Agrigento (formerly Girgenti) is a very ancient town founded when the Greeks landed in Sicily to start the civilisation of Magna Graecia.
The remains include some temples, in strategic position on the peak of several hills around the town, dominating the valley (famous as the Valle dei Templi). The valley is known for the springtime event where the scent of orange flowers (locally called zagare) spreads all over.
A good range of restaurants, cafes and accommodation make the town an excellent base to explore the nearby Valley of the Temples and good beaches further west along the coast.
Valley of the Temples
Sicily's most enthralling archaeological site encompasses the ruined ancient city of Akragas, highlighted by the stunningly well-preserved Tempio della Concordia, one of several ridge-top temples that once served as beacons for homecoming sailors. The 13-sq-km park, 3km south of Agrigento, is split into eastern and western zones. Ticket offices with car parks are at the park's southwestern corner (the main Porta V entrance) and at the northeastern corner near the Temple of Hera (Eastern Entrance).
It is an important port on the coast of the Strait of Sicily for mineral products and for the chemicals produced by the local industries, specialized in agriculture, fishing, ironworking, pharmaceuticals and rock salt refining. It is also known as the native place of playright Luigi Pirandello.
Giardino della Kolymbetra
In a natural cleft between walls of soft tuff (volcanic rock), the Giardino della Kolymbetra is a lush garden of olive and citrus trees interspersed with more than 300 labelled species of plants and some welcome picnic tables. Managed independently by the non-profit historical preservation organisation FAI, it's a peaceful, shady spot, perfect for escaping the heat of the valley and breaking for a picnic lunch. The climb down is steep (best avoided if you've got dicky knees).
Tempio della Concordia
One of the best-preserved ancient Greek temples in existence, the Temple of Concordia has survived almost entirely intact since it was constructed in 430 BC. It was converted into a Christian basilica in the 6th century and the main structure reinforced, giving it a better chance of surviving earthquakes. In 1748 the temple was restored to its original form and given the name it is now known by.
Tempio di Giove
The main feature of the western zone is the crumbled ruin of the Tempio di Giove. Covering an area of 112m by 56m with columns 20m high, this would have been the largest Doric temple ever built had its construction not been interrupted by the Carthaginians sacking Akragas. The incomplete temple was later destroyed by an earthquake.
Tempio di Hera
The 5th-century-BC Temple of Hera is also known as the Tempio di Giunone (Temple of Juno). Though partly destroyed by an earthquake in the Middle Ages, much of the colonnade remains intact, as does a long altar, originally used for sacrifices. The traces of red are the result of fire damage, most likely during the Carthaginian invasion of 406 BC.
Tempio dei Dioscuri
Four columns mark the Tempio dei Dioscuri, also known as the Temple of Castor and Pollux. Built towards the end of the 5th century, it was destroyed by the Carthaginians, later restored in Hellenistic style, and then destroyed again by an earthquake. What you see today dates from 1832, when it was rebuilt using materials from other temples.
Tempio di Ercole
The last of the temples in the eastern zone, the Tempio di Ercole is the oldest, dating from the end of the 6th century BC. Eight of its 38 columns have been raised and you can wander around the remains of the rest.