Posts Tagged 'Agrigento and the Valley of Temples'

Offseason Travel: Exploring the Ruins of Sicily

Studying abroad or traveling through Europe this fall? Escape the crowds in France and mainland Italy and head south to Sicily. Blending Roman and Greek culture, Sicily is a jewel of the Mediterranean. Avoids the crowds and visit during the offseason. I went to Sicily during the winter and found it the warmest destination on my Europe trip. As a San Francisco native, sunny skies and 55 degrees weather feels perfect. To my Sicilian relatives, it’s “freezing!” You’ll quickly discover many kind-natured Sicilians as well as hundreds of historical landmarks. Here are a few places to consider:

Segesta

Sicily is Surrounded by Ancient Treasures

Sicily is Surrounded by Ancient Treasures

Set amid a backdrop of rolling hills, Segesta is a well-preserved Doric temple in northwest Sicily. It’s lies on the outskirts of Palermo, in Trapani. Dating to the 5th century B.C., Segesta existed for 1,800 years under successive waves of Greeks, Romans, Muslims, and Normans. In his Aeneid, Virgil refers to Segesta as a prosperous city, but by the thirteenth century the city had all but been abandoned.

Agrigento and the Valley of Temples

Agrigento’s Valley of Temples is nearly deserted, save a small collection of loyal Japanese tourists. The crown jewels include the Temple of Juno, the Temple of Hercules, and the Temple of Concordia. The 5th century B.C. Temple of Concordia was preserved after being converted into a church in the 6th century A.D.  Gnarled olive trees also blanket the site. If you have time, catch the majestic Temples lit up at night. A couple other finds: the 13th-century church, Abbazia di Santo Spirito, and the Museo Regionale Archeologico.

Syracuse

Over 2,700 years old, Syracuse once served as the capital of Sicily. Roman philosopher and statesman, Cicero called Syracuse “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all.” Don’t miss the Parco Archeologico della Neapolis. One of Italy’s greatest archaeological gardens, it offers the Teatro Greco, Latomia del Paradiso, and Anfiteatro Romano. Check out the Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi as well. You’ll quickly discover why Syracuse rivaled Athens in cultural importance. Mathematician and philosopher Archimedes, playwright Aeschylus, and poet Sappho all lived in Syracuse. Plato also frequented the town.

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