Valley of the Temples – Agrigento
In the Valley of the Temples are the ruins of numerous temples but also necropoli, houses, streets and everything else one would expect to find in an ancient city. There is a small amphitheatre, as well as several auditoria, and a fine archeological museum. Unfortunately, most of the temples at Agrigento are in ruins, with pieces strewn about, and several appear to have never even been completed. Part of the Temple of Hera (Juno), built around 450 BC, is still intact. Its style has been compared to that of the temples at Paestum, near Salerno. The Temple of Concord (named retroactively), built around 440 BC, is in far better condition, and at night the illuminated temple is a sight to behold. A number of telamons (large segmented stone columns in the form of human figures) have been preserved.
Ancient Agrigento’s importance declined under the Byzantines and Saracens, who encouraged settlement of the medieval city (present-day Agrigento) several kilometers from the Valley of the Temples. The Normans, however, recognized its importance, and it was during the Norman rule that beautiful churches were constructed in and around the city.
The ancient city’s architectural character seems more Greek than Roman. What’s missing are the thin, reddish bricks so typical of Roman sites like Solunto and Taormina. Despite its location virtually in the shadow of a modern city, the Valley of the Temples is surrounded by olive groves and almond orchards that render its ambience altogether natural, though a number of illegally-built houses mar the landscape. The almond blossom festival held in February is a spectacular event full of folklore.
The ruins of a Roman villa are located at an archeological site a few kilometers up the coast from Porto Empedocle. Though Porto Empedocle itself is today little more than an ugly shipping town, there is a nice beach nearby. The birthplace of Luigi Pirandello, (1867-1937) a Nobel prize-winning author, is located in the tiny hamlet of Caos, where his house is a museum.
For Visitors: Sample the local cuisine if you have a chance. Except for a visit to the Valley of the Temples and the archeological museum nearby, and perhaps a quick glimpse of the cathedral and San Nicola if you’re a real medievalist, it probably isn’t worth spending more than a day in Agrigento. Since this part of Sicily is torrid from the end of June through late September, we suggest, if possible, that you visit Agrigento during spring or autumn, when the fields are still green and the wildflowers are blossoming.