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Scopello and Castellammare del Golfo

aerial view castellammare del golfo

Scopello is an Italian coastal town, part of the municipality of Castellammare del Golfo in the province of Trapani.

The town of Scopello

The town of Scopello has about 118 residents, who grew up around an ancient baglio, just over 10 km from the municipal capital, which in summer become around 2,000. Nearby is the Zingaro Nature Reserve and the Faraglioni, with the adjacent tonnara. Not far from the baglio is Guidaloca, a bay limited by the “Pizzo della Gnacara” and the “Puntazza“. Inside there is a large arc-shaped beach formed by pebbles, about 400 meters long. On the west side of the “cove” there is a cylindrical tower dating back to the 16th century, guarding that stretch of coast.

History of Scopello

It probably owes its name to the faraglioni or scogli (in Latin scopulus, in Greek scopelos).

The first settlement on the promontory where Scopello is located dates back to the Hellenistic age, then continued in the Roman and Islamic eras. During the Norman period it was a royal domain. In the thirties of the thirteenth century the Emperor Frederick II of Swabia granted the land of Scopello to the Piedmontese Oddone de Camerana, and to the Lombard knights arrived with him in Sicily. In 1237 Oddone di Camerana and his Lombard knights moved to Corleone, and Emperor Frederick II granted Scopello as a fief to the town of Monte San Giuliano (now Erice). The current township dates back to the 17th century and is divided into two parts: a baglio, which the tradition indicates as a Norman period, but dating back to the 18th century, and a small square with the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, a parish since 1961, and a few houses.

Ferdinand II of Bourbon elected the area of ​​Scopello, with the nearby forest of the same name, to the rank of royal reserve for hunting, visiting it twice in 1830 and in 1859. Because of these visits, being the unity of Italy, with the expedition of the Thousand the Scopellesi sided with the Bourbon side, so as to engage in a battle, between December 1862 and January 1863, with the Piedmontese forces that could not easily settle in the township. The Scopello hunting reserve was assigned to a state company that had the task of disposing of the assets of the old Bourbon state and was bought at very low prices by affiliates of the mafia of Castellammare del Golfo who had supported the unitary cause and who then sold the land at market prices.

The Scopello Tonnara

The Scopello tonnara is one of the most important and ancient in all of Sicily: the first buildings date back to the XIII century, the real tonnara was built in the XV century by Giovanni Sanclemente and enlarged by the Sanclemente family during the XVI century; it then passed to the Society of Jesus and finally to the Florio family.

Tonnara Scopello
The Scopello Tonnara – where Tuna fish was slaughtered

Castellammare del Golfo

Castellammare del Golfo is a lovely town in province of Trapani, and Scopello is part of its municipality.

Economics of Castellammare del Golfo

Its economy is based on tourism and, less than in the past, on viticulture and fishing. Of particular interest is the historical re-enactment, which was celebrated every two years, of the attack on the port by the British, foiled, according to legend, by the arrival of the Madonna of the assursurs (Madonna del Soccorso). The last edition took place on 13 September 2018 on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the apparition of the Madonna del Soccorso in favor of the city.

History of Castellammare del Golfo

“[…] The third and largest side of all, although it too is not populated much, yet it has a sufficient number of inhabitants: for there are still the small towns of Alesa and Tindari, and the emporium of those of Egesta and Cefaledio. “


Castellammare del Golfo was born as Emporium Segestanorum (port of the neighboring Segesta, in Greek Αἰγεσταίων ἐμπόριον; the term empòrion designated in the ancient Mediterranean a seaside resort used for unloading, storage and sale of goods) and until the arrival of the Arabs its history is identified with that of the Elymian city. It is hypothesized that the emporium already existed starting at least from the beginning of the fifth century BC Evidence of this can be found in both the writings of Herodotus and those of Diodorus Siculus and Thucydides, who on the subject of the Athenian expedition to Sicily in 415 BC, often speaks of ships that came or went from Segesta. However, Strabone, in his Geography, and the geographer Ptolemy, make an explicit reference to the Segesta port, which, however, gives an incorrect location of the site, perhaps due to a mere material error in the transmission of the text.

The Arabs in Castellammare del Golfo

With the arrival of the Arabs at the beginning of the 19th century the town took the name of al-madariğ, “the stairs”, a name that seems to derive from the stairway that led from the highest part of the fortified bastion to the port. This translation of the Arabic toponym dates back to 1880-81 and is due to the historian Michele Amari. However the historian and archaeologist Ferdinando Maurici rightly points out that there is an unmistakable assonance between al-madariğ and the terms Spanish almadraba and French madrague, both of probable Arabic etymology and corresponding to the Italian “tonnara”. It is the Arabs who built the first nucleus of the “castle of the sea”, later enlarged by the Normans. The fortified building was built on a spur of rock near the sea and connected to the mainland by means of a wooden drawbridge. The name castrum ad mare de gulfo, from which the current name derives, dates back to the beginning of the second millennium, when Castellammare became an important fortress of the Normans, then of the Swabians and the center of battles between the Angevins and the Aragonese.

Castellammare del Golfo architecture

  • Church Madonna del Rosario. It is located inside the village adjacent to the castle and is thought to have been erected in the Norman period around the year 1100. The very small church has a portal with a bas-relief of the Madonna and Child with Saints and the Crucifix, attributed to Gagini. Inside, in a corner, there is a Black Madonna with child (Madonna di l’agnuni).
  • Church of Purgatory. Dating back to the end of the fourteenth century, it has valuable pictorial works from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
  • Chiesa Madre (La Matrici), built on the foundations of a previous church, its construction began in 1726 and the place opened for worship ten years later. It has three orders of aisles, houses the majolica statue representing the Madonna del Soccorso of the second half of the sixteenth century, frescoes by Giuseppe Tresca (it is also assumed the participation of Giuseppe Velasco) depicting episodes from the Old Testament and a 17th century font

Sanctuary of Maria Santissima del Soccorso

The sanctuary of Maria Santissima del Soccorso or Chiesa Madre, is the main place of Catholic worship in Castellammare del Golfo. Baroque style decoration with stuccos, polychrome marbles and frescoes. Autograph paintings by Giuseppe Tresca (“Ioseph Tresca fecit A.D. 1767”) with the collaboration of Giuseppe Velasco.

Castellammare del Golfo harbour
The harbour of Castellammare del Golfo
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