129km (80 miles) S of Palermo, 175km (109 miles) SE of Trapani, 217km (135 miles) W of Syracuse
The evocative skeletons of seven temples of honey-colored stone, arranged on a long ridge with commanding views of the sea, comprise one of the most memorable sights of the ancient world—the embodiment of classical dignity. Colonists from Crete or Rhodes established Akragas in the 7th century B.C., and by the 5th century B.C. the city was one of the great Mediterranean powers, with close to 200,000 residents. The Greek poet Pindar described Akragas as the most beautiful city “inhabited by mortals” but commented that its citizens “feasted as if there were no tomorrow.” The city poured part of its enormous wealth into temples erected along a ridge overlooking the sea, their bright pediments becoming well-known landmarks along southern sea routes. Carthage and Rome fought over the city for centuries until Akragas became part of the Roman Empire in 210 B.C. Tumbled by earthquakes, plundered for marble, and overgrown from neglect, today the temples are proud remnants of ancient grandeur.
The reason to visit Agrigento is to see the magnificent Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples) and its ancient Greek ruins. Although much of the archaeological site consists of rubble, the Tempio della Concordia (Temple of Concord), is one of the best-preserved Greek temples in the world, and to see its impressive structure with its towering columns alone makes a trip to the city worthwhile. A visit to the Museo Regionale Archeologico (Regional Archaeological Museum) is a must, as it's one of the best museums in Sicily, and - unlike many museums on the island - there's information in English accompanying its numerous exhibits, the most notable being a fabulous stone statue of Telemon, or Atlas, measuring 7.65m (25 ft. high).
Visitors usually bypass the city itself, heading straight down to the temples. Yet Agrigento merits a stroll around the historic center to enjoy people-watching at a cafe along Via Atenea or take in the stunning views from Viale della Vittoria. Do pop in on the Abbazia di Santo Spirito church, which contains some amazing stucco work created by Giacomo Serpotta. What Michelangelo was to marble sculpture, so Serpotta was to stucco, and the white reliefs with their twisting figures are a joy to behold. The nearby village of Caos is home to Casa di Pirandello (Pirandello's House), where Agrigento's most famous inhabitant, the innovative writer and Nobel Prize winner, Luigi Pirandello, lived. Now a museum, it houses family photos, paintings, theatrical images, and manuscripts. In the summer months, locals flee the heat and take up residence at their summer homes at nearby San Leone, which has excellent, endless beaches.