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Agrigento is an important Sicilian city, and the capital of the Sicilian province of the same name. It is located on southern coast of the island.
It was one of the most important centers of civilization for the Greek colonists on Sicily, which can clearly be witnessed through the archaeological sites in the city. Agrigento has a long history of occupation and has changed hands several times during its 2600 year life.
The most famous archaeological attraction, which has raised Agrigento to worldwide recognition, is the Valle dei Temple, or the Valley of the Temples, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was constructed from the 6th century BC onwards.
Valley of the Temples, Sicily
Built in the manner of the great Acropolis in the Athens, the complex of the Valley of the Temples is built on a high ridge, a worthy place for temples from the viewpoint of the ancients, and facing the sea. From this description, you can clearly see that the name for the site has been chosen very inappropriately.
Probably the most spectacular of all the structures in the complex is the Temple of Concord, which still stands tall and is the best preserved structure of the complex - this is because it was converted to be used as a Church in the 6th century AD, and thus avoided the damage done by christians to many of the temples here on the basis they were pagan monuments. Interestingly this temple is the inspiration for the UNESCO logo!
The other structures in the Temple Complex include Temple of Zeus Olympic, Temple of Juno, Temple of Heracles, Temple of Castor and Pollux, Temple of Vulcan and Temple of Asclepius. The Tomba di Terone is also an interesting pyramid shape structure in the Valley of the Temples.
The Temple of Juno is another relatively well preserved temple. It was once a similar size to the Temple of Concord but now only 25 of its 34 columns remain. Also the Temple of Hercules remains an impressive site.
The Temple of Olympian Jupiter is interesting for the giant stone statue that once stood between the columns. These have long since fallen but one can be seen on the floor next to the temple and one has been reassembled in the Agrigneto Archaeology Museum.
All in all the Valley of the Temples is a beautiful and awe-inspiring site with much for visitors to explore. It is the key archaological site on the island of Sicily.
Other places in and around Agrigento
The modern city of Agrigento is surrounded by unnattractive tower blocks and motorways but it does have an interesting medieval centre that is pleasant to explore. Attractions in the town of Agrigento like the Cathedral, Via Atena and the Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Greci are all noteworthy.
There is also a Regional Museum of Archaeology that features many artefacts that have been unearthed during excavations in and around the Valley of the Temples and elsewhere in the region.
Whats in a name?
The original Greek name for the town was Akragas. After falling to the Carthaginians in 40 BC it was the Romans, who occupied the region from 210 BC, that gave it the name of Agrigentum.
With the Arab occupation of the 9th century the name changed to Kerkent, which subsequently became Girgenti. it wasn't until 1927 that the current name, Agrigento, was bestowed upon the town by Mussolini.
When you tire of all the history that surrounds you, relax by visiting some beautiful beaches near the town. The beaches near Agrigento include Scala dei Turchi, San Leone and Torre Salsa. San Leone beach in particular is very popular and as well as the beach there are some great fish restaurants and a lively night scene.
Places to Visit Nearby
Nearby Realmonte has some great beaches with some spectacular white cliff backdrops.
Regular boat trips leave Agrigneto for Lampedusa, one of the Pelagian Islands.