Today was the hottest day we were out in Sicily. A number of independent thermometers that we saw on this day ranged (at the hottest) between 31 and 34°C. The sun in the cloudless sky was utterly relentless. If this was a normal in day in London I would be in an air-conditioned office (on a weekday) or be sitting in front of a fan (on a weekend). However, here we were traipsing up a steep hill because the Bertlitz map lied to us about the distance between the bus terminal in Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples.
Anyway, let’s back up for a moment. In order to get from Catania and Agrigento (a 162 km trip) there are two choices if you rely on public transport: 3 hours by coach or 4 hours by train… no brainer really. We brought entertainment for the coach trip since, as you can imagine, the thought of three hours sat on a coach is not exactly preferable. It felt nowhere near that long since you could just get lose in the scenery, both natural and in the many hillside towns.
Arriving in Agrigento it is a remarkable city just to look at. Once it was the 4th largest city in the world and now it houses about 10% of the population it had at its height. Built high on a ridge it looks like it would have been a formidable site. Even now it has the makings of how you would expect a human settlement on a hilly exoplanet to look minus the plastic domes and the flying cars.
So, the bus deposited us off fairly near to the central train station and our guide book made it look as if it would be a short walk (1 km give or take 100 metres). All I can say is… the bastards lied. The fact that you need to purchase bus tickets before getting on the bus meant not only did we have to walk there (where we took a longer way than we should due to a road splitting in three and all three having the same name) but also had to walk back, which meant hiking a 230m high hill in 34°C when none of us are exactly into hiking… it was strangely harrowing.
Anyway, the Valley of the Temples. Well, it’s more a Ridge of the Temples to be honest. Aside from that there is advice that you should start on the Eastern side and work your way west, which is what we did and it means you work from the most intact ruins to the ones where you need a bit more imagination.
First, there was the Temple of Juno. The best preserved of the temples (there is a more intact one but that is because it was converted into a Christian church) it even had scorch marks from when the Carthaginians set it on fire. Seriously, what is with invaders setting fire to religious buildings.
Speaking of which, next was the Temple of Concordia which was pretty much gutted and converted by Christians. It’s beautifully intact but how much of that is because of Christian intervention I am not entirely sure.
There were a number of other temples including eight intact pillars of the Temple of Hercules and outline of a temple to Castor and Pollux.
As I mentioned before, we had a long walk back which none of us were particularly happy with, but we made the 4pm bus so it was worth it… also for the chance to show off my map-reading skills of a not to scale map.
I tried to get a meat item today (since horsemeat is readily available in Sicily) but apparently they had either run out or they just had it on the menu for kicks since they were visibly surprised when I asked for it. Anyway we had some bruschetta to start (as we did on pretty much every night) we were able to have tapenade… on sliced white bread, not on toasted sliced of ciabatta as you would have expected. A bit weird but at least they had good carbonara there.