Location: Trapani, Italy
Rival groups have fought over control of Sicily for centuries, and I can see why. Aside from its strategic location in the centre of the Mediterranean, Sicily boasts some amazing natural beauty. Rolling hills and small mountains covered in lush greenery…vineyards everywhere…lemon, orange and olive trees dotting the landscape…medieval towns perched on mountain tops…this is the Sicily of everyone’s imagination. To see it spread before you defies description. Scenic drives normally leave me cold, but even I was captivated by the countryside here.
Our destination today was the Valley of the Temples, a collection of ancient Greek temples strung out on a ridge near Agrigento in southern Sicily. The Greeks founded Agrigento in the 6th century BC, long before the Romans ever came to the island. They then defeated an invading Carthaginian force in 586 BC and decided to build some temples in celebration. Not all have survived, of course; many were plundered for their building material or destroyed by new groups who conquered the area. But some, particularly the Temple of Concord, are very well preserved, largely because they were converted to Christian churches when the Byzantines arrived in the 5th century AD. We walked through the area (now a UNESCO World Heritage site) admiring the remains of four major temples, the ancient city walls that once surrounded Agrigento, and a necropolis that once contained the tombs of local citizens. I’m not much for scenery, but looking at 3,000-year-old rocks is my idea of a good day. Awesome.
The four of us have agreed that we’d like to see the eastern Mediterranean sometime, but we also agreed that we’re glad we’re not doing it all in one trip. This cruise has been great, but we’re getting to the point of being ready to go home. After days of eating too much, drinking too much and sitting on our asses too much, we’ll be lucky to fit into the airplane seats. I’m exhausted from all this leisure.