Valley of the Temples, Agrigento

Girgento was a city in Southern Sicily until Mussolini and his fascist buddies decided:

‘From now on your city is to be called Agrigento.

‘But wait Benito, I prefer the other name!’ said a poor farmer who had lived there all his life.

Mussolini drew his pistol…

 

Nobody had anything good to say about Agrigento: ugly, famous for crime, badly planned…  The view from a distance is what is most often complained about, with seemingly random high rises built during the 70’s obscuring the vista.  It was an interesting place, definitely not ugly once you are walking on the streets.

Agrigento looking from The Valley of the Temples

 

The city is built on a large hill and the walk to the summit is wonderful.  Narrow winding alleys lead through densely packed tiny houses until you finally discover the 14th century Norman cathedral.  The city is very quiet  at night and there are no bars or nightclubs, just sleepy restaurants.  Check a guide to find a good place to eat though to avoid receiving the slop that I was presented with.

The Temple of Juno

 

The main reason to visit Agrigento is to see the finest Greek temples anywhere outside Greece.  La Valle dei Templi/Valley of the Temples is what remains of a hugely important city of the Magna Graecia era. The remains date from the 5th century BC and incredibly one of the temples, Tempio di Concordia, is preserved almost perfectly.
 

The Temple of Concordia

 

The ruins are split both sides of the road that leads from the autostrada (motorway) into the city.  As you pass through areas of green fields suddenly you will see a huge golden Greek Doric temple set on a hilltop.  As you look around it becomes clear that there is a line of them, 7 in total, running along a ridge.

Just as the city’s name was changed, the names of the temples were also.  During the Renaissance, the names Juno, Concordia, Heracles and so on were added for artistic affect.

Villa Aurea

 

True to their nature, the English get in the middle of everything.  Here though, an Englishman called Alexander Hardcastle, actually built his house in the middle of the temples [pictured above].  It is located between the Temple of Juno and the Temple of Concordia and overlooks the city.  Between 1925 and 1932, he gave financial assistance to the restoration work.  Who says money can’t open doors?

 

Built 2500 years ago

 

The temples are regarded as one of the most impressive sights in Sicily, and rightly so.  A visitor would need perhaps 2 hours to see everything.  Someone who is interested in archaeology or history could easily spend a day immersed in the wonder of the site only to be finally dragged away.  The temples are illuminated at night, when they look quite simply mind-blowing.
Look at pictures of the Greek theatre at Taormina.


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JohnPBrady

John P. Brady is an Irish writer, Financial Trader and occasional journalist.  He divides his time between Ireland and Italy.  His interests include travel writing, social comment and eccentric debauchery.

9 thoughts on “Valley of the Temples, Agrigento

  • June 2, 2012 at 03:10
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    I visited Agrigento in 2005. Seeing your beautiful photos makes me want to go back again…RIGHT NOW!

    Reply
    • June 5, 2012 at 15:55
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      Thank you Zelda! That makes me feel like taking more pictures! I took lots of the fabulous ceilings in Catania which are all decorated with frescos. I’ll put them up soon, maybe today. Suggestions for topics etc are welcome!

      Reply
  • July 12, 2012 at 13:36
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    I’ve been to all except Sicily. If you go to Rome (which is very romntaic), allow yourself at least 3 full days to explore and soak it in; there is so much to see! I also recommend going to Portofino for just a night (on Italian Riviera). There’s not much to do but it is intimate, tiny & the lobster is out of this world.

    Reply
    • July 12, 2012 at 17:32
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      I just checked out Portofino on google images…beautiful. Thanks for mentioning it! A lot of the coast between Genoa and Rome is similar to this (take Cinqueterre for example). A very nice train journey I took several times was Pisa – Rome where you see much of this type of rocky, dramatic coastline.

      Reply
  • August 15, 2012 at 21:56
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    Is it ok if I use part of your article in an article I am writing? I will credit you and link back to your article.

    Reply
  • September 22, 2013 at 22:31
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    Have you visited Castelamar de Gulfp

    Or faviano.?

    Reply
    • October 2, 2013 at 15:02
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      Do you mean Favignana? No not yet and I was so close earlier this year… It’s on the list (a long list!) I was in Castellammare del Golfo for some lunch a few weeks back en route to San Vito lo Capo… Truly beautiful area of the island

      Reply
  • October 3, 2013 at 16:13
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    I can recommend Locanda di Terra as a good place to eat. It’s part of the ‘slow food’ movement, which doesn’t mean that you get crappy service, but rather excellent food that’s the very opposite of MaccyD and others of their ilk. The pistacchio torta that we had for pudding is still appearing in my dreams two weeks later.

    Reply

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