Mozia was one of the destinations that I most appreciated in one of my many trips to western Sicily for its unique characteristics.
The island of San Pantaleo (Mozia) is an island of about 45 hectares, the largest of a small archipelago in front of the Stagnone reserve located between Trapani and Marsala protected from the open sea by the Egadi islands archipelago formed by Favignana, Marettimo and Levanzo.
Isola di Mothia Trapani or Isola Mozia was a Phoenician trading town in the 12th century B.C., an outpost for the development of trade in the area.
Ornella and I, together with our unfailing travelling companions John and Piera, visited it a few years ago, but now that it has become increasingly difficult to travel abroad on the road, it can be an interesting destination to visit.
Mozia how to get there
To get to the Island of Mozia or Island of Mothia we arrived at the salt pans of Marsala dello Stagnone, from here small boats will take you to the island sailing in the shallow waters of the Stagnone.
The approach to the island is also a spectacle where you can admire the salt pans, the large number of birds that use the area as a stopover for migrations and the Egadi islands on the horizon.
When we visited the island of Mothia the cost was € 5 for the ferry and € 9 to visit the island and the Museum. Although we were surprised by the second bigletto, her visit was worth the price!
Isle of Mozia Trapani or Isle of Mozia Marsala ?
Given its beauty and historical interest, it is disputed between these two important municipalities and included in the Stagnone nature reserve.
Island of Mozia and the submerged road
A somewhat unusual way to reach the island of San Pantaleo is to use the ancient Punic road used in ancient times by carts to transport the wine produced on the island.
It can be reached on foot and the road is very suggestive because it is submerged by the sea and you can only walk along it at low tide.
History of the island of Mozia (Mothia)
Surrounded by the shallow waters of the lagoon, once a Phoenician colony, today it is a place rich not only in history and culture and natural beauty. Mozia, thanks to its strategic position, became in the 8th century B.C. a flourishing town and landing point for trade in the area. Surrounded by walls and with a well-protected harbour it resisted attacks by Greeks and Carthaginians until it was conquered and destroyed by the Syracusans. The inhabitants fled and the island remained uninhabited for many centuries.
During the Norman domination of Western Sicily, Mozia was donated to the abbey of Santa Maria della Grotta di Marsala and became the seat of the Basilian monks of Palermo, who then gave the island the name San Pantaleo, dedicating it to their founding saint.
In the sixteenth century the island passed to the Jesuits, and in 1792 it was given as a feud to the Notary Rosario Alagna of Mozia, awarded with the title of Baron of Mothia, who began archaeological excavations in search of historical finds of the past, but the period of greatest rebirth of the small island of the Stagnone was from 1902 when it was purchased by the English nobleman Joseph Whitaker who established his residence there and brought to light the remains of the ancient Phoenician civilization.
Museum of Mozia
All the finds found by Whitaker over the years can be found today in the original house of the Nobile which has been transformed into a museum. The most important exhibit on display is the famous Ephebe of Mozia.
The island of Mozia can be reached on foot in about 2 hours. It is necessary to follow the guided paths and various directions that can be found along the various maps placed on various points of the island to reach the main points of interest.
A recommendation if you visit the island in summer: the heat and heat and the shelters in the shade are few. Don’t forget sunscreen and a hat, preferably a wide brim and a good supply of water.
The wine of Mozia
From recent excavations it is thought that the Phoenicians already cultivated vines on the small island because of the discovery of grape seeds in the excavation layers, the presence of material suitable for the conservation of wine and the importance that wine had for the Western Phoenicians.
To bring the vines back to the island of Mozia was, in the 19th century, Whitaker himself, an English wine merchant and amateur archaeologist who wanted to create a wine that could compete with Port. A real mission to produce wine in such an extreme territory.
Today Tasca d’Almerita has taken up the tradition by planting the Sicilian prince vine Il Grillo, creating Tasca – Withaker.
Marsala’s salt pans
On the way back from our tour of the small island we stopped to eat something just off the boat.
This is where I got to know my first Pane Cunzato, an almost mystical experience: oil, dried tomatoes, anchovies, salted ricotta cheese and oregano! A goodness out of scale! But when I congratulated the innkeeper, his answer still impressed me today that 10 years have passed: “The best seasoning is hunger”.