Temples at Agrigento

We stopped for a few hours at the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento, en route to our hotel at Favara. Oddly named as the temples are on a ridge, not in a valley. They are spectacular, set out along a 2 km track. We parked at one end, took their transport to the other end, then walked back to where we had started. The Archaeological and Landscape Park of the Valley of the Temples is the largest archaeological site in the world with 1,300 hectares.

The Agrigento temples, particularly the fallen statue of Icarus against the backdrop of one of the temples, is the iconic photo representation of ancient Sicily.The area was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1997.

The Valley includes remains of seven temples, all in Doric style. The ascription of the names, apart from that of the Olympeion, are a mere tradition established in Renaissance times. The temples are:

The taxi dropped us off at the entrance to the East section of the site. We walked past the Temple of Concordia and on along the entire length, before descending from the ridge at the Western Entrance, where our car was parked. There was time for a (real) OJ stop along the way.

It being out of season, the place was not too crowded, nor was it too hot

A fenced enclosure houses a small herd of Girgentana goats. Originating from the Kashmir/Afghanistan region, the goats arrived on Sicily’s south-western shores via either the ancient Greeks or Arabs. At one stage they numbered 30,000 but today they are endangered with numbers in the hundreds. The breed is characterised by curved horns joined in the middle, long beards/hair and high milk yields.

Near the Temple of Heracles (Hercules, Ercole) the Villa Aurea, the 20th Century home of Englishman Alexander Hardcastle now houses park management and is inaccessible to visitors.

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Our hotel, the Alba Palace in Favara, was a twenty minute drive down the road from the Agrigento Temples, though it took us longer, as for unexplained reasons our GPS took us from the western car park, round in a 15 minute loop, and back past the car park again.

Favara, as with many of the towns in Sicily, had waves of conquerors, - Greeks , Romans , Byzantines, Saracens, before the Normans arrived. During the Norman domination several large structures were built, among others the Chiaramonte Castle, also known as the Medieval Palace. In the 14th century the castle passed to the Chiaramonte family, from which it took its current name.

In the 15th century, although protected by city walls, the town underwent a period of population decline, especially between 1439 and 1464. This trend was reversed from 1478 to 1497. In the 16th century the efforts of the De Marinis family contributed to a greater development of Favara. In the 19th century, in the background of the unification of Italy and up to 1883, Favara was the main hub of a large criminal organization known as Fratellanza di Favara.

In contemporary history, the mayor of Favara, Gaetano Guarino, was murdered on May 16, 1946, by unknown perpetrators.

The places to see in town are

We stopped for coffee and a bun at L'Opera Cafe which I enjoyed.

It would be fair to say that Favara is not a properous town. Unemployment is high and many of the buildings are abandoned. But nevertheless it was a nice town to have seen., sort of "authentic Sicily"

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Alba Palace Hotel

The hotel is just off the main square in Favara, in a recently renovated old building. The renovations and the interior are very well done. Getting there is difficult by car, with narrow streets, and paucity of parking spots. Staff were a mixed bag, some were very helpful, but many were offhand and more concerned with the social media on their mobile phones

The food is the really weak point in this hotel. The restaurant is lifeless and soulless and the serving staff bored. We had dinner one evening, but the experience was so bad that we ate at a local restaurant the next night. Breakfast, for a hotel of this standing was particularly bad and unappetizing

Maintenance was a problem, as 3 light bulbs in our bedroom were not working, and we had to ask for them to be replaced. They must have been out for weeks without staff noticing. Although badly lit, the bedroom was very good

I thought that it was reasonable value for money, but, given the negative points, if I were visiting Agrigento again, I would chose another hotel

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Turkish Steps

With a bit of difficulty we managed to find the Turkish Steps. As often in Sicily, our GPS did not recognise the location, and Sicilian road signs were not forthcoming either. Anyway, we found them eventually, parked a mile or so away, and walked along the beach, and past various "No Entry" notices to reach the steps. They were indeed spectacular

.The Scala dei Turchi is a rocky cliff on the coast of Realmonte, near Porto Empedocle. It has become a tourist attraction, partly due to its mention in Andrea Camilleri's series of detective stories about Commissario Montalbano. The Scala is formed by marl, a sedimentary rock with a characteristic white colour. It lies between two sandy beaches, and is accessed through a limestone rock formation in the shape of a staircase, hence the name.

The latter part of the name derives from the frequent raids carried out by Moors.

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U Maccicuni

We had dinner here one cold March evening. It is not a tourist restaurant, more a traditional Sicilian one on the corner of the main square. There are checked tablecloths, and local food. The owner is very hospitable and keen to please and the food is not bad either.

We just relied on his recommendations which were all good, and the wine is remarkably cheap, and there are on the house drinks after dinner. All in all a very agreeable evening, and I don't even speak Italian but the owner was very welcoming. And there is a free glass of bitters at the end. If you are staying in Alba Palace one should skip the soulless hotel restaurant and eat here

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On to Ragusa

Our Sicily Holiday