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Agrigento

Introduction

Agrigento combines the charm of its ancient history treasured in its great monuments built by Greeks such as the Valley of the Temples and all the modern constructions started in the 60s or 70s last century. Pindar praised Agrigento as well as Goethe.

Today Agrigento keeps appearing in the news for its notorious crime families, drug dealers and the typical Agrigentan cunning.

The first settlement was formed by Gela and Rhodes inhabitants in the 6th century BC to keep an eye on Carthage. With the victory at the Battle of Himera in the 5th century the construction of the Temple of Zeus was started and in Pindar’s words Akragas, as it was called then, was a town of about 200,000 people which was already a ravishing place to live in.

The Carthaginians took it at the beginning of the 5th century but was taken by Timoleon again in 338 BC. In Romans’ hands in the 3rd century BC it became Agrigentum, a farming and trading center in the centuries to come. In the 600s apparently to defend themselves against the Saracens, its population ascended the hill and started new Agrigento. However, it was taken by the North Africans in the 800s.

Agrigento’s appearance remained quite untouched up to the 1800s, when the construction of a new part of town was began to the west. In the 20th century there were more changes: population came down to the old part of town, Agrigento was badly destroyed by bombardments and the rebuilding was disastrous for it spoilt the ancient site.


What to See and Do

There are information booths in Piazzale Aldo Moro and at the Valley of the Temples. It provides maps of the site and you can hire a guide. The main information office is on Via Cesare Battisti offering maps and brochures.

In the Hellenistic-Roman quarter you can see the 4th century BC grid of main streets crossed perpendicularly by secondary lanes established by the Greeks. The modification the Romans introduced were mosaic floors, stuccowork, water and heating pipes and water and sewage drainage.

Heading back towards Agrigento the Museo Archelogico has a well labelled collection from the valley. Inside its rooms you will delve into the plan of Akragas, ceramics, a 7.75m telamon, heads of telamon, a 5th century BC sculpted young boy and artefacts from other sites in the province.
In the premises of the museum are Chiesa di San Nicola with its gothic doorway, its Roman sarcophagus and the 3rd century BC Odeon and the Oratory of Phalaris which was originally a 1st century BC temple.

Stroll along the weaving streets of the medieval part of town. Check out the 13th century Monastero di Santo Spirito with its Gothic porta, Serpotta’s stuccowork and Gagini’s statue. The Museo Civico is located in the upstairs.

Stroll of Via Duomo to the east to find the 11th century Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Greci. The church features a precious garden dotted with palms and cypresses. Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Greci was based on a Temple of Athena. In the church you can view the Byzantine frescoes and part of the Norman ceilings.

Off is the Cathedral of San Gerlando which was constructed in the 1000. Gerlando was the first archbishop of town. It has undergone modifications as centuries elapsed and features an incomplete bell tower built in the 1400s, the tomb of San Gerlando, a magnificent ceiling in Norman style and an intriguing letter form the Devil.

The Festival of the Almond Blossom takes place at the beginning of February.

The Feast of Saint Calogero cat the beginning of July lasting a week celebrates the fact that he avoided Agrigentans to be infected with the plague. His statue travels the streets while the onlookers aim loaves of bread at his statue.

For some evening entertainment Teatro Pirandello generally puts on works by the local composer in autumn and winter.

Where to Eat and Drink

Agrigentan dishes abound in having fowl or fish as their base.

La Forchetta (Via San Francesco ) serves the most affordable dishes in Agrigento. It is laid back and well liked by locals.

L’Ambasciata di Sicilia (Via Giambertoni) serves the typical Sicilian dishes. The best place to have their delights is in the terrace which has a vantage point of the temples and the town underneath.

Kalos (Piazzale San Calogero) is off the centre of Agrigento dishing out perfectly prepared dishes.
Da Giovanni (Piazzetta Vadalà) combines good places to sit, quality service, Sicilian fare. Bookings are needed on Saturday.

Near the Valley of the Temples you will find:

Trattoria-cum-pizzeria Kokalos (Viale Magazzeni) serves reputedly the best pizza, a local homemade pasta and many more dishes while you view the Temple of the Concord.

Cafè-cum-restaurant La Promenade dei Temple (Via dei Panoramica Templi) serves quality coffee and dishes. Its terrace is a magnificent setting to dine.

Le Caprice (Via Cavaleri Magazzeni)
is considered the highest quality restaurant, which, besides its excellent seafood, has a pool with swans gliding by in it.

Il d`Hors (Contrada Maddalusa)
has been a famed restaurant with French influences from the 19th century. Its is just fabulous.

Leon d’Oro (Viale Emporium)
, expensive yet valuable, this restaurant perfectly prepares the fowl and fish dishes that characterize Agrigentan cuisine.

Wine bar and café Cafè Girasole (Via Atenea) can satisfy many wishes such as breakfast, simple lunch and cocktails, in the inside or the outside.

At Tempio di Vino (Via San Francesco) you can drink good wine while you nibble some local snacks by the sound of jazz.


How to Get to/around/away

BY BUS: its bus terminal and the ticket booth is located on Piazza Rosselli. From/to Palermo (length: 2 hours, services: 7 a day from Mon-Sat, only 2 on Sun), to Trapani (length: 4 hours, services: 3 a day Mon–Sat, only 1 on Sun), to Catania (length: 3 hours, services: 14 Mon-Fri, only 7 on Sat and Sun), to Caltanissetta (length: 1 ¼ hours, services: 5 Mon-Sat, only 1 on Sun), to Palermo’s airport (length: 2.25 hours, services: 3 Mon-Fri)

BY CAR: all roads connect Sicilian towns to Agrigento. The SS189 connects Agrigento and Palermo. The SS115 borders the coast and reaches Syracuse. The SS 640 leads to Caltanissetta and Enna.



 
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