Agrigento Tourist Attractions
CommunicationsAgrigento is the junction of the SS 115 (Trapani-Siracusa), SS 189 (to Palermo) and SS 640 (to Caltanisetta); railroad station. There are boat connections from Porto Empédocle with the Isole Pelagie (Pelagian Islands) and the island of Pantelleria.LocationAgrigento, provincial capital and bishop's seat, very close to the southern coast of Sicily and magnificently situated in hilly countryside, is also, because of its superb temple ruins, one of the most rewarding towns in Sicily to visit. The numerous ancient buildings stand in vivid contrast to the modern high-rise blocks which predominate, especially in the southern part of the old town. Besides these testimonies of antiquity, there are also buildings from both the medieval and Baroque periods which are well worth seeing.TourismHotels are well established in this town as tourism represents a significant source of income for the local population. There are also beaches a short distance away, at Lido San Leone (7km/4mi to the southeast) and at Porto Empédocle.FestivalsTraditional festivals and events include the almond blossom festival in February, the festival of the town's patron saint, San Calogero (first and second Sundays in July), the garden mass and craft show (also in July). the Pirandello festival and the Persephone festival (with classical performances), both in August, and the competition for composers of film music, the ''Efebo d'Or'', which takes place in September.HistoryThe town and its surroundings were settled as far back as prehistoric times. Ancient tradition ascribes the founding of the town to Daedalus, who fled from King Minos of Crete to Sicily. History more accurately records that the town was founded in 583 B.C. by settlers from Gela and its parent city of Rhodes. The town was thus Doric. Its name was taken from the River Akrágas which flows in through eastern part of the town (today Fiume San Biagio) and further south joins the Hypsas (today Fiume Drago), which flows through the west of the town. As long ago as the sixth century B.C. strong fortifications had been established here which is an indication of the fast increasing importance of the town. A short time after the town was founded, in 570 B.C., Phalaris set himself up as ruler of Akragas; he had had the Temple of Zeus built on the Acropolis (on the spot where the cathedral now stands), had armed his building workers and enlisted their aid in subduing the town. He extended his hegemony over the largely Sican populated interior, built castles to make his borders secure and was chosen by the town of Himera as their commander against the Carthaginians. According to tradition Phalaris was the epitome of the cruel tyrant. When he was overthrown in 554 B.C., the oligarchic constitution which he had suspended was readopted, only to be replaced yet again after a few decades by the rule of tyranny; in 488 B.C. Theron gained power from the Emmenides race and Akrágas became a prosperous town and the strongest power in Sicily after Siracuse. In 480 B.C. Theron, with his stepson Gelon of Siracuse, defeated the Carthaginians at the Battle of Himera - the same year that Athens defeated the Persians at Salamis. In the succeeding 70 years the town enjoyed its golden period - politically, culturally and economically - to which the temple buildings today bear witness. In his 12th Pythic ode the Greek poet, Pindar, who was Theron's guest on numerous occasions, praised the city of Akrágas, now grown to 200,000 inhabitants, as ''the most beautiful of mortal cities''. This was the time when the philosopher Empédocles lived there and observed scornfully of his fellow countrymen that they built as if they lived for ever and ate as if they would die tomorrow. This brilliant period came to an end when the Carthaginians began to mount their counter-attack in 409 B.C., to which Akrágas - after Selinus and Himera - fell victim four years later. The city never recovered from this blow. The great temple to the Olympian Zeus was left unfinished. In the first Punic War Akrágas was conquered and plundered by the Romans in 261 B.C. and by the Carthaginians in 255. In 210 the Romans came again and enslaved the inhabitants, replacing them three years later by new settlers. It was at this time that the city gained the name Agrigentum. At the end of the Roman period it suffered further defeats at the hands of the Vandals and Eastern Goths. In 828 the town fell into the hands of the Arabs. In the Norman period, after 1086, the town was renowned for its wealthy bishopric. During the Middle Ages it was given the name Girgenti, which was not replaced by Agrigento until 1927. Leo von Klenze (1784-1864), who was chief court architect in Munich from 1818, traveled through Sicily with Ludwig I of Bavaria during 1823 and 1824. He was the first person to make scientific measurements and sketches of the temples of Agrigento. The port of Porto Empédocle, situated nearby, is the birthplace of Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936), the writer and Nobel prizewinner.The monuments of Agrigento which date from the Christian era are located within the present town center, between the railroad station and the cathedral. The ones dating from ancient times are to be found to the southeast and south of the town extending as far as the ''Valley of the Temples'' and the Tempio di Esculapio.Old TownAs a starting-point for a tour of the Old Town the Piazza Marconi (by the station) is recommended. To the north it connects with the Piazzale Roma and the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele.
The Regional Archaeological Museum is one of the most significant in Sicily. Highlights include statuary, pottery, and the archaeological plans of the ancient town of Agrigento.
The Valley of the Temples dates back to 500 B.C. and consists of a series of structures and cemeteries, along with tombs. The temples are illuminated in the evenings.
Map of Agrigento Attractions