One of the highlights of our Sicily trip was our visit to the Greek ruins just outside Agrigento. The site is called the Valley of the Temples. We were not sure we were heading in the right direction, but soon a temple loomed in front of us from its lofty position above the plain…it is on a ridge, not in a valley after all.
The site is well managed. There is an enormous car park at one end, beside the ticket office. From here it is possible to take a taxi to the upper end of of the site. If you enter through the car park end, small vehicles like golf buggies will take you through the site to the end. It is 2 kilometres long and on a hot day walking both ways can be a bit much. We chose the taxi option. The entry fee was €10 and the taxi about €8.
The first temple we came upon was the Giunone, built between 450 and 440BC.
This is the highest part of the ridge and offers great views of the site and the city of Agrigento in the distance.
What a pity these ancient olive trees can’t speak and tell us of what went on over the years.
Part of the 12 kilometre wall that surrounded the Ancient Greek site remains.
You can get up close to see how it was constructed.
There are cavities in the rock face with curved upper surfaces. These are tombs called arcosolia and were built between the 4th and 7th centuries AD.
Excellent sculptures have been recovered on the site. This one is a togati statue uncovered in the excavation of 2005.
Naturally there is a cafe for lunch or a snack…this is Italy.
A little further on is the Doric Temple of Concordia built between 440BC and 430BC. It is well preserved thanks to a much later modification when it was covered with white stucco.
When we were there Igor Mitoraj’s sculpture Ikaro Caduto (2011) was resting comfortably in front of the temple. It seemed appropriate. I have seen Ikarus in Pietrasanta…he gets around.
In 1921 Sir Anthony Hardcastle, a captain in the British army, built a villa on the site and lived there until his death in 1933. He financed many of the excavations.
Thanks to him 8 columns if the Temple of Hercules were re erected and many ancient monuments were discovered. I can’t imagine that anyone would be allowed to build a house nowdays, but at least he did good things. His bust sits in the courtyard in front of his house.
Next stop on our wandering was the Temple of Hercules.
The nearby Temple of Zeus has been reduced to a pile of rocks, which is a pity as it was the largest Doric Temple in the western world. It was built from local calarenite stone probably between 488 and 472BC. The stone has been looted for centuries. In the 18th century it was used as a stone quarry for the construction of the dock of Empedode (1749-1763)…criminal really.
The next area we visited was the Sanctuary of Chthonic Deities and the Temple of the Dioskouroi. Demeter and Persephone, mother and daughter team, were the patrons of fertility.
We wandered in the warm, spring Sicilian sun for several hours being amazed and awed by these incredible ruins. The site is well managed and kept in excellent condition.
Huge numbers of people descend on the ruins every day, but the area is vast and certainly didn’t seem too crowded the day we were there.
Don’t miss the Greek ruins at Agrigento!