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View of Agrigento


Harbour at Agrigento


Temple of Concord near Agrigento


Greek Amphitheater near Agrigento
by Galen Frysinger

 

Welcome to Agrigento
from Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population:  59.031 (2004)
Official site:
Agrigento
Wikipedia:
Agrigento
Map:
MapQuest

The city of Agrigento was founded by the Greeks around 580 BC on a plateau overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, between two rivers, the Hypsas and the Akragas. The rivers and seaside cliffs offered the city natural fortifications, and over time the city grew to become one of the most important and wealthiest cities - know to them as Akragas - of "Magna Graecia"...Greater Greece.

The city's status went into decline when it was sacked by the Carthaginians in 406 BC.  It was not the last time, the Romans and Carthaginians each overran Agrigento again a couple of times, until the Romans established their dominance in about 210 BC.  After the death of Julius Caesar in 44 BC, the city was made a Roman municipium whose citizens, still by and large Greek, enjoyed full Roman citizenship.

After the fall of Rome, the fate of Agrigento follows that of the rest of Sicily, falling into Byzantine hands after the decline of Rome, then under Norman rule.  The history of Sicily, and therefore Agrigento, thereafter becomes vastly more complicated as Sicily finds itself variously and intermittently under the thumb of the Spanish and French empires.

During the Risorgimento, the people of the city enthusiastically supported Garibaldi's invasion of Sicily in 1860, which very quickly resulted in the Unification of Italy under King Victor Emanuele soon after.

The landscape of the plateau consists of two broad ridges, the uppermost of which is the site of the "modern" city and the lower of which is the site of the misnamed Valley of the Temples where Greek architects and builders created an amazing complex of sacred buildings, which in 1996 was declared to be a world heritage site by UNESCO.

For more detailed information about the Valley of the Temples:
Click here

The presence of this extraordinary archaeological site accounts for the fact that the principal industry of Agrigento today is tourism.  However, the economy is also supported by the mining of sulphur and potash - which has gone on since Roman times - and by a variety of other small industries.  Alas, the city is also a haven of Mafia activity, who are actively involved in drug smuggling and other illicit activities.

Tourists need not worry over much about the Mafia and a tour into the old, medieval heart of Agrigento, with its narrow, stepped streets is heartily recommended.  Follow the main street, Via Atenea, which starts on the eastern edge of town above the train station running west from Piazza Aldo Moro, one of the three interlocking piazzas (Piazza Marconi and Piazza Victor Emanuele II are the others) where locals and tourists rub shoulders together.

As you cross Via Atenea, venture down the avenues on your right, taking in the dilapidated old palazzi, and finally the handsome church of Santa Maria dei Greci.  The church was built on the ruins of a Greek temple, remnant columns of which are visible in the nave.  Be sure to go below ground to see the foundations.

The city's archaeological museum is worth a slow visit, if you are so inclined, because of course, its displays consist of artifacts ranging over many centuries back to Agrigento's founding days.

At night, the Valley of the Temples is floodlit, making for a spectacular site from the heights of the city.

by Vian Andrews, November 8, 2005

Region of Sicilia

3719′N 1335′E

 

Distances

Marsala - 135 km;
Palermo - 128 km;
Trapani - 175 km;
Cefalu - 153 km;
Ragusa - 132 km;
Catania - 166 km;
Siracusa - 215 km;
Taormina - 215 km

Directory

 


Coat of arms of Agrigento

The famous Italian dramatist Luigi Pirandello was born near Agrigento at  Contrada Kaos.