Museo del Satiro Danzante

Western Sicily

The jewel in Mazara's crown, this museum revolves around its central exhibit, a bronze statue known as the Satiro danzante (Dancing Satyr), hauled from the watery depths by local fishermen in the late 1990s. The sculpture depicts a bacchanalian satyr dancing wildly like a whirling dervish, arms outstretched, head flung back, the centrifugal force evident in his flowing hair. Originally, the statue would have been used in Dionysian processions; today it commands its own form of no-less-passionate worship here.

The museum is located in the deconsecrated shell of the Chiesa di Sant'Egidio. Don't miss the 25-minute film (in Italian, with English subtitles) relaying the story of the group of fishermen who were working their nets 40km off the shores of Tunisia in 1997 when they pulled up the bronze leg of a statue. Time elapsed and they continued to fish in the same area, wondering if they would ever find the rest of the statue. Extraordinarily, they did so the next year – a rare original casting from the Hellenistic era (3rd and 2nd centuries BC). In the film the boat's captain, overcome by romanticism, recounts the dramatic rescue. What followed was a 4½-year period of painstaking restoration, during which time Mazara strenuously tussled with the powers in Rome to ensure the return of the satyr, which only came home in 2003.

A combined ticket covering admission to the Museo Nazionale Pepoli in Trapani is available for €9/4.50.

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