Destination> Agrigento

Agrigento - Sicily

One of the most interesting of all Sicilian cities, Agrigento should be a stop for any tourist who visits the southern coast of Sicily—you will only need a day or two to explore the archeological area and take a stroll on the streets of the modern city. The latter lies only a few miles from the sea and can be reached by train, bus and boat. It has many charming little shops, luxurious and reasonably priced lodgings, pricey boutiques and, for all those with a sweet tooth, plenty of candy stalls and bustling ice cream parlors along the Via della Vittoria. But the beauty of the city is almost overshadowed by the beauty of the famous Valley of the Temples, impressive Greek architectural ruins that attract tourists from all over the world.

The city of Agrigento was formerly Akragas. It was founded by the people of Gela in about 580 BC. The city was set on fire by the Carthaginians in 406 BC, then later taken over by the Romans in 210 BC and renamed Agrigentum. Later, Agrigento was under the rule of the Arabs and Normans and its people traded with North African countries.

The Valley is filled with temples offered by the city's inhabitants to their deities in gratitude for victories in battle. Over time and after innumerable wars (like the Punic Wars), many of the temples have been destroyed and only a few pieces remain. Probably the most renowned is the Temple of Concord, one of the best-preserved Doric temples that was built between 450 and 440 BC. Its imposing effect is created by its perfectly balanced features and total harmony of golden stones that form the 34 columns. It faces the east, like all the others, following both the Greek and Roman religious belief that it had to face the sunrise.

The Temple of Juno has the same structure and stands high up at the end of the Hill of Temples. Walking toward it, you can see holes in the ground that mark an early Christian burial ground to your left. The sacrificial altar of the temple is outside, as was customary in ancient Greek religious cults.

The Temple of Hercules is the oldest of the Agrigentine temples, and so it is in the worst condition. Only eight columns of the original 15 remain after being re-erected in 1928. The ruins of the cella clearly show that an earthquake was the cause of major destruction. But there is more to see, like the Roman Necropolis, the Sanctuary of Esculapius, the Regional Architectural Museum and even the souvenir stalls that sell reproductions of the monuments, postcards and traditional Sicilian crafts. Just one piece of advice-wear comfortable shoes, there is a lot of walking to do!

Trains arrive from Palermo, Catania and Enna at the Piazza Marconi station daily. Ticket prices range from $5 to $10. Buses arrive from Caltanissetta, Catania (including its airport), Sciacca, Palermo, Trapani and Syracuse daily. Ticket prices range from $8 to $15.


Places of Interest

Places of Interest