Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples)
Agrigento Travel Blog› entry 14 of 20 › view all entries
After breakfast, all four departments embarked on a full day trip to Agrigento. It was about a three-hour ride by coach from Ortigia. The scenery along the ride was spectacular - similar in scale to Northern California, but with greater contrast. Those of us who had gone out the night before were exhausted and slept for most of the ride. It was astonishing to see Andy, who stands 6’4” (~1.93m) tall, folded up in a pair of seats sound asleep. I took his picture as well as Carl’s in a similar position before getting some rest myself. Melissa and I found an awkward-looking, but extraordinarily comfortable intertwined configuration in our seats.
Waking up in Agrigento, we eagerly entered Valle dei Templi. The English translation is “Valley of the Temples,” which is actually a misnomer in that the archeological park is on the ridge of a plateau. We met up with our tour guide and congregated on the stone blocks in front of Tempio di Hera Lacinia (known to the Romans as Tempio di Giunone Lacinia or Temple of Juno). Our guide was a strange husky man with two or three jackets that he didn’t wear, but had draped across his back with the sleeves hanging over his shoulders in front. His face looked unkempt with long stubble that he may have intended as a short beard.
The location of Hera’s Temple provided splendid views. In one direction we could see the beautiful rolling hills of the surrounding countryside and in the other the acropolis (upper city) of Agrigento across the valley. Along the ridge in the distance, we could also identify the magnificently well-preserved Tempio della Concordia (Temple of Concord). By the temple, Greg (who had come to be known as “Ory” for the duration of our trip), Melissa, and I found a hugely thick, though not very tall, ancient live olive tree and stood for a picture before continuing in the footsteps of the Greeks along the stone pedestrian road, Via Passeggiata Archeologica (archeological walk). Detouring off the road, we walked along the remains of the southern city wall of Akrágas in which graves could still be discerned.
Several of us paused half way to use the toilets, but I stepped out of line and decided I could hold it when I realized the attendant standing by the doors was charging a toll for entry. On an olive tree, Karen spotted a chubby gecko that momentarily distracted us from our march. Moving on, we reached Tempio della Concordia, where again we gathered and sat to listen to our guide. The man droned in a gravely voice as he recited his presentation with his head tilted slightly back and I noticed that behind his tawny sunglasses, his eyes were closed. (Dr. DeLaura later explained it was a sign of disrespect that in turn cost the man his tip.) Tempio della Concordia remains in remarkable condition. Several scaffoldings in and behind the massive monument demonstrate preservation (or restoration) is an ongoing process.
We came upon an interesting field of stone, slotted with rectangular holes. They were necropole (tombs), but each too small in dimension for an adult. I was told these had been used for babies. Nearby were tracks through which the huge stone blocks were rolled during construction of the temples. That was of particular interest to us from the School of Technology because our project was to report on the building techniques of the ancient civilization that had erected the temples. The Tempio di Giove (Temple of Olympian Zeus, later called Jupiter by the Romans) remains consist of little more than a stack of blocks (presumably the intended temple base), and a heaping pile of ancient rubble.
Approaching the Temple of Dioscuri (twins Kastor and Polydeuces, later known as Castor and Pollux by the Romans) ruins with Ory, we enjoyed a clearer view of the acropolis beyond some more ruins.
Passing through some other ruins on our way to lunch, we found a large square pit in the ground that was as deep as my height plus reach (about 2.4m or 8ft). Ori and I figured they might have been used to confine prisoners or animals, so we each took turns climbing in to see what it was like.
For lunch we went to Ristorante Le Dune, which is located on or very near the Valley of the Temples property. There were simply four choices on the menu; pasta, beef, fish, or pizza, each with predetermined sides or toppings. I had the fish. Even the beverages were mandatory, wine and water. Each table received one screw-capped bottle of white wine and another of red. Both were dreadful! Thankfully, it was the only occasion in Italy on which I encountered wine that was less than superb. From the restaurant window we could see the shore of the Mediterranean Sea.
After our mediocre lunch we all wanted follow Heather’s lead, although not completely nude. Ory, Joe, Andy, and I were the first to go for a dip in our boxers. It was a bit chilly, but not quite as cold as Long Island Sound in summer. It was nice to relax and swim in the clear water and think about all the tours and sites that I had seen at the beginning of the week. Melissa and Carl cuffed their pant legs and waded in knee deep, while Erica and Kim went in fully clothed and completely submerged.
Again we slept through most of the bus ride home. When we got back to the Domus Mariae, a group of us got ready and attempted to finish the retched leftover wine from lunch before hitting the town. After the bars, Melissa and I snuck away to the rooftop of the inn and spent some time in a wicker loveseat talking. Over the last few days we’d become enthralled with each other’s company and couldn’t seem to spend enough time together.