beach of Alcamo Marina Sicily
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castellammare del golfo sicilia
Castellammare del Golfo rises at the feet of Monte Inici, in the middle of the wide gulf, which extends from Capo Rama to San Vito's cape and gets its name from the beautiful sea town. The name derives from "Castrum ad mare", an ancient construction built on a preexisting tower, which became wider during the XVI century, in order to defende the town from the frequent incursions of the pirates. It was the commercial harbour of Segesta - the "emporium segestanorum" of the Romans - and experienced its first substantial widening under the Arab domination.
During the muslim period, in fact, it was renamed with the name "AL Madarig" (that means "the scales"), and the town was fortified and protected, until it became one of the defensive system basis of western Sicily. With the norman conquest and, afterwards, with the Swabians, the Anjous and the Aragoneses, Castellammare regains the ancient function of strategic-commercial point for the corn export all over the reign. And this role becomes stronger between the XV and the XVI century, with the installation of the tunny-fishing structure and the loader. The year 1560 is a turning point for the city's history: Pietro de Luna, at that time owner of Castellammare and of its lands, founded, leaned against the castle, the first feudale village (the original nucleus of the present town). Afterwards the center is protected by solid walls and encircled by a moat. Later on, between the XVIII and the XIX century, the great demographic expansion leads the city to a big widening until Mount Inici.
Castellammare is known for its inestimable environmental and landscape patrimony. It's a territory composed by a beautiful coast, behind which Mounts Inici and Spàragio rise, in a spectacular natural scenery, in part covered by forests. In front of the beautiful and wide sandy beach that extends to the east side of the town, the western coast appears strongly jagged.
Cliffs that fall vertically, rocks, wonderful creeks, little coves which are accessible only from the sea, are the frame of a sea that is limpid and teeming with fish. Wonderful corners of landscape covered by the rest of the original Mediterranean bush do alternate continually: the cape, the rocks and the large cave of "Cala Bianca", "Cala Rossa", the Bay of Guidaloca and finally, near the borders of the Reserve "Lo Zingaro", Scopello with its evocative rocks, one of the most beautiful places of the Mediterranean.
In the heart of the ancient Castellammare, in the public square, the Mother Church rises; its present structure goes back to 1726. It has been realized in three naves by the architect Giuseppe Mariani and was dedicated to "S. Maria del Soccorso". It keeps some interesting works: the XVIII century frescoes of Giuseppe Tresca, at the vault and the walls of the chorus, representing episodes of the Old Testament; one XVII century holy-water font in red marble with baptisimal font; one beautiful painting of Orazio Ferraro, the Crucifix between Ss. Peter and Andrea (1695); and the majolica statue of the Madonna del Soccorso (1559), perhaps of Giovanni Maurici and Giovanni D' Antoni, which has been attributed by someone to Luca della Robbia's school. In a small square of Via Ponte Castello, we find the XVI century little church of the Madonna del Rosario, called "di l'agnuni" (that means, of the corner), with the decorated portal, in the tympanum, by an elegant bas-relief representing a Madonna with the Child between Saints and Crucifix.
Tradition tells that the church, surely built up before 1432, was erected in 1093 by the norman conquerors. The Castle rises on the small cape next to the harbour. Until the XIV century it was linked to the rest of the town through a drawbridge. It has been rehashed in various periods by the Normans and the Swabians, it was rebuilt in the XIV century by the Aragone-ses, who separated it from the mainland through the cut of the isthmus. It still keeps one of the original towers, called "of the Artillery", built in 1586, and two double windows on the east side. Of remarkable historical interest are two buildings of "Cala Marina": the Costamante Baglio, which has been for centuries the heart of the tunning-structure's activities, and the little church of "the Annunciata", called "Maria SS." In a document of 1590. Of a same level of importance are, in the center of the city, the XVI century church of "S. Maria degli Agonizzanti", with the annexed convent of the Crucifer Fathers (1659), which is today a cultural center, the XV century church of the Madonna delle Grazie (1605), in the square next to the town gardens, which keeps in its inside an interesting slate-painting (XVIII sec.) representing a Madonna with the Child, with an elegant marble ancona-frame, and, in Via Francisco Crispi, the church of S. Giuseppe, built up in 1885. In Corso Garibaldi, we find the beautiful church of S. Antonio da Padova, already existing in 1644, which keeps a valuable organ of the beginnings of the XX century, and the little church of the Purgatory built up before the XV century, in the inside of which there are some interesting XVI and XVII century paintings.
The hinterland of Castellammare is rich of important evidences of local history. Rests of ancient fortifications, towers and old "bagli", interesting examples of rural architecture of the past, a time center of all the agricultural activities. In the area of "Ponte Bagni", on the tableland which dominates the rocky gorges, inside which the sources of the river "Caldo" gush out, a time ancient center of the Segestan Thermae, the rests of the castle of "Calathamet" - the "castle of the baths" - built up by the Arabs are founded on one original elym fortification and reconstructed in swabian age. From "Ponte Bagni" you can reach the rests of the castle of Inici, built near an ancient sycan-elym settlement and center, in the Middle Ages, of one immense community of peasants and shepherds.
Even the Castle of Baida, which we find in a slope on the south of Mount Sparagio and which was the seat of an arabic country house, probably rose near an ancient elym settlement. It is testified by the funeral equipment of some graves, which have been found in a near locality. Even if partly destroyed during the earthquake of 1968, the castle, even now inhabited, kepps the four rectangular towers and a part of the original embattled wall. The entrance door is decorated by an arch on which a latin registration reminds the visit of Ferdinand III of Borbone during one of its hunting parties.