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Old Agrigento Town


From a distance the town of Agrigento is a big very visible and very ugly blot on the landscape.  It is fun however to drive up and park the car in one of the car parks near the Piazzale Aldo Moro at the top of the hill into town, and then wander up the pedestrian only main drag of the old town, the via Athenae, around 7.30pm.  It's better to be male and over 50 and a smoker if you want to blend in with the dense and slowly moving, meeting, greeting and chatting Passeggiata throng in this atmospheric old street.  There are several trattorias in the side streets which offer good (cheap) meals - try for example the Trattoria Atenea di Sanzo Salvatore - via Ficani 32.


Incidentally, the via Athenae also leads (via the via Porcello on the upper side) to the little (Cistercian?) Abbaziale di S Spirito, where the nuns make a particularly moorish Frutti di Martorana.  Probably more interestingly, the area also contains the Cistercian Abbey Church of San Nicola di Agrigento, built in the transitional Romanesque / Gothic style and from what one can glean (we did not get there - next time!) not spoiled by inept (baroque) "improvements".  Its terrace also has a magnificent view of the valley of the temples (one would expect nothing less from the Cistercians!).


The "Valley of the Temples" in Agrigento is in fact a ridge, on which lie the remains of half a dozen temples and the wall of the great Greek city of Agrigento - all around 2,500 years old.  At the top end of the ridge the Tempio di Giunone (Juno) was built in 470BC.

The best preserved temple is the Concordia, built in the mid 400s BC, though for which God it is unclear.  The temple is the best preserved because it became a Christian Church in the 500s (AD) whilst the other temples were knocked about a bit by the newly ascendant but insecure Christians.  It would also have been the Christians who cut the arches in the inner wall.


On the day we were there we got a well oiled goddess called Cristina as well. 

Looking back up the old city wall from the temple of Concordia to the temple of Juno


Tempio di Ercole (Hercules), a bit further down the road.


Just a corner is left of the Tempio di Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux) - at the far end of "temple row".


Above:  Looking back up " temple row" from the Temple of Jupiter - the temple of Hercules is on the right, Concordia up the hill and Juno in the far distance.


Right:  A reproduction of a fallen "telamone" - a 7.5M figure used as a column in the Tempio di Giove (Jupiter).  And to spoil the rural illusion of most photos you see of the "Valley of the Temples" of Agrigento, the reality is that the ugly city of Agrigento is the backdrop to them all (if you look North that is).



The Trattoria dei Templi (card below) is half way up the hill into town - outstanding grilled fish and a suppe di cozze with succulent mussels and a soup base with a touch of chilli.  Thanks to Yoram and Marilyn Anselm for an outstanding night out here.



There are also several good restaurants down at the lido, and at San Leone (especially Leon d'Oro).


You would not go to Agrigento in search of special hotels!!  The Jolly Hotel (via la Malfa 3 - half way up the hill into town) is a large modernish three star job catering (like all Jollys!) efficiently for business travel, meetings and coach tours.  The back bedrooms (away from the hill traffic noise) have views over the Concordia Temple which is floodlit at night.  Parking is available on the wide pavement outside if the manager has not already put his large red Ferrari there.   You need transport for restaurants, but this is true of all Agrigento hotels.  It's not worth paying the premium for the so called four star hotels - they are not!


Map - The Michelin Green Guide to Italy has a really good little map of the Agrigento area which is all you will need to get around.



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