Note: This travelogue is based on a trip I took to Sicily in 1995, so the pictures and information are rather dated and may not accurately reflect the modern appearance. I welcome updates and corrections.
Agrigento is Sicily's great ancient wonder (and Sicily has a bunch of them). It contains a beautiful and expansive (but not expensive) array of Greek ruins perched high on a ridgeline overlooking the Sicilian skyline of Agrigento City proper and nearby Siracusa. Remarkably well-preserved despite centuries of wear from the hot barren Sicilian climate, Agrigento provides visitors a clear glimpse of life in the old Empire.
The first attraction likely to catch your eye is the Parthenon, pictured here. The Parthenon sits at the highest point on the ridgeline. From the main highway, it is clearly visible against the backdrop of the midday sky. When this was taken in 1995, the insides were completely scaffolded, so I suspect the renovation will have been complete by now (one hopes). By the way, I'm the tiny little blue speck on the left.
Adding to the majesty of the Parthenon is the fact that it is spread apart from other ruins by about a kilometer. The above picture is of the other major structure (I confess to not knowing its name) on the ridgeline. There were discussions of this temple being rebuilt upon completion of the Parthenon, so it is possible that this eclectic collection of post-collapse column sections (or pile of pretty rocks, take your pick) has been cleared out and the structure rebuilt by 2002.
The ancient city of Agrigento rests in ruins on the rolling desert landscape nearby. Spread out over a couple square kilometers, you will see renmants of the city wall, numerous houses and temples, bathhouses, and cemetaries. I was impressed with the way the ruins were cleaned and preserved --rather than left to collect dust. It looked better than the newly constructed artificial ruins that I've seen in Germany.
At one end of the city is the Temple of Jupiter (?) shown here. Only a corner of the structure remains standing. The piles of column sections in this photo looks deceiving small, but believe it or not they stand taller than me (and I'm a pretty tall dude)! And the picture doesn't do justice to the size of this field of column sections -- I recall that it extended several hundred meters to the right of this picture.
The final picture shows some of the more intriguing scenes you might encounter, as it provides a clue as to how some of these structures were originally built. The grooves carved in these massive stones (roughly three meters by two meters square if my math is right) were probably used to hold ropes for the slaves to drag the stone across the sand (or something like that).
The ruins are spread far apart, over several square kilometers. Therefore, if you travel there during the hot summer, be sure to bring a couple extra bottles of water and pace yourself properly. I remember the sun beating down on me unmercifully in September, and at the time I wasn't accustomed to it. But do not let that dissuade you at all, please! Agrigento is one of the most fascinating and unique places I've ever visited, and on my short list of places to return! I bet you'll agree!
Trip taken 28 August - 9 September 1995 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2001 Tom Galvin