Valley Of The Temples, Agrigento: Sicily’s Greek Heritage

Valley of the Temples

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Nestling among the wilds of the Sicilian landscape, close to Agrigento, the Valley of the Temples comes as a surprise. Sicily is unmistakeably Italian: we had explored hilltowns and Roman remains, and spent long evenings with Italian food and wine. But here we were, in a pocket of ancient Greece, surrounded by Doric columns and camera-toting Japanese tourists.

Classical Landscape Of The Valley Of The Temples

Most visitors are aware of Italy’s long history, but Sicily’s Greek legacy is less well known. The city of Agrigento was one of the most important Greek colonies in the 6th century BCE, and this area has some of the best preserved Greek remains outside of Greece itself. Much of the Greek heritage still lies underground, but the Valley of the Temples, just outside modern Agrigento, has been excavated and is one of Sicily’s main tourist attractions. The temples were partially destroyed by the Carthaginians, restored by the Romans and then damaged by a mixture of human and seismic activity.

Two Greek temples
Pinnable image of the Temple of the Dioscuri and the Temple of Concordia

Today you can walk among the remains of seven temples, all facing east towards the rising sun. This is in fact not a valley, but a ridge, and the temples are perched on the hillside, creating a dramatic classical landscape. Beyond the temples are the remains of a necropolis.

Valley of the Temples, Sicily
The temples are perched on top of the ridge, amid a dramatic Sicilian landscape

The ancient city of Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. This is partly because of the importance of the town in classical times, but also a recognition that the very well preserved row of Doric temples is one of the most important Greek monuments in the world.

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Kolymbetra Garden

We left the tour groups to their exploration and went in search of another remarkable site, the Kolymbetra Garden. Sunk into a basin in the Valley of the Temples, the basin was created around 500 BCE for irrigation purposes. In later centuries Arabic settlers planted the area with citrus trees. The garden became known as a place of beauty and reflection and throughout the centuries it inspired Roman and Italian poets including Virgil and Pindaro. More recently it has featured in works by the playwright Pirandello and the detective novelist Andrea Camilleri.

Kolymbetra Garden, Sicily
Looking up to a ruined doric column from the Kolymbetra Garden

For us it was a place of calm. We had the garden almost to ourselves and we spent some time wandering through the olive and citrus groves, admiring the freely growing cacti and succulents, and picking our way between ripe oranges and limes that had fallen to the floor.

Olive grove, Sicily
We walked past old olive trees

But finally it was time to leave this Arcadian idyll. We bid farewell to the garden and the Greek ruins and went in search of some very Italian pasta for lunch.

About Bewitched by italy

Bewitched By Italy is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), but Italy remains one of my favourite destinations. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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