The territory of Marsala is unique in its landscape comprising the enchanting countryside, beaches, the Stagnone and the Phoenician Mozia. The vineyards with their regular lines of vines are the protagonists of the surrounding agricultural land scattered with bagli (rural fortified structures) and the vine producing companies are the protagonists of the access roads to the inhabited centre. But the real protagonist of this landscape is man who has been able to cultivate vineyards as far as the sea and has even cultivated the sea itself, with the salt pans which produce salt, making use of the wind and heat of the sun. The water of the salt pans with their windmills offer spectacular sights, when at sunset they become tinged with red, and the salt pools become pink in colour thanks to the particular archeobatteri alofili (archae), or in the period between June and September when the snow-white accumulations of salt appear. From Capo Boeo and Rakalia, there are stupendous views over the coast, the Egadi islands, of the Stagnone and as far as Mount Erice.
Parts of walls of houses, tombs, the remains of the fortifications like the great moat, and pieces of walls are to be found in the urban tissue and document the Punic phase of the city. The area of Capo Boeo holds the most tangible of the traces of the Romans and conserves the remains of a villa (end II century- beginning III century A.D) complete with thermal baths with marvellous mural floors. Under the San Giovanni church there is an ancient hypogeum known as the grotta della Sibilla which is a rare example of transformation into a Christian baptistery (V century A.D.).
Near the north-western tip of Sicily, south of Trapani and almost opposite Marsala, there is a laguna called the “Stagnone”, separated from the open sea to the west by an island, Isola Lunga. Situated in the centre of the laguna is the island of San Pantaleo, the Motya of Phoenician times, and two other smaller islands, Santa Maria and Scuola. The geographical situation of Motya is similar to that of many other Phoenician settlements: a small island near the coast, surrounded by shallow water, easy to defend and a safe anchorage for their ships. The city, founded at the end of the 8th century B.C., soon became one of the most important Phoenician colonies; thanks to its proximity to Africa it was one of the first obligatory transit routes towards Spain, Sardinia and Central Italy.
The Phoenicians traded with the Greek colonies present in Sicily, but not all their contacts were of a friendly nature, and a series of battles and wars eventually culminated in the destruction of Motya by Dionysius of Syracuse in 397 B.C. The survivors moved on to the nearby Sicilian coast, founding the city of Lilybeo, the present day Marsala. The island, however, was not completely abandoned, as demonstrated by numerous findings from archaeological excavations.
The most important findings from the excavations of Motya may be seen in the Archaeological Museum of the island, created by Joseph Whitaker, who, for all his life, cultivated an amateur but expert interest in the natural sciences, history and archaeology.
At the beginning of this century, Whitaker bought the island and conducted the first systematic archaeological exploration of the city. It is to this man, illustrious member of a rich English family which possessed industries and other commercial interests in Sicily, that we must give the credit for the fundamental impulse he gave towards the study and the divulgation of the archaeological heritage of Motya.
As is the rule for a seaside city, it has a tourist port, beaches and well deserving societies and circles which organise important international events and promote, aimed particularly at the young, nautical sports - sailing, kite skiing, canoeing, windsurfing - in the waters of the Stagnone and along the coast and the beaches which have many times been awarded the European blue flag. There are also many discos, pubs, wine cellars and wine bars.
The archipelago of the Stagnone Islands covers an area of 2000 hectares between Punta S. Teodoro and Capo Lilibeo. Its management is entrusted to Provincia Regionale of Trapani. The reserve includes the whole lagoon, separated from the open sea by the isola Grande, with three small islands inside, Mozia, Santa Maria and Schola. It is the biggest lagoon in Sicily and has an environment of enormous naturalistic importance and the landscape is of great suggestion.
About 3 km North of the historical pier, in Birgi Nivaloro district, the ancient road connection to the island of Mozia, the so-called “Punic road”, begins under the level of the water. In the coastal area there are a number of schools of windsurf, kite surf, canoeing and sailing, which are a strong attraction for the young sporty tourist. In the waters of the Stagnone tourist fishing is also practiced.