122km (76 miles) SW of Palermo, 113km (70 miles) W of Agrigento, 89km (55 miles) SE of Trapani

A day spent wandering around Selinunte's archaeological park (Parco Archeologico Selinunte) is a must on any trip to Sicily. Vast and, at 270 hectares (670 acres), Europe's largest archaeological park, it's not just that you can walk around ancient Greek temples, crane your neck looking up at stout columns, peek in on what were once sacred shrines, and clamber across heaps of awe-inspiring rubble, it's also a fabulous place to relax and enjoy a picnic. The ruins look out to sea and the park is so large it's easy to find a peaceful spot where you're unlikely to be disturbed. You can gaze out at the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, and realize that the ancient Greeks had an eye for a great view, while perhaps witnessing a shepherd taking a flock of sheep past where his distant ancestors lived and worked.

Strolling around the various ruins it's easy to gain an impression of just how large and important a city Selinunte was at its height before Hannibal virtually destroyed it in 409 B.C., and it still has an air of noble, albeit faded, beauty. In the summer, the heat bears down on this exposed spot as if from a furnace, bleaching the long grasses almost white; but on a spring day, you'll admire the colors of the numerous wild flowers, vegetables, and herbs that pepper the bright green grass. The shrub and vegetation add an air of wildness to the site, which takes its name from the Greek word selinon, meaning parsley, and it's possible that the ancient inhabitants foraged here just as the food-loving Sicilians do today.

Tip: Selinunte is entirely doable as a day trip from Palermo—it’s about a 2-hour drive via the A29/E90 autostrada (exit at Castelvetrano)—but it’s a good idea to leave early in the morning. You’ll need at least 4 hours to explore the ruins, and you don’t want to do that in the full heat of mid-day. You’ll have a more leisurely visit if you base yourself in one of the other towns on the west coast.