If there were an award for picking the best location to build temples, the ancient Greeks would win it hands down. The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento is a proof of that. It is one of those amazing places that you remember for a long time after visiting, so if you are trying to decide what to see in Sicily, The Valley of the Temples should be on the top of your list.
The Archaeological Park spreads over 1300 hectares and includes the ruins of Akragas, ancient Greek city, and remains of seven Doric temples. You do not need to be a history buff to appreciate the beauty of the site.
The impressive Temple of Concordia was built in 440 B.C. and today is the best preserved in the Valley. At the end of the 6th century B.C., it was turned into a Christian basilica, which saved it from destruction. The Temple of Heracles was not so lucky: it is the oldest in the Valley and only eight of its columns remain standing. However, you can still see its former splendor and perfect proportions.
Only the foundations and main altar of the Temple of Olympian Zeus survive today. It was one of the largest of all Greek temples, however time has not been kind to the temple: ancient turmoil reduced it ruins and in the 18th century its stones and columns were used for building the dock in the nearby Porto Empedocle.
The Temple of Juno stands on a hill allowing stunning sea vistas. As with most of the temples in the Valley, the deity that it was attributed to and its original name remain unknown. Some time ago historians made a mistake ascribed it to Juno, the protector and special counselor of the state, and the name stuck to it. Fading tracks of an ancient carriageway are still visible beside the western side of the temple.
In its heyday, the city of Akragas was described as “the most beautiful of mortal cities”. Standing in the Valley of the Temples it is easy to believe: the turquoise sea stretches into horizon, cicadas sing non-stop, old olive trees and Mediterranean shrubs frame the ruins bleached by the sun. Despite its turbulent past with ancient battles, wars and earthquakes harmony, peace and eternal beauty rule here today.
Photos by: Mario Cutroneo, Ulla Siracusa, Angelo Milioto