Enter the city from the Porta Garibaldi (formerly Porta di Mare), a glorious gateway from the 1600s crowned by an eagle. Garibaldi is honored because it was at Marsala that he and his red-shirted volunteers overthrew the Bourbon reign. The road from the gate leads on to Via Garibaldi, where it ends at the busy Piazza della Repubblica, the heart of the city. The Palazzo Senatorio, now the Town Hall, dating from the 18th century and nicknamed "Loggia," is located here, as is the cathedral.
The largest church in Marsala is the Chiesa Madre (tel. 0923-716295), open daily 7:30am to 7pm. Originally constructed during the Norman occupation, the church was dedicated to St. Thomas à Becket, which in hindsight seems rather fitting, considering Marsala's English connections. Legend has it that a ship carrying materials to build a church dedicated to the saint was on its way to England when a storm forced it to seek shelter in the harbor of Marsala. It was with all probability the first church dedicated to the martyred English saint, and it was in Sicily that Becket's family took refuge when he was exiled from England. The church was completely overhauled in baroque fashion in the 1700s. The cupola collapsed in 1893 and was partially reconstructed in the 20th century. The sandstone facade is decorated with statues of saints and flanked by two small campaniles (bell towers) that are incorporated into the facade, which itself was ultimately completed in the 1950s. The three-nave interior is graced with slender marble columns and houses noteworthy works of art, including 15th- and 16th-century sculptures by the Gagini brothers. Seek out, in particular, the lovely Madonna del Popolo in the right transept, a 1490 creation of Domenico Gagini.
Behind the Chiesa Madre is the entrance to Museo degli Arazzi (Tapestry Museum), Via Garraffa 57 (tel. 0923-711327). It houses a formidable collection of eight Flemish tapestries, made in Brussels between 1530 and 1550. All are from the Royal Palace of Phillip II in Madrid. These exquisite tapestries depict such scenes as the capture of Jerusalem and the war fought by Titus against the Jews in A.D. 66 to A.D. 67. After undergoing meticulous restoration, the tapestries are kept in darkened rooms to avoid damage. The museum is open Monday to Saturday 9am to 1pm and 4 to 6pm, Sunday 9am to 1pm; admission is 2.50€.
North from Piazza Repubblica is the main thoroughfare, Via 11 Maggio, extending from west to east from Piazza della Vittoria to Piazza Matteotti, flanked by the town's most splendid baroque palazzo. From here make your way northwest toward the sea, where you'll find the archaeological museum -- the Museo Archaeologico Baglio Anselmi, at Lungomare Boéo (tel. 0923-952535). The museum occupies a former warehouse (baglio) for Marsala wine. The installation occupies two sections of the warehouse and displays among other things prehistoric gold jewelry, remnants coming from the Tophet, (the sacrificial burial area of Mozia), and amphorae from shipwrecks. Labeled according to date, origin, and contents, it sheds light on the fascinating ancient Mediterranean trade route. The museum's main attraction is the relic of a well-preserved Punic ship discovered in 1971 off Isola Longa in the Stagnone lagoon. The ship is thought to have been originally constructed for the Battle of the Egadi Islands in 241 B.C. yet sunk on its maiden voyage; it's amazing to think that any vessel dating back to the First Punic War has been discovered. Measuring 35m (115 ft.) long and carefully reconstructed in 1980, the ship has nails that have eluded corrosion (how, exactly, is a mystery). Manned by 68 oarsmen, it was the type of warship that made the Romans green with envy. Objects that were on board -- including cannabis leaves and stalks -- are also on display. The museum is open Wednesday to Saturday 9am to 7pm, and Sunday to Tuesday 9am to 1pm. Admission is 4€ for adults and 2€ for children 17 and under and adults 65 and over.
After your visit to the museum, head north along the Lungomare Boéo, dotted with many old bagli, or Marsala wine warehouses, some still in use while others have been converted into restaurants. As you make your way along the bend, stop in either of the two wine shops next door to one another, Enoteca La Ruota (at number 36/A, tel. 0923-715241) and Enoteca Luminario 34/A, tel. 0923-713150), where the friendly owners will welcome you in and where you can sip the local wines while admiring the Stagnone lagoon lying in front of you. At the intersection with Via Piave are the excavations of the ancient Lilybaeum or the Insula Romana, an archaeological area open to the public 24 hours a day. It contains the remains of a Roman villa, true to Marsala's imperial past, (which had a steam room, among its other trappings), and well-preserved mosaics.
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.