Have you ever thought about Greece in summer? Sure you did! In summer, before summer, after summer, practically, the whole year long. I do it, too, quite regularly, by the way: those amazing gems of islands, white sands, turquoise limpid waters, unique cuisine and culture, antique language and traditions and those breathtaking temple views that bring us back in time to the legends and myths of the Ancient Greece.
But the immortal glory of the Ancient Greece managed to exercises its charm and strength not only over centuries but also over the seas, covering numerous water miles, overcoming distances and difficulties. So that, at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, on the rich island of Sicily, you can find a piece of Greece away from Hellas. Actually, quite a number of such pieces. And one of them, the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site of the Valley of Temples in Agrigento, is ready to unveil its particular charm to the curious here and now.
The archaeological park of the Valley of Temples, one of the spotlights directed onto the Greek culture on the western coast of the island of Sicily, is a unique landmark boasting a number of well-preserved Doric temples of the Hellenic origin and the ruins of the ancient Greek colony of Akragas, known today as Agrigento. The whole picturesque area, lost among almond and olive trees and overlooking the generous expanse of the sea, strikes with its vastness equal to 1300 hectares.
The growth of the importance of the neighbouring city of Gela brought about the birth of one of the most important Greek colonies in Sicily, the ancient town of Akragas, founded around 582 B.C. by the colonists from the Greek island of Rhodes.
The city grew up between the two rivers – Akragas and Hypsas, the confluence of which to the south of the chosen site served as a port. The structure of the city was typical of the period consisting of the acropolis with its sacred and defensive functions, the centre of Akragas that hosted private houses and public buildings, and the burial area of necropolis situated outside the city, which at the end of the 6th century B.C. got surrounded by a wall 12 km long with 9 gates leading to its centre.
The best and the worst moments in the history of Akragas were tightly connected to Carthage and the Punic Wars. The peak of its glory and flourishing was reached under the reign of the tyrant Theron, the victor of the battle of Himera, in which he defeated the Carthaginians, and continued in the times of democracy, both periods dating back to 5th century B.C. That was the time of the erection of a number of the iconic temples in the city’s valley.
The destiny of the Greek colony depended entirely on the outcome of the war between Rome and Carthage for the influence in the Mediterranean. And the second Punic conflict brought about the destruction to Akragas.
When Akragas was conquered by the Romans in 210 B.C., it received its modern name of Agrigentum and its economic prosperity started to grow due to the development of the sulfur commerce.
In 829 Agrigentum was conquered by the Moors, the inhabitants of the Valley of Temples started to move towards the hill, where the modern city developed in the course of the Middle Ages.
Here is the list of some of the most enchanting Agrigento temples and sanctuaries:
- Temple of Isis
- Temple of Demetra
- Sanctuary of the Chtonic Deities and Temple of the Dioskouroi
- Sanctuary of Asclepius
- Temple of Hephaestus
- Temple of Athena
- Temple of Concordia
- Temple of Olympian Zeus
- Temple of Juno
- Temple of Heracles
… and some tips to get ready for the visit:
1. Opening hours: the archaeological park of the Valley of Temples is open every day from 08:30 am to 7:00 pm.
2. Ticket price: the cost of an entrance ticket is euro 10,00 per person.
3. Ticket price: if you decide to extend your visit to the Archeological Museum, the cost of the entrance ticket will increase to reach euro 13,50 per person.
4. FREE ENTRANCE is every first Sunday of the month.
5. Ticket price reductions: There is a ticket price reduction of 50% for the EU citizens aged between 18 and 25.
6. FREE ENTRANCE is also granted to the EU citizens under 18, teachers of public and private schools, and some others.
7. Evening openings: from July 15th till July 30th and from August 1st till September 17th 2017 evening and night visits of the park are held:
a) in this period the park is open on working days from 7:00 pm till 10:00 pm with exit at 11:00 pm.
b) in this period the park is open on holidays and the days preceding them from 7:00 pm till 11:00 pm with exit at 00:00 pm.
8. Travelling by car. If you travel by car, which is the most convenient way to reach the Valley of Temples from any part of Sicily and even from Agrigento itself, it is useful to know that every ticket office of the park has its own parking.
9. Maps and guides: it would be a good idea to grab a map and even an audio guide (at an additional fee) at the ticket office: the area of the park is really huge, it is nice to know where and why to go.
10. Watch out for the burning sun! If you plan your visit on a hot summer day, wear a hat, put on some good sunscreen and bring some water. You will certainly need all of it!
The valley is very hot in summer. If you can’t stand high temperatures, opt for an evening visit.
Sicily has always been and still remains the beating heart of the Mediterranean pumping some vital liquid into its naval blood vessels, the crossroads of the region, the place that allowed cultures to meet and melt, influences to flourish and tolerance to exist. From the Normans to the Moors, from the Greeks to the Romans, the paradise island and its satellites keep on welcoming the travelling, accept the asking, help those in need. And here is where my sincere wish to Sicily is directed to: may any new arrival bring some beauty to enrich the overwhelming local culture, for the diversity is Sicily’s indisputable treasure.
Sicily’s and ours.
Photo credits: Machs Gut ©.