small islands in the Stagnone, a lagoon and nature reserve among the salt flats between Marsala and Trapani - this archaeological site is home to the ruins of the Carthaginian city of Motya. The island is also a wonderful place to observe the many birds that visit the lagoon, including pink flamingoes, curlews, and egrets. It's a pretty spot for a picnic, particularly in the summer when plants such as the exotic white sea daffodil and the delicate sea lavender are in bloom.

Mozia was a Phoenician stronghold (the name means "mills"), and by the 6th century B.C. it was surrounded by nearly 2.5km (1 1/2 miles) of defensive walls. In 397 B.C., Dionysius the Elder of Syracuse mounted a massive attack on the Carthaginians, who retreated to Lilybaeum (now Marsala).

The island is owned by the Whitaker family, who came to prominence as traders and vintners of Marsala wine, and many of the splendid artifacts excavated on the island are at the Villa Malfitano (www.fondazionewhitaker.it/villa.html) museum. Among the most impressive is a sensual marble statue of a young man in a wet tunic, the Giovane di Mozia (Young Man of Mozia), which dates to around 440 B.C. and is a marvellous example of ancient Greek art. Among the most interesting ruins on Mozia are the Casa dei Mosaici (House of Mosaics), with scenes from animal life dating to the 4th to 3rd century B.C., and the Tophet, a Phoenician burial ground for victims of child sacrifice with various carved stele.

There is a vineyard on the island, too, owned by the Tasca D'Almerita winery. On the edge of the lagoon an old salt mill has been converted into an interesting museum and hotel, Saline Ettore and Infersa (tel. 0923-733003; www.salineettoreinfersa.com), and explains how salt is extracted using a technique dating back to the Punic times.

Getting There  -- Arini and Pugliese ferries (tel. 347-7790218; www. arinipugliese.com) runs a daily, year-round service to Mozia from Marsala and costs 5€ return, 2.50€ for schoolchildren and adults 65 and over.

Castellammare Del Golfo & Scopello -- Occupying a dramatic point on the bay with sweeping views to Monte Cofano to the west and Terrasini to the east, Castellammare del Golfo is an active fishing town that draws tourists from all around as they make it their base to visit the natural reserve of Lo Zingaro. Founded by the Elymians, it was the port for Segesta for centuries. Owing its name to the splendid castle on the tip of its shores, it was first built by the Arabs as a means of defense, subsequently re-fortified by the Normans and then again by the Swabians. It now houses the Museo Civico (Civic Museum), which displays such wares as antique clothes, tools, pots and pans, and equipment for making wine and olive oil. As a testament to its fishing traditions, tunneries line the seafront, though many of these buildings are now being converted into summer homes and restaurants. The writer Gavin Maxwell actually lived within the castle walls while writing his sociological tome about this area, The Ten Pains of Death (1959). For those with a sweet tooth, Castellammare is famous for its cassatelle, a pocket of fried dough filled with ricotta and dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon, and all self-respecting bakeries and cafes will be happy to serve you one.

Lying 10km (6 miles) northwest of Castellammare is Scopello, or Scopello di Sopra, the town that marks the beginning of some of the best beaches and coastlines in Sicily, with hidden coves and alternating sand and pebble shores. Inhabited by little more than a few shops and a few roads, and governed by building restrictions to preserve the beauty of the town, it can get quite claustrophobic in summer, as well as pricey -- this is one of the most desired vacation spots in Italy. From here you access the southern entrance of the Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro . The bulk of seaside activity culminates around the Tonnara di Scopello, just beyond Scopello proper. Known also as Marafaggio, this 13th-century tuna-processing plant retains an almost picturesque melancholy about it: Seemingly abandoned, it is surrounded by wind-shaped rocks and lined with hundreds of old anchors in front of the buildings, almost as a testament to the vibrant life that once revolved around the place. The tunnery has now been lovingly restored, even rented, and day-trippers are allowed to swim off its sparkling cove -- provided, however, that they don't turn up with chairs, radios, or anything else that would disrupt the idyll.

Riserva Naturale Dello Zingaro & San Vito Lo Capo -- In this stretch of land (12km/7 1/2 miles) extending from north Scopello all the way to San Vito Lo Capo, the Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro (tel. 092-435108; www.riservazingaro.it) was the first designated wildlife area in Sicily, covering nearly 1,600 hectares (3,954 acres) and 7km (4 miles) of coastline. The facilities here are threadbare and the beaches impossibly crowded in summer, but it nonetheless makes for a paradisiacal delight -- fishing and motorized vehicles are prohibited (the only transport is by mule). Dense with Mediterranean maquis comprising indigenous flora, wheat is still harvested here the old-fashioned way, by hand and sickle. Within the reserve is also the precious Grotta dell'Uzzo, a cave that served as a dwelling place in Paleolithic times, and now is a refuge for six different types of bats.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.