Location: Agrigento, Sicily, Italy
Visited: July 29th, 2012
Background and Opinion:
The Archaeological Area of Agrigento, also known as the Valley of the Temples (Valle Dei Templi) is one of the best preserved signs of Greek civilization and architecture still standing today. With the earliest building, the temple to Heracles, being built at around 890 BCE, the history of the temples spans almost 3000 years. By comparison, when Angkor Wat was completed, this site was almost two thousand years old! Just the fact that anything remains is a minor miracle. The main structure, the temple of the Concordia is almost completely intact giving one of the most insightful views into ancient Greek architecture.
The archaeological area is divided into two main zones across southern Agrigento. On one side of the road, upon entering the area, is the temple to Zeus and Polloux. Not much remains of these besides a few scattered columns and some large atlases, an architectural column in the shape of a man (possibly Zeus himself?) Despite this, it is still quite incredible to see. On the far side of the temples was a hidden garden which cost 5 Euro to enter. While I am going to label this a tourist trap, the jam that the lady in charge sold was definitely worth it (4 Euro). In fact, I am eating it as I type right now, almost a year later (maybe not a good idea).
The other side of the ruins has the more impressive and complete temples of Heracles, Hera, and Concordia.
Before coming across this Open Travel article, I actually had no idea what there was to do in Sicily. I almost had made up my mind to book my flight straight to Naples and work my way up, completely ignoring the southern part of Italy altogether. I am glad I didn’t as this was quite an impressive site and definitely worth the huge detour.
1) Completeness and Originality 11/15): You can’t really expect something this old to be in perfect condition. Bonus points for trying!
2) Extensiveness of the Site (7/15): The site takes about 3 hours to see completely.
3) Cultural Significance (14/25): Much like the Parthenon, this is one of the oldest signs of Greek Civilization. This site is actually 400 years older than the Greek Acropolis of Athens.
4) Personal Impact (10/15): Beautiful temples on a beautiful setting.
5) Logistics (7/10):Actually, despite being stranded there in the night time, getting there during the daytime was quite easy through public bus. However, arriving to Agrigento in the first place from anywhere can be quite a detour to other more popular sites in Italy.
6) Uniqueness 14/20): Rarely will you find temples that are 3000 years old intact.
Combined Score: 63/100
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