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Erice 1995

Erice Travel Blog

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Inside Castello di Venere (With Monte Cofano in the background)

Since it is a place I visited for the first time in 1995 and then subsequently many more times in the next decade, I should tell a little bit about this place, as some may never have heard of it. The best way to introduce Erice is to use the words in the TravBuddy wiki overview, which I wrote. Before I do that I offer a personal reflection that Erice has become a special place to me over the years, partly due to its old world charm, but also for the experiences I have had and the many friends I have met there over the years. It's not common in life to be privileged in opportunity to return to a destination far from home almost every year or two for a decade. It creates a bond to the place, the people and the culture. Such is my connection to a place called Erice.

Toretta Pepoli

In appearance, Erice looks like a town from the Middle Ages with its many castles, walls and stone streets. In fact, it's much older. According to the legend, Erice or Eryx, son of Venus and Neptune, founded a small town on top of a mountain (750 meters above sea level). Its ancient history can be traced to the writings of Thycydides surrounding events following the conquest of Troy. After the fall of Troy, some Trojans settled on the western tip of Sicily. Along with the people already settled there they became known as the Elymi, and the towns they developed were Segesta and Erice. In parts of the city there are remains of ancient Elymian and Phoenician walls reflecting various stages of settlement and occupation.

Castello di Venere
Homer, Theocritus, Virgil and Horace have celebrated this magnificent spot in Sicily in their poems. It was destroyed during the first Punic war and subsequently occupied by the Romans. Like many parts of the island of Sicily, influence of Greek, Byzantine, Arab and Norman architecture and culture can be seen. During the 13th to 19th centuries, Erice was ruled by a local oligarchy, and under wise leadership a long period of cultural development and economic prosperity developed. This gave rise to the many churches, monasteries, stone streets and houses that are seen there today. Since the early 1960's Erice has been called "The City of Science" after the founding of the Ettore Majorana Centre for Scientific Culture in 1963. A place of great charm and picturesque views make Erice delightful to visit. The views of the city of Trapani and Mount Cofano are simply magnificent and unforgettable.
Torrione Medievale
Erice is located near some other beautiful Sicilian places like San Vito lo Capo, Segesta, Trapani, and Palermo around the northwest portion of Sicily.

My purpose for visiting was to attend the International School of Atomic and Molecular Spectroscopy - 11th Course: Spectroscopy and Dynamics of Collective Excitations in Solids, held at the Ettore Majorana Centre for Scientific Culture. A total of 83 participants came from 20 different countries (Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States). Courses such as these are held all through the year at the Ettore Majorana Centre in Erice in many different disciplines, but are often much more than just scientific meetings and occasions for cultural exchange in a remote setting where particpants can interact for a couple of weeks.

Streets of Erice I
There are lectures, of course, discussions between the lectures, but excursions to see various surrounding sites, group dinners together and often a gathering to share a musical event where participants display their talents in an evening get together in one of the cathedrals or hotels. It is much more than a meeting of minds to discuss the latest scientific developments, but an opportunity for exchange of cultures as well. Often times on a typical day, after the lectures are finished and participants go to dinner (sometimes meeting up impromptu style and getting to know each other over a meal) people return to the so-called "Marsala Room"  - sort of an evening gathering spot in the Etorre Majorana Centre where there can be found (usually filled) kegs of Marsala wine (one sweet & one dry) for libation.
Mountain face of Erice
There is socializing, music (if participants care to display their voice or talent with guitar or piano) and just hanging out really to wind down the evening. They are good occasions to socialize and make new friends outside of the lecture halls. Surprising bonds are often made during the two weeks and lasting friendships can follow, not just in scientific connection, but in personal ways too. This is part of what makes the Erice Experience sort of unique among gatherings I have attended for sharing of science.

Well, I don't wish to go on too much here and there will be opportunity to share more in my other visits to Erice. For the brief history of this year, I attended with my friend Gang while we were both still Ph.D. students at Boston College. Professor Di Bartolo (who we usually just call Rino) was our common thesis advisor and also director of the school.

A view of Trapani from Erice
We aided some in administrative duties and also gave our first professional talks here. We had both done poster sessions before, but not a talk in front of a large audience. We performed quite well and our talks were a success. For excursions we visited the Greek ruins at Selinunte, the beaches at San Vito Lo Capo, and a place whose name escapes me at the moment, but I will recall it. I'm sure I have it documented somewhere. At any rate, this was quite an enjoyable two weeks for me, it being my first international experience and all. I could not have asked for more - A beautiful Sicilian setting, people from 20 different nations to meet, excursions in the area and a satisfying scientific meeting too.
Streets of Erice II

This covers June 17 - July 1, 1995. There would be an opportunity to stop in Rome for a few days after the meeting in Erice and I will cover this next. I leave with a quotation that elevates Science a bit and was included in the introduction of a book published on the proceedings of this meeting in Erice 1995 and speaks to a wider vision of science beyond just a bag of tools to probe nature with, but to provide a deeper understanding that satisfies man's quest to know the universe and his place in the grand scheme of things. The ultimate reality really in a place we call Truth.

"Science is not to be regarded as a storehouse of facts to be used for material purposes, but as one of the great human endeavors to be ranked with arts and religion as the guide and expression of man's fearless quest for truth." ~ Sir Richard Arman Gregory


spocklogic says:
Thanks, Jennifer, and the history of Erice in particular and Sicily in general is quite a storied one. I was quite impressed by Rome too on my first and subsequent visits as well. My Rome 1995 journey is next...
Posted on: Apr 02, 2013
jenniferhibbard says:
Very interesting reflections (personal and historical) on Erice. The ancient history holds particular allure for me and I would love to visit this region. My sister and her husband are off to Rome for their anniversary at the end of the month...perhaps I should mention it as a destination.
Posted on: Apr 01, 2013
spocklogic says:
Why, thank you May. I appreciate that You appreciate. I am both academician and philosopher who embraces science, but endeavors to see the human condition too. We are all creatures of intellect & emotion, but seeking a balance of those is important too. I appreciate your thought-feeling comment here.
Posted on: Mar 31, 2013
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Inside Castello di Venere (With Mo…
Inside Castello di Venere (With M…
Toretta Pepoli
Toretta Pepoli
Castello di Venere
Castello di Venere
Torrione Medievale
Torrione Medievale
Streets of Erice I
Streets of Erice I
Mountain face of Erice
Mountain face of Erice
A view of Trapani from Erice
A view of Trapani from Erice
Streets of Erice II
Streets of Erice II
Gang contemplating Erice
Gang contemplating Erice
Brian contemplating Erice
Brian contemplating Erice
Brian contemplating Erice II
Brian contemplating Erice II
Landscapes from Erice I
Landscapes from Erice I
Landscapes from Erice II
Landscapes from Erice II
Selinunte I
Selinunte I
Selinunte II
Selinunte II
Selinunte III
Selinunte III
Stamatio & John (@Selinunte)
Stamatio & John (@Selinunte)
Selinunte IV
Selinunte IV
Selinunte V
Selinunte V
Me (@Selinunte) I
Me (@Selinunte) I
Me (@ Selinunte) II
Me (@ Selinunte) II
Doric temple of Selinunte I - Temp…
Doric temple of Selinunte I - Tem…
Doric temple of Selinunte II - Tem…
Doric temple of Selinunte II - Te…
Gang & Brian (@Selinunte)
Gang & Brian (@Selinunte)
Brian (@Selinunte)
Brian (@Selinunte)
Doric Columns
Doric Columns
Selinunte temple remnants
Selinunte temple remnants
Brian and Norman (@Selinunte)
Brian and Norman (@Selinunte)
Selinunte landscapes
Selinunte landscapes
Marinella di Selinunte (on the bea…
Marinella di Selinunte (on the be…
Salt-pans near Marsala
Salt-pans near Marsala
City of Trapani
City of Trapani
Coastline along the Golfo di Caste…
Coastline along the Golfo di Cast…
Santuario di Maria Santissima Cust…
Santuario di Maria Santissima Cus…
Santuario di Maria Santissima Cust…
Santuario di Maria Santissima Cus…
Santuario di Maria Santissima Cust…
Santuario di Maria Santissima Cus…
Sunset at Custonaci (Gang)
Sunset at Custonaci (Gang)
Sunset at Custonaci (Brian)
Sunset at Custonaci (Brian)
Sunset at Custonaci
Sunset at Custonaci
Monte Cofano viewed from Custonaci
Monte Cofano viewed from Custonaci
Gang & Norman
Gang & Norman
Erice alleyway
Erice alleyway
Umberto Square - Central square of…
Umberto Square - Central square o…
Me - walking Erice
Me - walking Erice
Erice rooftops
Erice rooftops
The Erice fog (up in the clouds)
The Erice fog (up in the clouds)
Final participant dinner I
Final participant dinner I
Final participant dinner II
Final participant dinner II
Final participant dinner III
Final participant dinner III
Friendly waiters - good guys all!
Friendly waiters - good guys all!
A kiss of thanks to Rino from a pa…
A kiss of thanks to Rino from a p…
Gang, Rino and me
Gang, Rino and me
An impromptu after dinner photo
An impromptu after dinner photo
Gang and Rinos brothers
Gang and Rino's brothers
Rino, Gonul, and Rinos sons John …
Rino, Gonul, and Rino's sons John…
Marsala room playtime I
Marsala room playtime I
Marsala room playtime II
Marsala room playtime II
Erice Map I
Erice Map I
Erice Map II
Erice Map II
Erice
photo by: spocklogic