Italy is one of our favourite destinations and not long ago we were (again) travelling to this beautiful country, this time to one of its famous islands, Sicily. It was my first time here and I was eager to get to know this place whose calling card is beyond inviting. I had great expectations and was afraid I might come back disappointed, as it usually happens in such situations, but nothing like that! I am only looking forward to my next trip to Sicily where the scenery, the food and people are wonderful.
Our destination was the small, but old and full of history town of Erice, located on top of Mount Erice, at around 750 meters above sea level and overlooking the city of Trapani. I could even say that it seems like a magical place, with its narrow streets, impressive historical monuments and breathtaking views of the island. Throughout the history Erice has been seen as a holy place (also thanks to its particular geographic position) and still holds the remains of numerous churches and cathedrals – no wonder it is known nowadays as “the Mountain of God”.
The Dome (Real Duomo), built in 1314 by King Frederick III of Aragon (click on the images to see them in full size)
Inside the Dome
Precious neo-gothic details
More impressive art inside the San Giuliano Church
Remains of the Santissimo Salvatore Monastery
The origins of Erice are tied to a sacred place – the open-aired temple dedicated to the goddes of fecundity and protector of the Mediterranean seafarers, Venus (or Aphrodite, as known in the Greek mythology). It is said that Erice was the son of Venus and he built the temple dedicated to his mother and founded the city that bears his name. This place used to attract people from all around the Mediterranean Sea region who wanted to bring their gifts and ask for the Goddess’ protection. A few remains of the ancient temple are still preserved in what nowadays is the Castle of Venere, one of the main attractions of the city.
Il Castello di Venere
… and the beautiful views from its walls. In the background you can see the San Giovani Church and the Spanish Quarter
From left to right: Torri del Balio and Torretta “Pepoli”
Care for a game?
The Spanish Quarter, meant as a fort for the soldiers during the Spanish rule of Sicily, hosts now some interesting exhibitions – “Past times arts and crafts” and “Erice, land of the sea”
For example, did you know how the fishermen used to catch the tuna?
Your author with some of the most important attractions in Erice
After the daily lesson of history under the hot Italian sun, a chess player must get his powers back and what better way to do so than by indulging in the delicious Sicilian cuisine? In a place where pistachio and lemon seem to rule the kitchen, this cannot be a bad move. The choice is wide:
You can start the day with a coffee with pistachio cream…
…or a cappuccino and a Sicilian cannolo…
…refresh/prepare over a lemon granita and Sicilian genovesi (with lemon and pistachio cream, of course)
…but my favorite was undoubtedly the rum baba, filled with ricotta and saturated in rum syrup
So much “dolce vita” and your clothes could miraculously shrink in a couple of days, but living on top of a small mountain does have its benefits – a guaranteed gym session every time you go out for a walk:
However, let’s not forget that we were here for a chess tournament, so enough with the tourism!
The chess festival consisted of three separate tournaments: Open A for players rated over 1900, Open B for players rated under 1900 and Open C for under 1600. Top seed of tournament A was fellow Romanian Grandmaster and famous author Mihail Marin, who totally dominated the field, winning it with 7/9 points.
GM Mihail Marin (2529) from Romania
Second was Renier who quickly recovered after a shaky first half of the tournament and finished undefeated with 6,5/9.
IM Renier Castellanos (2483) from Spain
Third, with the same number of points, but worse tie-break finished the Italian International Master Pierluigi Basso. See the full standing and pairings here.
The winners of Open A together with the organization team
Second seed, GM Jakov Vang Glud (2521) from Denmark, finished 4th
3rd seed, GM Arkadij Rotstein (2500) from Germany, with his typical thinking pose
GM Felix Levin (2483) from Germany
A strong player and even better person – WGM Sheila Barth Sahl (2183) from Norway
Back to the chess board – WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni (2205) from Luxembourg
FM Artem Gilevych (2411) from Italy
I had a good tournament as well, winning the best woman prize with 5/9 points.
In the second round I was paired against the Slovenian FIDE Master Ksenija Novak and we reached the following position:
In round 7 I managed to play a good game against the IM Pierluigi Basso:
All in all, it was a great tournament – good food, beautiful place, impressive scenery and good chess. We can only recommend it because we will definitely be back!