Saturday, May 31, 2008

The other side of Sicily

Today's adventure took us to the Valley of the Temples, in Agrigento (about a 2.5 hour drive from Palermo).

As the bus wove along the winding streets, our guide reminded us that there are literally no rules of the road in Italy--no, really there are NO rules. The number of cars and bikes weaving in and out amongst our bus made us sit on the edges of our seats. People made their own personal lane of traffic and simply honked at one another to change lanes or pass someone whenever they felt the need. Amazing really, coming from a world of traffic cops and highway patrol!

Upon arrival in Agrigento (which refers to the agricultural careers of the people in the area), we applied plenty of sunscreen and began our trek up the hill to the ruins. According to our guides, The Valley of the Temples is one of the most important and most well preserved archeological sites in the world. Agrigento was initially founded as a Greek colony in the 6th century BC and it quickly became a major cultural center. All of the temples were constructed within a century, each facing east, which was a standard criteria for both Greek and Roman temples. This was done so that the statue of the god housed in each temple would be illuminated by the rising sun.

We were able to climb amongst the rubble and see the glory of many of the temples that were still standing. Of all of the temples in the valley, Temple of Concorde is the one that is most intact. It is believed that this temple was constructed around 430 BC, but it is unclear as to which god this temple was erected for. The temple got its name from a Latin inscription found near the temple and is pronounced like our sister college Concordia. We also saw the temples dedicated to the gods Zeus (Jupiter), Hera (Juno), and Hercules amongst others.

The site was amazing, the weather was beautiful, and it was definitely a morning to remember!

We followed up the morning's activities with lunch and a glorious few hours at the local beach before heading back to Palermo for a free evening.

Tomorrow we have our second concert and take the cruise to "the continent."