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September 17, 2021

Agrigento: the city of Magna Graecia

Do you want to rediscover the Greek origins of Sicily in all their essence? Then Agrigentois the right destination for you. It is the symbolic city of Greek colonization in Italy, with the largest number of testimonies on its territory. However, there are also signs of the passage of other peoples, as well as both artistic and naturalistic beauties that make it a decidedly attractive destination.

The history of Akragas - Agrigento

The territory of Agrigento has human testimonies since prehistoric times, being inhabited in the beginning Sicani (indigenous population that was found in much of Sicily). In the seventh century BC the Greeks arrived, giving rise to the colonization of the territory and the birth of the Siceliots (given by the merger between the Greeks and the Sicans).

In 581 BC the Akragaspolis was founded, commissioned by settlers from Rhodes and Crete to block the expansion of nearby Selinunte. The territory of today’s Agrigento was chosen because of its arable fields and its hills, where the acropolis was built. In the following centuries Akragas grew further and became more and more a power, to the point of defeating Carthage on several occasions in the war for control of the Strait of Sicily.

Agrigento was later the scene of a clash between the Carthaginians and the Romans which, in 210 BC. and after the Second Punic War, they took possession of the city, changing its name from Akragas to Agrigentum. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Sicily first passed under the Byzantine Empire and then was invaded by the Arabs. This population changed the name of the city to Girgenti.

During the medieval period many castles were built in the area, including that of Palma di Montechiaro, strategically important in the fight against pirates who came from the coast. While retaining the remains of the peoples who had inhabited it, Agrigento took on its present appearance (with new buildings and roads) between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

Places to visit in Agrigento

As previously mentioned, Agrigento is famous above all for its testimonies of Greek civilization. This is why, in case of a stay in the Sicilian city, an obligatory stop is the Valley of the Temples. It is the largest archaeological site in the world, which has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. Here you can admire many temples, of which more or less significant remains remain. The temple of Concordia is among the best preserved in the world, while that of Hercules is among the oldest Doric temples in Agrigento.

Also in the Valley of the Temples is the Regional Archaeological Museum, which contains many finds from ancient Akragas. Among the most important is undoubtedly one of the Telamons, or a statue that depicts one of the giants who were in the temple of Olympian Zeus.

Among the religious buildings, however, the Cathedral of San Gerlando stands out above the others. We are talking about the main place of worship in the city, named after its patron saint. The building has features of the various populations that occupied the city, resulting in a perfect mix of Arab, Norman, Gothic and Baroque styles.

Activities and excursions

During a stay in Agrigento, it is inevitable to take a tour in the historic center of the city. A concentration of streets that make it a sort of labyrinth, where there are churches and monasteries of great historical value. Among these we should mention the Monastery of Santo Spirito, one of the best examples of medieval architecture in the city.

In addition to wandering through the streets of the center, there are also interesting places outside the city but still remaining in the province of Agrigento. Among these, the Scala dei Turchi, a long cliff shaped over the centuries by water and wind and became a sort of staircase that was used by pirates to access the city.

The typical cuisine of Agrigento

One of the typical dishes of Agrigento’s cuisine are cavatelli al foil, a form of pasta topped with fried eggplant cubes, tomato, basil and salted ricotta. Among the specialties of the area you can also find the maccu di fave, a soup purely based on fava beans that can be dried or fresh depending on the season. In terms of restaurants, on the other hand, you should absolutely tryHostaria del Vicolo, Ristorante Capitolo Primo and Re di Girgenti.

Beaches in the province of Agrigento

In addition to historical beauties dating back to various eras, the province of Agrigento also has numerous very interesting beaches. Going to the nearby island of Lampedusa, two of the most famous coasts are those of Conigli and Cala Pulcino (both of white sand and bathed by a crystalline sea).

A particular stretch of coast is the one that goes from Punta Grandeto Punta Bianca, above all for the type of vegetation present in the vicinity. Also of note is the beach at the Scala dei Turchi, with golden sand and surrounded by cliffs.

How to come

The city of Agrigento is easily reachable by train from the stations of Palermo, Catania, Ragusa and Syracuse. In addition, from the airports of Catania and Palermo, there are buses that lead directly to the city.

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