The origins of the city of Trapani are ancient; Drepanum, which was the city´s first name, is of oriental origin and means "curved tip." It is now well accepted that the city was called Drepanum, Drepanum and also Drepanorum because it formed a sickle shape stretching from the beach of San Giuliano to the westernmost tip.
The ancient writers were divided between those who claimed that the city was founded by Saturn (God of the sky) and those who claimed that the city was formed from the sickle that fell from the hands of Ceres (Goddess of agriculture and abundance) as she ran around the world in search of her kidnapped daughter.
All these stories show us, however, that the ancient writers were more intent on telling and explaining the wonders of nature and of their religion, rather than seeking the truth about the historical origins of Trapani. The first founders and residents of Trapani were the Cyclops, an indigenous people who had attained a considerable degree of civilization. The Cyclops were followed by the Sicilians, the Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Carthaginians in the end, all lured by the fame of the fertility of this land and driven by the need to expand their commerce.
The ancient historians attribute the first fortifications of the city, the first navigation experiments such as the construction of boats and oars, the first elements of geography and astronomy, as well as the first writing to the Phoenicians.
Several Greek colonies, who settled in Sicily, built Segesta and enlarged Erice. The fame of the temple of Venus built in Erice induced many Greeks to visit.
The proximity of the city of Trapani to Africa favoured the Carthaginian colonies which came to possess almost all the major ports of the Mediterranean. With the First Punic War, Trapani became an ally of Carthage. The war lasted 24 years and made Trapani the theatre for the most formidable battles between the Romans and the Carthaginians
At the end of the war, after being defeated in front of the Egadi islands, the Carthaginians surrendered the city of Trapani to the Romans. When the Roman Emperor Pompeo, after conquering Jerusalem in 59 BC, added Palestine to the Roman Empire, the first colonies of Jews began to settle in Sicily. In Trapani a large number of Jews settled, occupying the district from which the current street Via Giudecca situated opposite the law courts, took its name.
For the next 230 years, Sicily was conquered by the Saracens, populations from Arabia and later by the Normans. For this reason, Trapani continued to be a mixture of Christians, Jews and Muslims all of whom had mutual respect for each other.
The period of Norman rule was without doubt the most flourishing period of the city, where architecture was given new impetus with a mixture of European and Arabic styles.
The Normans were succeeded by the Swabians who brought the orders of the Dominicans, the Carmelites and the Franciscans into the city. After the Swabian domination, the House of Anjou took over (roughly in the year 1200) who were soon driven out by the Aragonese, from whom the city of Trapani benefited, as they expanded it by constructing two beautiful streets called Rua Nuova (Via Garibaldi) and Strada Grande (now the Corso Vittorio Emanuele).
In 1315 the Angevins returned with the intention of retaking the city, but they were unable to do so. The long wars with the Angevins had decreased the trade in Trapani and the richer citizens of Trapani decided to transform the commercial port into an industrial one, building many new salt pans, the product of which was exported, mostly in the east.
The people of Trapani, in fighting the Turks who were threatening the ports of the Mediterranean, showed their valour in all their battles against the Moors including that of Tripoli and Pantelleria (1515).
The Spanish government had granted considerable independence to the Sicilian municipalities and the need for order and association encouraged the people of Trapani to form companies together in order to allow their arts to prosper.
Thus in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the workers unions of sailors, fishermen, sculptors, painters, tailors, shoemakers, goldsmiths, coral workers and so on were formed. In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht, under which Sicily was assigned to Victor Emmanuel of Savoy, gave hope to the Sicilians that they could return to the independence and prosperity of the past.
When the French Revolution broke out in 1789, Napoleon arrived in Trapani with the pretext of gathering provisions, but in reality he hoped to seize the island. However, seeing the well-fortified city, he changed his mind and went to Malta.
With the advent of the Bourbons (1820), the city experienced poverty and the discontent of the people of Trapani increased. In 1848 Trapani together with the whole of Sicily armed themselves for independence from foreign rule. They fought fiercely and finally the people won.
The numerous later riots made General Giuseppe Garibaldi leave for the Egadi Islands in 1860 together with a thousand volunteers. The "Heroic General", as he was known, arrived in the vicinity of the port of Trapani, and, when informed of the preparations for war that had been made in this city by the Bourbons, he preferred to continue, landing in Marsala.
Today, Trapani is a modern city with about 80,000 inhabitants whose economy is based on agriculture, fishing and, more recently tourism. In fact, the city is visited annually by many tourists who are fascinated by its beauty, its historical and architectural interest and climate and its crystal clear sea.
The warmth and hospitality of the people of Trapani impresses visitors so much that they often return, choosing it as a favourite tourist destination.