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Would you like to visit the “most beautiful city made by mortals”? Book cheap air tickets to Agrigento and see what Pindar, the great ancient Greek poet meant! What if the Valley of the Temples is more of a hill, rather than a valley? The excavated and extremely well-preserved temples that stand there rank among the top ancient Greek monuments in the world, relics of the majestic history of Magna Graecia, never failing to impress ever since the 5th century BC. Beyond the Valley, Agrigento is an idyllic, pleasant and lively city, with a particularly charming atmosphere and energy. Picturesque squares, elegant cathedrals and palazzi, restaurants, trattorie, bars and many cheap hotels in Agrigento; it’s all there and await you, for the perfect city-break and an unforgettable experience!
No visit to Sicily could be considered complete without Agrigento included in the itinerary, once the second most important city of the ancient world. Within short distance from Palermo, Agrigento is the perfect destination for a short city-break, to spend some quality time around the most significant ancient Greek monuments outside Greece!
Agrigento was founded in the 6th century BC by the Greeks of Gela, colonists from Rhodes and Crete. The new colony was named Akragas, after the nearby river and knew tremendous development, especially during the 5th century BC.
The Valley of the Temples is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s also a lot more; an eternal monument of the ancient Greek heritage, a remnant of Magna Graecia and a reminder of the majesty of human creativity and prosperity.
The city of Agrigento, though not impressive at first sight, it is actually a quite interesting destination, with its own wealth of attractions and personal charm. Wander around the cobbled streets of Agrigento – ladies leave the high-heels behind – and you’ll soon discover beautiful churches, impressive museums and get a glimpse of the local life.
If you’re visiting during the summer, head to the beach; we bet you’ll find the one that suits you!
The airport of Palermo (Aeroporto Falcone e Borsellino) is located 156 kilometres north of Agrigento and is accessible by bus and railway.
Getting around Agrigento
You can get around Agrigento by bus. Fares start at 1.10€ and minimum taxi fare costs 2.54€.
Your day in Agrigento begins at the city centre; allow yourselves plenty of time to wander around the idyllic medieval streets and discover little gems hiding here and there.
First stop is the Cathedral of Agrigento (Duomo), dedicated to San Gerardo, first bishop of Agrigento. Built in the 12th century, the cathedral has been damaged and restored several times, with additions that led to the present result. As you can see, the Catalan Gothic element is evident throughout the church, from the façade to the elaborate interior and the wooden ceiling, decorated with frescoes depicting scenes of the lives of saints.
The Archaeological Museum of Agrigento, nearby, is one of the most notable museums in Sicily. This is where you can find all the items of the archaeological excavations held at the Valley of the Temples, collections of ancient Greek ceramics and other ancient findings.
The ultimate highlight of Agrigento and arguably one of the most famous attractions in Italy, is the majestic Valley of the Temples (Valle dei Templi). One of the most well-preserved, well-laid and historically precious archaeological parks in Europe, the Valley of the Temples covers an area of 13 sq. kilometres and includes the ruins of the ancient city of Akragas.
The Valley is divided into eastern and western zones and includes:
- The Temple of Juno (Tempio di Giunone), a smaller version of the Temple of Concord, probably built in around 450 BC. The temple is partially preserved, with 30 of the 34 columns still standing, commanding marvellous views of the valley.
- The Temple of Concord (Tempio della Concordia), the most well-preserved and impressive of the temples, dating back to 430 BC.
The Temple of Concord is actually the second most well-preserved ancient Greek temple in the world, second only to the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens.
You might wonder why there is such a great difference in the state of preservation between the Temple of Concord and the rest of the temples that lay mostly in ruins. The Tempio della Concordia owes its current state – apart from the extensive and excellently executed restorations – to the fact that, when the Christians came to Sicily in the 6th century, instead of destroying it, they converted it into a Christian church. It was in the 18th century that it was reconverted into a temple.
The temple is Doric, with 32 Doric columns surrounding the interior, with only the roof missing. Catch it during the evening (20:00-23:00 last admission in the summer), lit in all its glory!
- The Temple of Hercules (Tempio di Ercole) represents the oldest temple of the park, dating back to the 6th century BC. A Doric temple as well, it originally had 38 columns, 8 of which still stand.
- The Temple of Olympian Zeus (Tempio di Giove Olimpico) is the largest Doric temple ever built in the world! To understand its size and importance, please see below a brief comparison among the Temple of Zeus in Agrigento, the Temple of Zeus in Athens, the Parthenon and the Temple of Concord:
- Temple of Zeus Agrigento: 52.75 m × 110 m
- Temple of Zeus Athens: 44.35 m × 110.5 m
- The Parthenon: 30.86 m × 69.5 m
- Tempio della Concordia: 16.92 m × 39.42 m
Apart from its colossal size, the Temple of Zeus was extraordinary for other reasons too; instead of the usual colonnade encountered in Greek temples, this one featured a series of half columns that were attached to a wall. The half-columns were carved and shaped to look like figures of Atlas – or Telamones - , holding the temple on their backs!
Unfortunately nothing but ruins can now be seen at the site of the temple. However, there is a plaster copy of one of the Telamones for you to see; the original structure is exhibited at the adjacent museum.
- The Temple of Castor and Pollux (Tempio di Dioscuri) is a reconstructed part of the original temple, dating back to the 5th century BC. This is the first temple you will come across, if you’re entering from the eastern gate.
- The Sanctuary of the Chthonic Divinities (Santuario delle Divinità Ctonie) contains altars and temples dedicated to Demeter, Persephone, Hades and other deities of the underworld.
To return smoothly from this trip back in time, you can head to Caos village, near Porto Empedocle, and visit the home of Luigi Pirandello, the great Italian Nobel-prized poet and writer. The house is now a museum dedicated to his life and work, exhibiting artefacts, personal items, manuscripts and other documents of Pirandello.
If you’re visiting during the summer, head to the beach; the cosmopolitan and crowded beach of San Leone will do if you love to be in the spotlight. Otherwise, continue to the otherworldly Scala dei Turchi and spend a whole day from the white rocks to the deep blue waters and vice versa – just don’t forget to pack some snacks!
The official language of Agrigento is Italian.