Valley of The Temples, et al.

My understanding is that one typically goes to Agrigento primarily to visit the Valley of the Temples and the associated sights. I’m one. There is considerable dispute as to whether I’m typical. I think not, but I don’t necessarily mean that in a positive way. (Self-esteem? What’s that?)

The point is, because one typically goes to Agrigento to visit the Valley of Temples et al., and I am one, that’s what I did today.

One of the two sights in the “et al.” is the Pietro Griffo Archaeological Museum. I started there because it was the first stop on my walking route.

Pietro Griffo Archaeological Museum

Large, decorated vase
Large, decorated vase

The Pietro Griffo Archaeological Museum is a fair sized museum containing artifacts from in and around the Valley of the Temples.

The route through the museum begins with a collection of pottery fragments and a couple of full pieces dating from the third millennium BCE. When it got to the 2nd millennium BCE, there were more full pieces.

A short piece on in the museum, when the displays reach the 13th century BCE, they add bronze spearheads into the mix, but it is still mostly pottery.

The exhibits farther along in this section of the museum date all the way up to around first half of the first century CE. They are still mostly pottery, but some are larger pottery pieces than earlier in the museum. And most of the later pieces are decorated on their outer surfaces with pictures that depict primarily mythical figures or unknown folk, tell stories, and/or are evocative in other ways. This section also includes a few small, simple sculptures in the mix.

Ancient bust
Ancient bust

Continuing on, the exhibits add some architectural elements dating from the late 6th or early 5th century BCE up to the 3rd or 2nd century BCE into the mix.

Farther on, there is a large collection of terracotta or other clay masks, figurines and some more pottery (or fragments thereof), mostly from the sixth and fifth centuries BCE.

Still farther on, display cases hold various stone and clay brick-a-brac primarily excavated from or close to the nearby temples. These date mostly from the 6th through 3rd BCE.

Even farther on still, there are marble sculptures or, rather, parts thereof, and busts from the first few centuries CE.


One room at a lower level contains a giant, stone telamon in the shape of a man. (I’m not too proud to admit I had to look up “telamon.” The dictionary tells me it’s, “a horizontal support of timber, stone, concrete, or steel across the top of a door or window.”)

(My tour book called it a telamon, lower case. But I’m willing to believe and probably bet the book is wrong and it’s actually a depiction of Telamon, capital T. According to Wikipedia, Telamon was, in Greek myth, the son of King Aeacus of Aegina, and Endeïs, a mountain nymph.)

When I say the telamon (or Telamon) on display in the museum is giant, I mean giant. Look at the picture of it here. You can’t get a sense from the picture as to how large it really is until you look at the object covered in a black cloth near the bottom left of the picture. That’s a piano. And not a toy one.

Back upstairs, the next room contains sarcophagi and other objects, such as nice pottery, found in tombs in the local necropolis.

Archaeologists and plunderers are always taking stuff from old tombs. How rude! How the heck are the owners supposed to get by without their stuff in the afterlife?

Another large room is filled with mostly clay objects. The signage in that particular room, and only that room, is entirely in Italian, so I can’t elaborate much here. However, it includes a small collection of what I thought are phallic symbols. Only thought, mind you. Only thought. They could have been small clay sceptres or something.

So I consulted Google Translate to check the translation of the Italian on the small placard. Yup. Phalli. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes I’m right.

Damn. I really didn’t expect or want to end this section with phalli, but that brings us to the end of my material on the museum.


They close access to the Valley of the Temples from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. each day. I got out of the museum at about 1:15 p.m. so I needed to fill some time.

The word “lunch” quickly exploded into my mind. Lunch, if properly done, is always a splendid way to fill some time.

I consulted Google Maps for “restaurants.” It showed a restaurant rated 5 just a couple of minutes walk from the museum. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a restaurant rated 5 on Google Maps before. That’s the top rating. I’ve seen a number of 4.8s and 4.9s, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 5 until today.

I went there. I’m glad I did. It was wonderful.

I ordered a starter, a secondo, and a glass of wine. (When I’m on my own in Italy, I rarely go for all of the courses. From what I’ve seen, I don’t think most Italians do either, at least not these days. I usually order at most two from among the starter, primo, and secondo courses. And I usually make lunch my smaller meal. For me, dessert is rare at lunch, and not terribly frequent at dinner either.)

Before the meal, my server brought a “free” amuse-bouche and a “free” glass of Prosecco. The amuse-bouche consisted of five separate items, each bite size or two-bite size, and each delicious. The Prosecco went down well too.

For my starter, I had a soft egg in a cream sauce with spinach, served in a bowl. The sauce swallowed the egg white, but the yoke remained pronounced. It was delightful.

For my secondo, I had a duck dish. It too was marvelously tasty.

The portions were a tad, but only a tad, small, but what they lacked in size, they well more than made up for in flavour. Despite the not terribly large portions, with the “free” five-piece amuse-bouche, I left feeling quite full. And with the “free” Prosecco on top of the glass of wine I ordered, I left artificially happy.

You might have noticed I put “free” in quotes a few times above. They might not have specifically charged for those items. But I paid for them. The restaurant was on the pricy side. Not horrific, but somewhat more than I usually pay for lunch.

When I shuffle off this mortal coil, my estate will be a bit smaller for having visited the restaurant. But dying a smidgen happier than would otherwise be the case isn’t such a bad goal.

Oh, and yesterday I mentioned that I’m rarely able to come even close to a state of relaxation. Post-lunch approached that today. So, there’s that.

Valley of the Temples

What's left of the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Valley of the Temples
What’s left of the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Valley of the Temples

Ironically, the Valley of the Temples includes mostly Greek ruins. If you didn’t get the irony, it’s near Agrigento, which is in Sicily, which is in Italy, which is not in Greece. You’d think that after my trip immediately previous to this one, which was to Greece, I’d have seen enough Greek ruins. But the ones here are quite monumental, no pun intended, but taken nevertheless, thereby admittedly obscuring my meaning somewhat. They’re very impressive was what I meant.

I suppose it’s only fair that there are Greek ruins in Italy. After all, I’ve seen Roman ruins in Greece, Spain, Portugal and England. (If you want to find my journal posts on that, use the search box to look for “Roman ruins” (without the quotes).)

Concordia Temple in the Valley of the Temples
Concordia Temple in the Valley of the Temples

A map at the entrance I came in through showed routes through the site that provide a Greek itinerary, a Roman itinerary, and a Medieval and Early Christian itinerary. However, there was no signage elsewhere in the site indicating which path to take for which itinerary. And I didn’t see the map available anywhere else on the site. So, I just wandered around.

I thought I saw everything, but I didn’t see anything labelled as Roman, Medieval, or Early Christian, just Greek. So I might have missed some stuff. The signage could have been better.

The pillars and lintels of the “Concordia Temple” appeared to be all there as far as I could tell. (Full disclosure: I’m not at all certain that “lintel” is the right term here. I refer to the horizontal pieces that sit on top of the columns at the front and at the back of the temple, with the rectangular pieces spanning the width of, respectively, the front and the back. Triangular pieces sit atop the rectangular pieces. Are the combined rectangular and triangular pieces lintels? I suspect a regular reader or two of this journal knows.)

The Temple of Juno in the Valley of the Temples
The Temple of Juno in the Valley of the Temples

None of the sculptures and other decorations that the Greeks undoubtedly affixed to the temple are there now. I think some of them are in the museum.

The other ruins are in lesser states of completeness. The Temple of Juno still has many of its columns and some horizontal pieces sitting on top of some of the columns. But the rest of the temples at most have just a few columns remaining.

On the other end of the completeness scale, the sign at one ruin said it was the Temple of Zeus. There was little more than a few scattered stone blocks. Had it not been for the sign, I would never have guessed that a building once stood there.

The Valley of the Temples site is very long. Wear some comfortable walking shoes if you go there and want to see the whole thing. The paths are fairly well maintained, so sturdy shoes aren’t necessarily required, but there is a lot of ground to cover and there is some incline.

There are separate entrances at either end of the Valley of the Temples site. Because I didn’t have a car that I needed to return to, and because the shortest route to/from my hotel is different for each entrance, I entered through one and left by the other.

Irrelevant aside: I have no idea why they call it the “Valley” of the Temples. The ruins sit on top of a ridge. That ridge-top slopes up, so some of the ruins are higher than others, but the land slopes down on both sides of the ridge. True, Agrigento is well above the Valley of the Temples. But the sea is well below it. And there is a small valley between the Valley of the Temples and the hill on which Agrigento sits.

Kolymbethra Gardens

Flowering citrus trees
Flowering citrus trees

The Kolymbethra Gardens is within the Valley of the Temples archaeological site. To visit, you have to pay to get into the Valley of the Temples, but you also have to pay a separate admission for the gardens. At the museum, you can buy a combination ticket that includes both the Museum and the Valley of the Temples, but not the gardens. That’s what I bought. At the museum, they do not sell a combination ticket that includes the gardens. Nor do they sell a ticket just for the gardens.

At the entrance to the Valley of the Temples archaeological site, they sell combination tickets that include the Valley of the Temples and either the museum or the gardens, but not all three. You can, and I did, buy an admission ticket to just the gardens at the entrance to the gardens within the Valley of the Temples. Confused? Don’t worry. If you visit, you’ll figure it out. If I did, you can.

The gardens have a long history. The Greeks turned the ravine it’s currently in into a reservoir. But then the Arabs came along, drained it, and turned it into gardens.

Some of the fruit looked ripe
Some of the fruit looked ripe

If you’re looking for carefully curated flowers with meticulously designed and crafted flower beds, you won’t find it here. Trees and what appear to be naturally occurring shrubs cover the gardens.

According to the leaflet handed out at the entrance to the gardens, about a third of the trees in the gardens are citrus trees, most of them cultivated.

When I was there, most of the citrus trees were flowering. They emitted a delightful scent that was almost intoxicating. Although, it’s possible that the “almost intoxicating” effect was a residue effect of the Prosecco and wine I had at lunch.

A few of the trees had, in addition to flowers, some fruit that looked ripe. I spotted lemons and a few varieties of oranges.

All-in-all, not a bad day, I’d say.


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