Templed out 😀 – San Leone (Agrigento), Sicily, Italy

We had a positively leisurely start this morning as we are already parked up a short hop from the Valley of the Temples. Last night by the power of the spooky Facebook algorithms I was offered Amanda and Alan’s Italian Job to watch on BBC, where they buy a house in Sicily for €1 and renovate it. It was a bit of lighthearted fun to watch for the evening and was nice to see some lovely footage of Sicily in the summer. Amanda Holden with full face of make up and inch long acrylic nails with a sledge hammer was less than convincing though 😂 Turns out there were several local councils offering the scheme to help with repopulation. Obviously there are some conditions attached but it’s a great scheme as it creates a lot of work locally for the renovations etc and hopefully brings some life back into some lovely rural towns.

Leisurely start this morning 😴

When we got up this morning Kev said he thought it was Groundhog Day as we were off to see some more temples 😂 I think he was only joking! We decided to take the local bus which stops outside the campsite and you can buy tickets at reception rather than move the van now it is all set up for a 5 minute drive where you have to pay to park anyway. We would usually have walked, especially as we had the dogs but there are no pavements and we have seen enough of local driving not to want to risk that.

We have a ticket to ride

We were waiting with a German couple from the campsite for the bus. We easily recognised him as he had lederhosen like leather trousers, though he had taken off his top hat he had been wearing earlier 🧐They have been on the road for 9 weeks avoiding the German winter, having travelled through Italy and the ferry via Messina. We swapped the usual travel spots coming through. They asked the usual slightly leading comments about how much time we had to travel. “How come you can do that at your age” hung in the air as it often does when we have these conversations with other motorhomers but was thankfully not asked or answered.

Kevin investigating the ruins

The bus soon arrived and luckily there were no issues with taking the dogs on the bus. There was no point in trying to look up the rules online for this, as if there is one thing we have learned is that Italians really do not follow any rules especially speed limits, no overtaking signs or solid white lines, “no parking – or we tow your car” sign, no dogs on the beach etc etc completely and utterly ignored by everyone. They could save a fortune on signs 😂.

Temple of Castor and Pollux overlooked by modern day Agrigento

So, we were soon buying our tickets for the Valley of The Temples. We could see the Temples from the road as we arrived, occupying a natural ridge line just inland from the coast and below the city of Agrigento, which occupies the hill behind. It was tempting to ask why it is marketed as the Valley of Temples when they are actually on a hill, but I suspect they may have heard it all before.

The Valley of Temples is what remains of the vast city of Akragas, founded by Greek settlers from Gela and Rhodes in 580 BC. The city went on to house 200,000 people and have a 12 km city wall with 9 gates. However, by 406 BC it was destroyed by the Cathaginians. The Romans seized control in 210 BC and renamed the city Agrigentum. However, it was not populated by the Arab, Berbers, Spanish, Egyptians, Spanish, Syrians or Persians that followed who settled elsewhere, so has not suffered the usual reuse ‘ revisions. However, it was pillaged for stone as late at 1780’s to build a nearby harbour.

Concordia Temple and modern Icarus bronze statue added in 2011

The best preserved of the temples, the Concordia temple has survived well and is the most preserved of the (many 😂) temples we have visited retaining its roof line and internal structures. Apparently this is because it was later converted for use as a Christian church and so it was protected, obviously after a suitable cleansing ceremony by the clergy to purge the pagan gods. To be fair, there are a number of sacrificial altars remaining in the ruins, one was the biggest in the western Greek empire when built beside the Temple of Zeus.

The site is large and we has a really pleasant walk in the sunshine which has thankfully returned today after two wet days. There were more visitors here than we have seen anywhere so far, however as it was a big site they were well spread out, you could still get a photo without crowds. Obviously we looked upon them with the slightly supercilious air of those experienced temple visitors who have done three days running of temple visiting. We refrained from asking them “where were you in the wind and the hail at Segesta and Selinute????!!! 😂.

The route round the site was a bit confusing, however, the information boards still actually had the information stuck to them which is an improvement on Segesta. There was also an official app, but that seemed to consist of a 15MB 2 hour audio tour which we declined. An interesting feature of the Zeus temple is that it used I think 8 massive statues structurally across the front of the building to hold up the roof. The remains of one has been pieced together again.

Another sight that will stay in my memory is the fabulous view from the ridge looking through the temples out to sea, the sun reflecting off the water. We just stood for quite a while looking out at the houses, farms and businesses living in the shadow of these great monuments. How that view has changed over the years. Finally, another favourite memory is the two marble statues which were only unearthed in 2005 on site. The folds in their robes and even a ring on the finger of one were just so detailed and lifelike, however the heads / feet are missing I was just really struck that they are finding such large objects this late of the site and shows how our appreciation and efforts to preserve and investigate these sites has not always been shared in the past.

Alexander Hardcastle, an English man was attributed with quite a bit of credit for funding various works on the site and others to preserve and restore them. This would have been more commendable if he has not build himself an enormous villa and garden literally right in the middle of the ruins and doubtless over the top of multiple artefacts. Astounding he was allowed to do so, another sign of how attitudes and the levels of protection has changed.

Alexander Hardcastle’s villa, with adjoining very large garden, literally between two temples in the middle of the site

We even managed to get our expresso / arancini fix in the very pleasant on site restaurant sat out in the sunshine. No brioche and grenida yet sadly. We had to leave a little sharpish when Lola started howling at the stray cats like she wanted to rip them limb from limb (because she really did want to!). Luckily we had finished anyway, so we did not have to subject the other diners to the high-volume, high-pitched screeching for long!

Ercole Temple – restoration by Mr Hardcastle, yards from his front door

We eventually managed to catch our bus home, this time with a different German couple from the campsite, our neighbours. I had to wave both arms with serious intent to actually get the bus driver to stop for us. Lucky I was there, as the Germans were obviously expecting, perhaps not unreasonably, that 4 people standing in a line next to a bus stop would be indication enough we wanted to catch it!

Anyway, we are back at the van with a nice cup of tea. Planning on a nice meal in San Leone by the marina later.

Now, has anyone got a 1€ handy……🤣

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