Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Valley of the Temples ~ Agrigento, Sicily

One of the things on my "Bucket List" was to see a real Greek Temple. I never thought that would happen in Italy! But Sicily has had several different cultures occupy it at one point or another and the Greeks were definitely there. 
 We left Palermo in the early morning and made our way away from the Tyrrhenian Sea coast and cut across the area to the Mediterranean Sea coast and to Agrigento. Along the way are views like this one of the gorgeous countryside, wildflowers and a castle on the hill!
 When we arrived with our Go Ahead Tours guide we drove through the city of Agrigento and out to the bottom of this UNESCO World Heritage site. There we got our tickets and then we drove to the top of the hill. The idea is to start at the Temple of Juno (also called the Temple of Hera), which dates around 460 BC, and walk down the hill to the bottom ruins. 
 The Temple of Juno is magnificent. I'd never seen a temple before, of course, so I was completely breathless. When you stand in front of one it seems truly impossible for it to have been built, with no cranes or other heavy equipment to help the humans, when it was built!
 A little further on is the Temple of Concordia. This is the best preserved of all the temples. It is truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. 
 As impressive as it was comical (a giant with giant junk) this modern art installation, called Fallen Ikarus by Igor Mitoraj, looks like it truly belongs here. 
 The view down the hill was impressive! It does bring up the point that many of these tours require a lot of walking. We averaged about 8 miles a day with some days more like 5 miles and some more like 10 miles, of walking. Invest in a couple of pairs of really good walking shoes and, if you don't walk a lot now, try to get in the habit of walking more before you take the trip.
 Fortunately the tours move at a comfortable pace so you never feel like you have to run to catch up. In fact, due to the fact I was photographing the area, I was often ahead of our tour group and able to sit down, enjoy the view, and wait for them to catch up with me. (yes, the guy in the photo was very cute...nice view indeed!)
 Oddly enough, one of those places I enjoyed just sitting and enjoying the cool breeze was the tomb area. Set up like a city, this was the "cemetery" section. The view down into the valley was beautiful, there were olive trees everywhere and lots of places where you can sit and just enjoy.
 On the other side of the pathway were the catacombs. This area allowed you to actually walk down among the tombs and see how these ancient people were buried.
 Looking out over the catacombs you had this lovely view of Agrigento and the trees that fill up this area. It was really beautiful!
 At the bottom of the hill is the Villa Aurea. This was the home of the last benefactor of this archaeological site and the last home of English Captain Alexander Hardcastle.
 From there we walked down to the Temple of Hercules which is the oldest of the temples. Constructed in the Doric style in the late sixth century BC there is very little of it left to see and yet, it's still just majestic!
 We collect our tickets and other memorabilia from traveling but, in this case, our guide Sylviana had to turn these tickets back into her company. This gave me an opportunity to photograph her while also photographing our tickets! She was a simply wonderful, and fun, guide for our trip!
 It was a very warm day, which is why I enjoyed sitting in the shade and enjoying the breeze from time to time, so a light vegetarian lunch sounded, and tasted like heaven to me! This is something I've made several times since we got home from the trip because it's so light and simple. Pasta, onions, basil, tomatoes and onions tossed with olive oil and paired up with crunchy bread makes for a lovely lunch on a warm day.
 Another modern art installation that seemed to fit right in was this iron Angel in the square near the restaurant and vendors. Of course there are souvenir vendors there with lots of kitschy items for you to take home with you.  I, personally, love these items. Yes, I know they are "junk" and yes, I know that, unless you are very careful, chances are the item was made in China but these magnets and wallets and tote bags are constant reminders for me of our wonderful trip so I will always bring home some small items for myself as well as for my family.
 From there we walked to the area of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Right away you can see evidence of how huge these ruins must have been. 
 We were there in mid May so the wildflowers were everywhere. Solid proof that life goes on and that nature keeps asserting itself.
 Beautiful proof. In California, where we live, Golden Poppies are normal in Spring but I'd never seen red poppies before visiting Italy. They are so gorgeous and they fill the fields here in the same way their golden cousins do in California. 
 This area is more lush to walk through and you will find lots of different trees and plants here. That included a distant cousin to the asparagus! In fact, as you can see, it really looks like an asparagus plant...from "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids"! 
Being from a place where we see the asparagus fields this was truly hysterical to us. 
This "giant" was actually one of the corners of a temple. It use to hold up a roof with 3 others. Now it's been reassembled flat so it's not only easier to see but safer too! 
If you look closely at the first photo of the "giant" you will notice that there is a "guest" on his thigh. This Sicilian Wall Lizard was just hanging out in the warm sun. I seem to find lizards and cats everywhere I travel and I love it!

Remember to click on the small photos to see the larger versions! The views are worth it!

Off to another wonderful area next week when we visit Segesta and the temples and amphitheater there! As always, you can find me on Facebook and on Instagram where I post lots of travel and nature photos every single day!


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