Eraclea Minoa - Theatre (VI century B.C.)
The province of Agrigento stretches out among ancient ruins and Baroque architecture, sparkling beaches, marvellous islands, crystal-clear waters and flourishing ocean beds.
It is the ideal place to for those in search of culture, history and art, all in an environment of total relaxation under the warmth of the Italian sun.
The clear sea washes up onto one of the world’s most beautiful and transparent coasts. In the distance, the turquoise water seems to melt with the blue skies, and where your gaze meets the horizon one is dazzled by a thousand hues of blue.
Long sandy beaches alternate with deep bays, adorned by the typical Mediterranean maquis that characterize much of Sicily. Aromas of the land combine with the scent of the sea, which float inshore on the light marine breeze.
The islands of Lampedusa, Lampione and Linosa, make up the Pelagiean Archipelago. These “Islands of the High Seas” are the most southern point of the European Union.
The hinterland is a great expanse of plains cultivated with vineyards, various grains and wheat, fruit orchards and orange groves; there, an array of greenery resides, and notable is the striking candor of almond trees, in bloom and filling the air with their perfume.
Agrigento’s millenary history, like that of Sicily as a whole, has left precious memories that can be admired when visiting the ancient centres of both the province-capital and the towns scattered over the territory.
As in all of Southern Italy, Agrigento knows that among its riches are its typical food and local specialties. It is a land that offers tourists innumerable sights and endless panoramas.
In the Valley of the Temples the fascination of ancient history blends with the beauty of nature.
The sea on one side, the old city-hill on the other, the majestic Doric style temples rising in the center of it all, and the tones of the tufo with which they are constructed create a picture-perfect setting.
The Temple of Concordia is the most well-preserved of the temples, having been transformed into a church. The Temple of Juno still boasts 25 of its original 34 columns to support its structure. Then there is the Temple of the Dioscuri, considered the most symbolic temple, and the Temple of Hercules, the oldest of them all. Together with the Temple of Olympean Zeus, these five giants dominate the Valley that has been declared a World Heritage Site.
Leaving the Valley and heading towards the city, one comes across the remains of the Hellenistic-Roman Quarter, with its houses decorated in beautiful mosaics. The ancient shops, wells, cisterns and the sewer system give a complete picture of the ancient city.
Evidence abounds of the Greek era, especially including the fascinating objects of the Regional Archeological Museum originating from the ancient area of Akragas.
Through the Gate of Ponte, one can enter into the ancient quarter of Agrigento which still conveys the image of a medieval village, with its narrow roads and steep winding alleys that all converge towards the main road. Stroll through the ancient city and wander to the Cathedral, where a grand stairway leads to the churchyard and bell tower, the construction of which has never been completed.
The archeological itinerary continues at Eraclea Minoa, today the ruins of an ancient Greek city located on a gentle slope that seems to fall down into the blue sea. The long white beach stretches out from Capo Bianco and arrives at the edges of a magnificent pinewood.
Certainly not to be missed, both for its beautiful landscape and for its historical features, is the Roman Villa of Durrueli in the commune of Realmonte, where parts of the mosaic flooring are still visible.
Gela’s Regional Archeological Museum exhibits a vast collection of ceramics, bronze and numismatic finds from Prehistoric to Middle Ages.
In the Acropolis the remains of two temples dedicated to Athena can still be seen. The remains of Greek fortifications, very well conserved, were found in the Cape Soprano excavations.
Nestled on a high plain the town of Sciacca is divided into quarters situated on three sloping terraces. The most ancient quarter with its alleys and courtyards can be found in the higher part of the city, from there one enters into the more elegant part of the city surrounding the city’s wharf.
Next to the city, on Mount Kronio, one finds the thermal baths and can enjoy a panoramic view over the sea.
Do not forget the “Enchanted Castle”, an original exhibition of faces sculpted into rocks and into the bark of trees by Filippo Bentivegna.
In the hinterland one finds Naro. Here, the architecture is 18th-century and so are the many renovations of buildings and churches. Higher up one finds the medieval Castle, the Old Cathedral and Piazza Garibaldi, all surrounded by refined 19th-century buildings. In the lower city, one can admire the architecture of the Church of San Salvatore, the Chiesa Madre and Palazzo Destro of Via Dante.
Innumerable art and gastronomic treasures can be found in the interior of Agrigento Province. Such can also be an opportunity to penetrate the colors and perfumes with which nature has endowed this part of Sicily, as well as foods that are still prepared according to ancient tradition.
And not far from the coast lies a true paradise: the Pelagian Islands: Lampedusa, Lampione and Linosa, all pearls in the middle of a by-turns turquoise, blue and green emerald sea.
If you are a sports enthusiast, the sea is your playground, always at your disposal for snorkelling, sailing, surfing, windsurfing and canoeing.
The ocean beds of the Pelagiean Islandsa are a sort of treasure hunt for scuba divers because of the great variety of fish and lushness of the vegetation.
Lampedusa is now regarded as a natural reserve, given the importance of Spiaggia dei Conigli (Rabbit Beach) for its marine fauna reproduction. Marine turtles lay their eggs under the constant surveillance of the World Wildlife Fund volunteers who protect young turtles until they can safely reach the sea.
Spa-goers can look forward to wellness cures and beauty treatments with a view of the splendid Sicilian Sea: Sciacca, for instance, with its famously curative waters, offers a complete spa vacation right on the coast.
Agrigento is founded upon an ancient city, and artisan goods made in ancient modes have been passed down from generation to generation.
Here one can find objects and sculptures made from cork, terra-cotta, cast iron, as well as wicker, even typical musical instruments like the ciaramedde, and the very rare and carefully-crafted zampogne (the Sicilian equivalent of Scottish bagpipes).
Some of the area's best events include the Almond Fest, when Agrigento's almond trees are in bloom, and the International Folklore Festival, which is held every year in the Valley of the Temples.
The annual Carnival celebrated in the city of Sciacca, is one of the most important in the region. It features a parade, the highlight of which is the float of "Peppe Nappa." Peppe Nappa is the one in a mask handing out candy, wine and sausages, but who, despite his largesse, is burned at the stake with firecrackers at the end of the procession.
The culinary art of Agrigento is rich in colors and flavors and is an irresistible invitation for your eyes and taste buds.
Both land and sea are the two elements present in local food and beverages.
Salted anchovies, olives, oil-preserved vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes or the typical pitaggio on top of fresh broad beans, peas and artichokes, are fanciful appetizers to be tasted before the main courses.
Pasta dishes are the triumph of the first courses, particularly the renowned pasta with sardines. Not to be discounted are the cavatelli with tomatoes and eggplant, or the ricotta cottage cheese with broad beans.
Baked goat and lamb meat or grilled sausages flavored with wild fennel, sweet and sour pork, and rabbit with flavorful seasonal vegetables on the side, are but some of the best offers for second courses on the Agrigento menu.
As for fish-based courses: try the sole, stuffed sardine and the exquisite sea bream in meat broth.
And dessert? Sicilian pastries win the prize, in both color and taste.
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