The name Castellammare di Golfo (Casteddammari in Sicilian)is roughly translated as "Sea Fortress of the Gulf." It is so named because of the medieval fortress overlooking the eponymously named harbour.
The harbour has been in constant use from time immemorial, serving the people of nearby Terme di Segesta, location of a thermal spa which was settled by the Elymian people who inhabited the area prior to the time of the ancient Greeks who dominated the Island from 700 BC until the time of the Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans who came to control it until the Roman empire collapsed in the 5th century AD.
Fishing has been important in Castellammare del Golfo dating back to ancient times. Today the town's economy continues to be based on fishing and tourism.
Castellammare del Golfo is deeply representative of Sicily. First and foremost the town is one of the most beautiful towns on Sicily's western Coast, close to the city of Trapani which the Sicilian Mafia still uses as its primary port for the shipping of heroin to North America.
Unlike Trapani, which is a rough sea port, Castellammare del Golfo is a tidy and well-kept town with charming boutiques and amiable sea-food restaurants, all bustling with activity in the summer months especially. The town and its sparkling white sand beaches sit in the middle of the National Nature Reserve of Scopello, protected from the usual depredations of mankind.
This Castellammare di Golfo recently gained international fame as a tourist destination because one of the last scenes in the Hollywood blockbuster "Ocean's 12" was shot in a nearby bay (left side, second photograph). Because major celebrities like Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta Jones have stayed for several months, drawn to the area's beauty and charm - the area has quickly become an inspot for the "glitteroti".
Castellammare di Golfo has a dark history too, a sweet town that is the birthplace of many Sicilian and American mafia bosses including Salvatore Maranzano, Joseph Bonanno, Joseph Ristuccia, Michael Monte and and hundreds of other "Men of Honour".
Indeed, one of the bloodiest of all American Mafia wars was named the From this name comes also the Castellamarese war, fought by a clan led by Joe Masseria clan against another clan led by Salvatore Maranzano each vying for the domination of the Mafia in New York city.
Although the Mafia remains unexpunged in Sicily, it no longer has the immense power it once had, and the modern traveler will feel no threat in Castellammare del Golfo. Quite the contrary: the town and its environs are a great place for a beach holiday and a place that can serve as a wonderful starting and/or ending place for a vacation in Sicily