Parco Archaeologico (The Archaeological Park)
The Tempio di Segesta (Temple of Segesta) is perhaps the best-preserved Doric temple in the world, and the only freestanding limestone temple in Sicily (all the others are made of sandstone). It stands on a 304m (997-ft.) hill, on the edge of a deep ravine carved by the Pispisa River. Built in the 5th century B.C., the temple is shrouded in mystery. It has all the specifications of a typical Doric temple, but the columns were surprisingly never fluted. The inner architectural components are also missing -- a roof was never added, the tabs used to transport the stones were never removed which has led historians to suggest that the temple was hastily built to impress the Athenian ambassadors, to whom Segesta had turned in search of an ally against Selinunte.
When observing the temple from afar, the best views are from the hillside as you reach the theater on Monte Barbaro; the columns all look deceptively alike, but upon close inspection, the entases (the diametrical differences at the top, bottom, and middle of a column) along each of them, create an optical illusion that balances out any irregularities. The Temple of Segesta was one of the favorite subjects of the 18th-century artists traveling in Sicily. Their paintings often included herds of sheep and cattle in or surrounding the temple -- this was, after all, an open farmland, since Segesta ceased to exist as a city after the Norman times. Recently, and most sensibly, the theater has been fenced off and can only be admired from the outside. Note: There is a bit of a steep, precarious climb to reach the temple from the entrance, and no facilities for wheelchair accessibility.
After visiting the temple, you can either hike up the nearly 4km (2 1/2 miles) or take a bus to the Teatro (Theater), at the top of Mount Barbaro (431m/1,414 ft.). The hike to reach the theater allows you to view little-known areas of the old city, with some foundations dating back to medieval times. The fastest way up, however, is the bus, which departs every half-hour. Once you're off the bus, take a few moments to visit the excavations currently underway. What is believed to have been the agorà, or public square, is currently being unearthed, allowing greater insight into Segesta's past. The theater, which dates from the 3rd century B.C. or maybe earlier, has been perfectly restored. A semicircle with a diameter of 63m (207 ft.), it was hewn right out of the side of the mountain and allows for some spectacular views, stretching out to Castellamare del Golfo and all over the surrounding farmland. In ancient days, the theater could hold nearly 4,000 spectators along its cavea of 20 semicircular rows -- there are still etchings on some of them to distinguish the "rich-folk" sections from the cheap seats. The site is still used for the staging of operas, concerts and plays every summer, so if you have the time you can watch a work by one of the ancient Greek playwrights performed in Italian against a spectacular backdrop on a balmy summer evening, just as audiences would have done thousands of years ago. Beneath the theater lies a grotto dating back to the Bronze Age.
The site, which is still the subject of study by archaeologists from around the world, is open daily 9am to 5pm in winter and 9am to 7pm in summer; admission is 9€ for adults, 4.50€ for ages 18 to 25, and free for children 17 and under and adults 65 and over who reside in the EU, Canada, or Australia. The ticket is valid for 3 days and includes admission to the Parco Archeologico in Selinunte. The ticket office closes an hour before the park's closing time. On-site bus transportation between the temple and the theater is not included in the ticket; it costs 1.50€. The park also has a small, canopied eating area opposite the only cafe, where visitors can unwind or rest during their visit.