Monday, May 7, 2018

Sicily: Agrigento

During our two week trip to Sicily, Agrigento was the farthest we ventured from the mountain village of Bronte.



I don't think the "road" from Bronte to Agrigento really deserves to be classified as a road. It was more like a winding collection of potholes. I felt like I was riding in a horse-drawn carriage down a dirt road because of how bumpy it was.

The bonus of the crazy commute through the Sicilian wilderness were the amazing views of smoking Mt. Etna. The downside was that we popped a tire on the way back. It was a miracle that it happened not too far from where we were staying, and that we were able to get it fixed before heading back to France!


Agrigento's claim to fame is its "Valle dei Templi," or "Valley of the Temples." This archeological park boasts the remains of seven ancient Greek temples (mostly from around the 5th century BC), all in various stages of restoration. The least impressive consists of a few rocks on the ground, while the most impressive (pictured above) is almost completely intact.

Besides the plentiful amount of ruins, from the park we had great views of the modern town of Agrigento and the surrounding green hills and Mediterranean in the distance. Sicily is gorgeous! Even if their roads suck. 







We started out at the Temple of the Dioscuri, of which one corner is still standing.



Nearby, this is all that remains of what was once the largest Doric temple ever constructed- the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It had giant statues holding it up in place of columns. This is one statue that's been pieced together.


The Temple of Heracles has 8 columns still standing. I caught my first glimpse of it from the gelato shop where we stopped to keep up our strength. It was a long walk through the park.


 


The Concordia Temple is pretty miraculously preserved. It sits on top of a hill with some of the best views in the park. Who needs the Parthenon? Just come to Sicily!
 







By this point we were pretty tired, but we managed to drag ourselves up one last hill and towards one last temple- the Temple of Juno.

 



 


The views of the Concordia Temple were pretty spectacular from there!

 

Here's the whole crew- it was an amazing opportunity to travel through Sicily together.


We originally planned on stopping by the modern city as well, but after hours of exploring we were pretty spent. Not to mention, no one wanted to brave that "road" in the dark.

In case you missed any of our Sicilian adventures:
Bronte
Taormina
Acireale
Catania
Syracuse

P.S. We saw some goats.




Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Sicily: Syracuse

After more than a week of delicious food and beautiful cities, I thought I'd seen it all in Sicily. Oh how wrong I was! On one of our longer day trips from Bronte, a small village near Mt. Etna, we explored a city with ancient ruins, impressive architecture, and lovely beaches.




Our day started out with snow! I didn't think it was possible with Sicily being so far south. However, Bronte is in the mountains and it was actually pretty chilly there in February.



We left the meager amount of snow behind when we drove down to the coastal city of Syracuse.

Syracuse (Siracusa in Italian) was one of the major powers of the ancient world. It was a Greek city-state, and is a tourist destination today because of the impressive Greek architecture that remains. 

Even before we visited the ancient ruins, I immediately fell in love with these beautiful pastel streets. 10 minutes after leaving the car, I was already daydreaming about being rich enough to buy a vacation home here.








The city's main cathedral was a surprise. It looks baroque on the the outside, but parts of the interior date from the 5th century B.C. 




The columns of the original Greek temple were incorporated into the current cathedral (built in the 7th century A.D.). 

After some lunch (can you say homemade pasta?), we took the long way back to the car to stroll along the coast.





A short drive later, we arrived at the Archeological Park of Syracuse. Our first stop there was the Ear of Dionysus- a limestone cave carved into the side of the mountain. The cave was used for water storage and later as a prison for political opponents of the city's tyrant ruler Dionysus. Legend has it that Dionysus enjoyed that the perfect acoustics of the cave amplified the screams of prisoners being tortured inside.





On that note.

Syracuse's Greek Theater (5th century B.C.) is very well preserved and could seat 15,000 spectators. It was one of the largest and most impressive in the Greek world. The theater used to border the sea (like in Taormina), but the coast has since moved a few miles away.





The Roman Amphitheater (3rd century A.D.) is just a few minute's walk away. It is not quite as well preserved despite being a few centuries newer. While the Greeks used their theater for more civilized entertainment like plays, the Romans preferred to use theirs for bloody gladiator fights. Some archeologists think that one of the uses for the sunken room in the middle (with attached canals) was to collect blood from the arena.