HomeSicilyDestination Agrigento

Breakfast was a giant cannoli, so rich I knew it would hold me for the day. “Leave the gun, take the cannolis”? Just leave everything and take the cannolis.

Although I never did figure out how to access the car radio (should it exist), at least  the highly computerized dashboard on this Picasso C3 had bluetooth which allowed me to play the tunes on my smartphone. And then somehow I was tricked into uploading my entire contact list.

I tried not to focus on small mishaps and set off for Agrigento.  Unlike Segesta, Agrigento was a strong and prosperous city-state, at least until the Carthagenians came along and sacked in in the 5th century BC. With such a commanding position overlooking the sea, you could see why the Carthagenians and later the Romans wanted to gobble it up.

My goal was the UNESCO listed Valley of the Temples which was nowhere near the town but relatively well-signposted. I was glad I picked up a map at the entrance, even though the temples were lined up like sentries on the ridge and connected by a paved walkway that stretched about two kilometres.

First up was the Temple of Juno:

Agregento-Juno

agrigento-juno2Whoa. Then I looked down the road and saw a skyline of other massive temples. The wealth and power of this city were immediately apparent. They remained influential throughout the Roman era and even hung on against the Ostrogoths until finally the Saracens marched in at the beginning of the 9th century and ended any pretensions to pwoer.

Next up was the even more spectacular Concordia:

agrigento-concordiaThis knocked me out. Could any building be more perfectly proportioned? Clearly this temple has weathered well, mainly because the early Christians converted it into a church in the 6th century AD.

I wandered further down the road and was surprised to come upon a goat family:

agrigento-goatThis is a gigentana, a traditional goat breed that is in danger of extinction and is being preserved here.

I couldn’t get enough of the temples though. They seemed to go on and on and with helpful explanations on each one. Here is the Temple of Olympian Zeus, intended to be the largest Doric temple ever built but now in ruins.

agrigento-zeusThe massive chunks strewn about the columns testified the ambitiousness of this project and I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out what it must have looked like.

Then on to the last temple of Castor and Pollux:

agrigento-castorTemples finished but there was more to see! I sprung for an entry to the Kolymbetra Gardens, set in a river valley that provided the ancient Agrigento with a water supply. It was now restored and planted with a variety of Mediterranean species, watered with natural fountains. It was peaceful and shady and provided a new perspective on the old city.

agrigento-gardenBy now it was late afternoon and it was a long, hot walk back to the parking lot. I fortified myself with gelato, decided to put off the archaeological museum until the following morning and headed back.

I reached the parking lot, pressed the button on the magnetic key and then. . .nothing. Whoops. Must be the key battery I thought. I turned the lock of the car, put the key in the ignition and . . . nothing. Uh-oh. I knew I was in for it.

I called Maggiore in Palermo. “Call road assistance”. “Why don’t you call road assistance? I’m paying for a car that actually runs”. So I called road assistance who helpfully instructed me to depress the clutch pedal while turning the key. Thanks pal. Now send a tow truck and a new car.

The tow truck arrived about 40 minutes later trailed by various young men who worked at the site and were eager to lend their limited English vocabulary to help smooth communications. Then the young woman at my hotel (Doric Bed B & B) took charge, insisting on calling Maggiore, road assistance and anyone else necessary.

agrigento-carPeople couldn’t be nicer, including the tow truck driver who deposited me at the hotel. Intense telephone negotiations with Maggiore revealed that, as it was Saturday evening, the earliest I could get the car was Monday morning.

I decided to cancel the whole thing and take buses. After a shower and a nice dinner of tagliatelle with baby shrimp in pistachio sauce I turned in. Sunrise brought this lovely view from my room.

agrigento-sunriseMay Zeus smite me if I ever rent a car on holiday again.

 



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