Agrigento, ancient Akragas, is a want-to-see site for any student of ancient architecture. It is best known for the near-fully-preserved so-called Temple of Concordia, the second best preserved of all ancient Greek temples. God(s) only know(s) which deity it was dedicated to, but it is an essentially complete Doric temple of the 5th century BC, with much of its detail preserved thanks to its later conversion into a church.
Even more astonishingly, that temple is set on a 1.8km (1.1mi) ridge (oddly, called the Valley of the Temples) that holds the remains of no less than eight Greek temples. Convention ascribes them, from East to West, to Hera, Concordia, Hercules, Olympian Zeus, Castor and Pollux, Vulcan/Hephaistos and Asklepios, but truth be told, archaeological evidence does not permit clear identification of the deity in each case. And although all the temples (they all date from the 6th and 5th centuries BC) are variations of the same basic theme, each is subtly different in its detail and execution, most significantly that of Zeus, which was huge and very different from the usual Greek temple design.
For the archaeologist, the site is a fascinating one, reflecting ancient Greek architecture and ancient polytheist religion, and indicating the enormous wealth and size that Akragas achieved in the 6th and 5th centuries BC - which is also represented by the fine contents of the local museum.
But setting academic interests aside for a moment, Agrigento/Akragas is simply a stupendously impressive site of great beauty and depth, expressing human achievement at its best and most beautiful. With its views over the coastal plain on one side, and up to the medieval and modern town of Agrigento on the other, and its park-like setting, dominated by almond blossom in the early spring, the site is unforgettably lovely.
To explore the site with expert guides, join us on our Exploring Sicily tour!