Adventure International

Erice: One of Italy’s Most Beautiful Villages

Erice is a quasi-Alpine village nestled on an Italian island in western Sicily. The Association “I Borghi più Belli d’Italia” recognizes it as one of Italy’s Most Beautiful Villages. 

This designation spotlights those small Italian towns showcasing Italy’s History, Art, Culture, Environment, and Traditions.

“Sicily’s villages, the most beautiful in Italy, reveal the face of a Sicily that is less well-known and perhaps for this reason, more authentic and precious.”


I came to Erice in search of the nunnery’s famous almond cookies but lingered for the great heritage (and cats).

Pasticceria di Maria Grammatico

The thing about visiting Sicily is the fabulous food. Almost every village is famous for a pastry or sandwich. 

And Erice can boast about its buccellati (a hard, baked almond cookies). Pasticceria di Maria Grammatico sells these cookies (and other decadent pastries such as green cassata cakes, cuscinetti (small fried pastries), and every variety of fruit marzipan (including apples, oranges and lemons). 

The shop is located on the village’s main street (Via Vittorio Emanule). The hometown almonds are picked in the fields near Erice. They must be grown to pulp. This “almond flour” is the star ingredient.

Imagine the hard crunch of almonds and sugar bursting in your mouth like fireworks. As one Google reviewer noted, “It’s just delicious and sinful and full of sweet goodness!”

Orphan Baker

But people don’t come just to eat almond cookies. They also hope to meet the real life heroine of the Sicilian memoir “Bitter Almonds.” The cloistered nuns raised Maria Grammatico at a San Carlo orphanage. As a young girl, she was taught how to bake the convent’s confections and pastries. In 1961, she left the orphanage. She was 21. She now operates the most famous pasticceria (bakery) in Erice.

Mountaineous Village

I discovered that you need to be part mountain goat to climb the steep hilly cobblestone streets in this medieval Sicilian village. The main street (Via Vittorio Emanule) shoots straight up from the moment you walk through the town gates (Porta Trapani).

“Porta Trapani is one of the gates of the grandiose Elymian-Punic walls still visible today. It was opened together with Porta Spada and Porta Carmine in the Norman age (11th-14th century AD) and is characterized by the pointed arch . . . It takes its name from the city below [Tripani].”

Erice (Town Sign)

Gaze down and you can see the sea 2,400 feet below.

Luckily, the small shops, restaurants, art galleries, and Maria’s bakery will distract you. In fact, you might not even reach the summit if you stop in all the lovely shops.

I spent an inordinate time outside an Erice art gallery admiring its ceramics. Transfixed by a bold portrait of a brunette woman, I went inside to check the price for a small ceramic. But the shop only sold this creation as a painting. I decided that 350 euros cost too much (plus it wouldn’t fit into my tiny suitcase). 

Chiesa Madre

Do not miss visiting this ancient Norman church even though you must purchase an entrance ticket. (It’s worth the price. I promise.) The Erice sign declaring it a “a masterpiece of neo-Gothic architecture” is not an exaggeration.

Prepare to enter an otherworldly world. The delicate ceiling beams resemble hand-sewed lace. The Gothic church was built in 1314. The church also displays clerical robes, paintings, and statues. 

Save time to sit in a pew and just stare at the Baroque altar or quietly meditate. Often you can hear the ethereal sounds of monks chanting or a choir singing (if the church is playing an audio revording). 

Notably, Erice is famous as the “the town of one hundred churches.” Although this is no longer the case, Erice does seem to have a church hiding around every corner. 


No visit to any Sicilian village, city, town, or street market is complete if I didn’t hunt for cats. Luckily, Erice boasts dozens of felines who happily napped in chairs or posed on brick walls. (Check out my travel pieces about the Cats of Portugal and the Cats of Croatia if you are an ailurophile. I am already planning to write a post on the Cats of Sicily!)

Sadly, I missed out on the colony of cats who are fed outside the castle in the landscaped gardens. But I can thank fellow Exodus traveler Kevin for taking these cat cameos at Rifugio canino di Martogna (the animal shelter in Erice). 

Gazing at their beatific faces, I imagine it wouldn’t be a horrible life to be a gatto (cat) living in this most beautiful Italian village of Erice.

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  • Tara | Silly Little Kiwi
    October 14, 2023 at 12:53 pm

    Beautiful village! Will need to go here myself now!

    • Terri
      October 14, 2023 at 12:57 pm

      Erice is a fairytale village. You won’t be disappointed if you visit it. It is close to Palermo, the capital of Sicily.

  • Irma R Franco
    October 14, 2023 at 1:01 pm

    Oh My God !!! I am I’m love 😍 I will definitely make it a ‘must’ see next time I am in Italy!!!

    • Terri
      October 14, 2023 at 1:59 pm

      You will LOVE Sicily. I am obsessed with this association’s guide to beautiful Italian villages.

  • Jess Touhig
    October 14, 2023 at 1:14 pm

    I love Italy, this looks like a whole new level 😍 thanks so much for sharing, I’ll be visiting ASAP!!

    • Terri
      October 14, 2023 at 1:58 pm

      I am obsessed with Italy. My goal is to I fit all the regions plus Sardinia in the next 5 years. Enjoy!

  • Sara Essop
    October 14, 2023 at 2:27 pm

    What a beautiful village! I’d love to visit there someday. And the cats are so cute too.

    • Terri
      October 14, 2023 at 7:52 pm

      I agree the cats are precious!

  • Adéle Land
    October 14, 2023 at 3:55 pm

    This looks beautiful! I hadn’t heard of it before! Thanks for sharing!

    • Terri
      October 14, 2023 at 7:53 pm

      I am so happy to share about Erice!

  • Lisa Bundesen
    October 15, 2023 at 2:04 am

    You had me at cats! But also what an amazing town for history. It looks amazing. Definitely added to my places to visit.

    • Terri
      October 15, 2023 at 7:04 am

      Another cat lover! YAYY! One of my favorite things to do is hunt for street cats to photograph when I visit the southern European countries, such as Croatia, Italy and Portugal. Greece is next!

  • Heather
    October 28, 2023 at 7:30 pm

    Love the cats. The ending reminded me of a place in Malta at one of the megalithic temples where a man feeds some stray cats. One of them actually came over to me and cuddled before enjoying his lunch. 🥰