After living in Italy three times, I wasn’t about to forgo seeing Sicily. On a last minute notice, I booked a flight to Palermo so I could check out the pazzi (crazy people) in the south. Like the south in the United States, there’s both a certain romanticism and hatred of the area by the rest of Italy, which made it all the more appealing to me.
Even after feeling like I knew Italy pretty well, it was a bit of a culture shock for me to land in Palermo. The biggest concern was for me not to go out alone as a tourist. “Only bad things can happen to women on their own,” the hostel owner, a woman, warned. Heeding her advice, I invited a new friend, Jasmin, to come with me to the ruins of Agrigento—as far south as you can go.
Taking a three-hour bus ride from Palermo (and costing around 14 euro), we passed throughout the Sicilian countryside, enjoying the beautiful views of farms and rows of olive trees and vineyards. It was a while before we got to the town of Agrigento, and when we did, we had to hop on another bus.
At first, I wasn’t sure I would be too impressed by the ruins there, but after stepping off the bus and beginning the walk, it was clear that these were almost perfectly preserved, and the signs telling visitors about the history stated that you wouldn’t find better ones other than Rome. What was amazing about these ruins is that they were also used by first the Greeks, then the Romans, and then the Christians, and then finally some of the stones were used to build the surrounding buildings.
The series of temples were dedicated to the main gods in the Greek pantheon, and my favorite was the temple of Hera. Some of these temples were almost completely intact, and I tried to imagine them how they would have looked painted back in ancient Greece.
The day was incredibly hot, and I was sweating and burning without a hat and water. I was also certainly not dressed for the weather, and Jasmin and I had to stop every so often to find a random tree where we could sit and relax. We looked forward to a bottle of water, pizza (duh), and some gelato. We stopped at a tourist shop, happy to get out of the sun for a bit.
Was it worth the three-hour bus ride? Very much so. After exploring Palermo, it was an experience to get to see the remains of what once was and to take a trip far away from what was expected.
Where have you seen fantastic ruins?