The Agrigento Valley of the Temples in Sicily
A childhood dream comes true as I wander through the ancient archaeological area of the Agrigento Valley of the Temples, now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Perched up on a hilltop in the southwest shore of Sicily is the magnificent Agrigento Valley of the Temples. Established as the ancient Greek city of Akragas in the 6th century BC, Agrigento became one of the leading cities of the Mediterranean region, with a population estimated to be between 200,000 and 800,000 people.
Like so many of the great ancient cities, Agrigento has had a chequered history. It was sacked and squabbled over by the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Vandals, the Byzantines and the Normans, before becoming part of a united Italy under Garibaldi.
When I was about 11, I was given a book on the ancient world which totally captivated me. I was deeply fascinated by the topic and harboured hopes of studying archaeology for some years as a result of my interest. So I was totally thrilled to discover that, from my hotel window in the old town, I could see the Concordia Temple – one of the best preserved of the buildings. This is, in part, due to the fact that it was converted for use at a Christian church in 597AD, with the area around it used as catacombs for early Christian tombs.
Wandering around the area was a dream come true for me. The views from the temples, back out to the sea, are timeless and it’s so easy to imagine the lives of the ancients as I trod the same landscape as they had – so very long ago.
In the archaeological area, just outside of the old part of the city, much of the ancient site of Akragas is still unexcavated today, but the remains of the giant Doric temples that stand proudly among the open fields are testament to the importance of this ancient province.
The archaeological area of the Agrigento Valley of the Temples, is today a UNESCO World Heritage site because of it’s outstanding universal value. It is considered to be one of the most significant classical sites of the ancient world and the remains of the Greek buildings are thought to be the most well preserved outside of Greece itself.