Porto Empedocle is in the Province of Agrigento on the southern coast of Sicily. It has only recently become a cruise ship draw and still only gets a few. That’s good in that we did not have competition for tour resources on the day we were there (Friday, 6 April).
The tours here concentrate on surrounding towns, olive oil tasting, and walking in the Temple Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temples in this valley date from over 2,500 years ago when the Greeks controlled much of this area of the world. The ideas of building large temples were two-fold according to our guide. First, of course, honor the gods of the time. The second is to show people coming in the strength of the area. If you were an invader, approached an area, and saw large temples you would naturally think that the area had great strength as who but someone who had great power could muster the number of people and the labor to build such structures. So, in addition to homage, the temples showed strength.
The valley is about half way between Porto Empedocle on the sea and Agrigento, a city on the hill above. It’s about 3,000 acres of protected area. You can tour the whole area and access to the temples and structures is allowed at a closeness usually not seen. In many areas you can climb on the rocks that once were part of a temple. Our tour took us through the area where the larger temples stood and better preserved. In the other half of the area the temples are closer but quite a bit more collapsed so it’s hard to even visualize them.
The route is a nice trail but you can meander off the trail as well (see first photo)
We started off at the Temple of Hera, the highest temple in the valley (photo two). This temple has the most original columns still standing of all the temples in the valley. One other temple is more complete but it has been restored and so is not all original material. That would be the Temple of Concordia (photo three). It is not known which god this temple was built to honor and so it has, though history, been used to welcome sailors to the shores of this area of Sicily. Don’t be fooled, the bronze statue of Icarus is a modern (1990s era) creation. While not ancient it’s interesting and it was amazing how many people thought that it might be original (if there was such a statue it would have been melted down for the metal many centuries ago).
Further down the line and near where the first half of the valley ends is the Temple of Zeus. There is very little of it left; basically just a pile of rubble. But, the plans for the temple are known and had this temple been completed it likely would have been the largest temple ever built by the ancient Greeks (photo four)
The whole visit was a half day but there was much walking involved and even though much of it was downhill it was still a chore and with the ground as uneven as it was I’m glad I thought to bring one of my walking sticks with me. Saved me from a potential fall a few times.
I’m writing this on the day after this visit while we are at sea sailing toward our next port of Positano. I’m trying to generate enough energy to survive the next six days were we have a port a day and Positano and Civitavecchia (Rome) the next two days are going to be all-day affairs. At Positano I will be visiting the remains of Pompeii on a five hour excursion with much uneven walking. At Civitavecchia I plan to visit the Pope’s estate of Castel Gandolfo in the morning and Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica in the afternoon; again, much walking. To that end I’ve canceled the excursion I had planned when we reach Portofino the day after and plan on seeing the area on my own as I feel like it. Also, we had that destination briefing this morning and it’s possible the sea will be too rough to anchor and tender in there and so we might dock in Genoa instead. The sure knowledge I’ll be tired and the potential for going a different place was enough to cancel a tour that basically was just going to see two other YAMT (Yet Another Medieval Town) locations. Pretty but when you’ve seen houses climbing the hills in one place it’s pretty much the same for others in the same locale.
The blog may be silent for a few days now; likely until we reach Barcelona which is a two-day stop (12, 13 April). By then I should have caught up enough to post more.
Sailing on… 🙂