We had an early departure because we had a long drive ahead of us. Our bus was parked five blocks away, so we were again grateful that the Rick Steves Company insists that its tour participants take only as much luggage as they can handle themselves. Once on the bus, Susanna received a phone call from the hotel saying that one of the room keys had not been returned. Nick checked his pockets. Uh oh! He made a mad dash back to the hotel and then ran the whole way back to the bus. Off we went southeast to Agrigento.
Our first stop in Agrigento was its Museo Archeologico. Yes, we had been to several archaeology museums already, but they all contain different artifacts from different civilizations. Agrigento’s archaeology museum has a dazzling display of Greek painted ceramics.
The Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples) is one of Southern Europe’s most compelling archaeological sites. Few Americans know that such exquisite Greek structures exist outside of Greece, but Sicily was part of ancient Magna Grecia. The Temples are simply breathtaking. Keep in mind that there are long uphill walks between the Temples. The fact that we had been there in 2005 did not make seeing them any less inspiring. Also, our knowledgeable guide, Michele Gallo, made the experience all the more worthwhile.
The colonnade of the Tempio di Hera is still intact, along with an altar that was used for sacrifices. From there, we walked past an 800 year old olive tree and some Byzantine tombs built into the city walls, to the Tempio della Concordia. There are a few reasons why it has survived practically intact since it was built in 430 BC. It was converted into a
Christian church in the 6th century and was reenforced at that time. Also it was built on a layer of clay that has acted as a natural shock absorber. Next is the Tempio de Ercole (Hercules). Archaeologists have been able to restore 8 of it 38 columns.
After that, there’s the crumbled ruin of the Tempio di Giove (Zeus). This would have been the largest temple ever built if its construction had not been interrupted by the Carthaginians and then tumbled by an earthquake. Then there’s the Tempio dei Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux). believe me, it is well worth the long walk to see it all.
The entire group had dinner together. The first course was a fennel, orange and onion salad. Nick and I knew that fennel has the same flavor as licorice, of which we are not fond, but “when in Rome…” or in this case, Agrigento. Actually, the taste was mild, and the crunch was great. I haven’t mentioned that to Nick and me, salad implies lettuce, but that is not necessarily so in Sicily.
The salad was followed by pasta, and the main course was cod with potatoes and tomatoes. The dessert, almond mousse, was memorable.
We had walked 9,831 steps and climbed the equivalent of 19 flights of stairs.