Motya and the Phoenicians

Motya and the Phoenicians

A wonderful boat cruise in the Phoenician history of Sicily to meet the Motya Charioteer...

Motya is one of the most important historical, archaeological, and cultural sites in Sicily. Not only because it was the first Phoenician colony in Sicily, also because the contribution of the British, in particular the Whitakers: wealthy 19th-century tycoons from West Yorkshire, who had developed the fortified wine industry in Marsala. If we know that Motya was the first Phoenician colony in Sicily we have to thank the Sicilian-English ornithologist Joseph Isaac Spadafora Whitaker. He purchased the island, conducted excavations, and wrote a book about them in 1921.

For this guided tour will pick you up from your hotel or b&b with one of our vehicles: with a minimum of 3 people the vehicle is a luxury Mercedes-Benz 4x4 or a comfortable 8-seat minivan! it takes less than 2 hours to arrive at the Stagnone Lagoon pier, where we get onboard for our cruise in the lagoon and in history. After about 40 minutes, during which we learn a lot about the lagoon, the salt pans, and how the Phoenicians settled down in the area, we get to the island.

The foundation of the city in the island probably dates from the 8th century BCE, about a century after the foundation of Carthage in Tunisia. In the first instance it was probably merely a commercial station or emporium, but gradually rose to be a flourishing and important town. The Phoenicians transformed the inhospitable island, which they called Motya, into one of the most affluent cities of its time, naturally defended by the lagoon as well as high defensive walls. Ancient windmills and salt pans were used for evaporation, salt grinding and reat finement, and to maintain the condition of the lagoon and island itself. Recently the mills and salt pans have been restored by the owners and opened to the public.
Joseph Whitaker house on the isle, now the Whitaker Museum, became a small antiquarium where the excavation findings were exhibited. After his death, his wife and two daughters, Norina and Delia, continued his extraordinary cultural activity.  At Delia's death in 1971, the present foundation was established. The Museum holds archaeological findings from systematic excavations and other pieces found by chance.  Further donations and purchases have been added. The archaeological material has continued to increase so as to fill up all the shelves, ledges, and cabinets in a complex exhibition, though the most important finding is the splendid Motya Charioteer, an extremely rare example of a Greek victor's statue, representing the winner of a chariot race that took place almost 2,500 years ago.

After Motya we go back to the pier for lunch! The restaurant, really by the sea, serves delicious fresh fish. And then back to Palermo.

Why touring with Palermo Walks? We have been awarded the patronages of the Sicilian Parliament and of the City of Palermo, we provide a 100% satisfaction guarantee, our vehicles are checked every month, you can always talk to one of our managers. Our style is based on storytelling, our unique way of sharing with you the history and stories of people, art, culture, food, traditions. Book your tour now to enjoy the best of Sicily!



  • 7:30 Hotel or b&b pick-up by car or minivan
  • 9:15 Stagnone Lagoon Boat Cruise and visit of the Island of Motya
  • 13:30 Lunch (not included)
  • 14:45 Departure from the Stagnone Lagoon towards Palermo
  • 17:30 Hotel or b&b drop-off
  • Booking Box

    Your experience starting from €89,00
    Number of People:
    * Date:

    Customise your Experience

  • Options

    • Internet connection: €10 per person.
    • Customisation: if you prefer a shorter or a longer tour, to add or remove some points of interest, and/or if you require different hours, please contact us.
    • For a guide speaking a language different from English or Italian, please contact us.
    • For luxury services please contact us.
    • For special needs please contact us: convertible car seats for babies and foldable wheelchairs may be rented at €15 each.
    • For a tour leader service (cheaper than the guide service, only general information is provided) or a driver service (the cheapest option, good for those who don't need information about the sites), please contact us.
  • Specifications

    • Frequency: daily (except Christmas Day and New Year's Day).
    • Departure: 7:30 from your hotel or b&b in Palermo's city centre. The time may slightly vary according to the total number of participants, so it will be confirmed via email; if your hotel or b&b is outside Palermo's city centre please contact us.
    • Duration: 10 hours.
    • Number of participants: 1-8, for more people please contact us.
    • Type of tour: open (people from different groups may join in), though limited to 8 people in total; for a private tour please contact us.
    • Location: Stagnone Lagoon and Island of Motya - province of Trapani.
    • Modality: by car or minivan.
    • Dress code: none; it is recommended to wear comfortable shoes.
    • Contribution: 1 person €219, 2 people €149 per person, 3-4 people €119 per person, 5-6 people €99 per person 7-8 people €89 per person.
    • What is included: hotel or b&b pick-up and drop-off by car or minivan, guide speaking English and Italian.
    • Entry tickets: not included.

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