The Epicenter of Ancient Greek Archaeology
The main reason to come to Agrigento—called “the fairest of all mortal cities” by the ancient Greek poet Pindar—is to meander through the Valle dei Templi (Valley of Temples), a unique series of golden-stone Doric temples strung out along a long ridge facing the sea. Also a must is a visit to its first-rate archaeological museum.
The Greeks, having first arrived in Sicily in the 8th century B.C., began building these temples approximately 300 years later. Today they are one of the most photographed images in Sicily, and the largest concentration of early Greek architecture outside Greece.
The Tempio della Concordia (Temple of Concord), built around 430 B.C., is one of the showpieces of the Hellenic world; with thirty-four exterior columns still standing, it is one of the two best-preserved Greek temples to be found anywhere. Three times its size is the gargantuan Tempio di Giove (Temple of Zeus—whose Roman analogue was Jupiter or Jove), the third largest Greek temple ever built.
Archaeologists believe it was larger than St. Peter’s in Rome. The valley at sunrise or sunset is particularly impressive, and you can view it in comfort from rooms 205 or 206 of the Hotel Villa Athena, a converted 18th-century villa with an exceptional location directly across from the Temple of Concord.
In early February, fragrant white almond blossoms blanket the valley and its surrounding fields and the town turns out for its annual festival of floats, games, and marzipan in the shape of everything from fichi d’India (prickly pears) to dimpled lemons that look real enough to squeeze.