I have heard and read a great deal about our destination for today and knew it was a must see stop on our itinerary. I first learned of its existence from a friend who spent three months recently in Sicily and whose blog I was glued to for every entry as she painted glorious descriptions of all the places I was adding to my list. More recently I stumbled on books in my local library by two Australian travel writers, Peter Moore and Shamus Sillar whose experiences were both very different but they both agreed that Agrigento is one place any visitor to Sicily must see. And if I wasn't already convinced, Pino was going to make sure we went there.
We start the morning with a stroll around the corner to the local cafe for a coffee before breakfast. I am yet to find a cafe latte which comes even close to the coffee I love back in Australia. The persistent problem is the UHT milk. So I am switching to macchiato for the time being. At 0.80 it is a pleasure I can enjoy daily.
Our first hurdle on our way to Agrigento is getting out of town. We were trying a different route and it started out promising, more straight-forward and wider streets, until we reached a roadworks crew and Jeremy poked his head out the window to ask if we were on the right road to Gela. We were told 'no'. We would have to turn around. Damn.
Our second hurdle on our way to Agrigento was navigating our way through Gela. Not a pretty town, it warrants a by-pass. Other towns have them. It's as though the only way to get people to go to Gela is to make sure there is no way they can avoid it. This would be fine if there was reliable sign-posting but we constantly find that there will be one sign for our destination and then no more. We reach another intersection or roundabout and every other town in the region is sign-posted except the one we want to go to.
Once outside of Gela the landscape becomes more picturesque. We begin to catch glimpses of the sea and once or twice even spot sand. We just don't see any obvious way to get to them. There is a lot of either private rural property or private resort property. Eventually, we come across a side road that leads to the beach and set up camp with a hired umbrella. We are situated at a point about halfway along a long unremarkable stretch of scrubby, flat coastline which could be more appealing with a bit less litter. Richard swims out about 30 metres and finds the water is still only waist deep. 20 metres further he reaches a small marker buoy which instantly arouses the attention of the lifeguard who loudly blasts on a whistle until the rebellious Australian returns to the safety of the marked swimming area.
The Valley of Temples outside Agrigento is actually a ridge, in my opinion. The almost perfect greek temple dominated the skyline as we approached but this is only one of many ancient structures on the site. Once past the entry to the archaeological park the roadway leads straight to an instantly recognisable greek temple; an almost exact replica of the Parthenon in Athens. Sicilians are quick to point out that their greek temple is more perfect than its far more famous Athenian lookalike, and not just because it is in Sicily they will add. I have to agree. It is stunningly beautiful. There are two more colonnaded structures as well as byzantine relics, paleo-christian catacombs and necropoli. There is also the "Sanctuary of the Chthonic Deities and Temple of the Dioskouroi". The remains of this temple stand a little apart from the others. The four columns left standing are a reconstruction from the 19th century which include some inaccuracies, while surrounding it a veritable junkyard of ancient chunks of column lay scattered all about.
Civilisations across the millennia have left their mark here and as we headed back along the path to leave, our son pointed out his contribution. A patch of prickly pear where he and his fellow exchange students carved their names into one of the succulent's segments to join the hundreds of others that had been made before them.
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