A detailed itinerary to visit the “Valley of the Temples” archaeological park
The visit to the Archaeological Park ideally starts from the top of the Rupe Atenea where once stood a sanctuary of Zeus and Athena Lindia Atabyrios, deities imported from Rhodes, mentioned by Polybios.
On the eastern edge of the cliff, above the cemetery of Bonamorone, you find: the Temple of Demeter, incorporated into the medieval church of San Biagio, the Rock Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone, linked to the cult of the waters flowing from two natural caves; remains of the Greek fortifications (Gate I or “pincer bulwark” and Gate II or Gela Gate from which branched off the road to Gela). Further down along the Via Panoramica dei Templi, you get to one of the parking areas of the Valley of the Temples, the ticket office and the Temple of Juno, dating from around 460 BC In front of the temple, the remains of the ‘sacrificial altar. Another Gate (Gate III) opened to the west.
Leaving the temple, you walk along the Via Sacra, a modern road that cuts from east to west the Hill of the Temples. On the left, there are the remains of the Greek walls and Byzantine arcosolia which demonstrate the use of the area as a cemetery at the end of the pagan age. Further down the Temple of Concordia, one of the best preserved in the world along with the Greek temple of Hera at Paestum and the Temple of Hephaistos or Teseion in Athens. Its harmonious proportions and beauty of forms make it one of the masterpieces of the Doric style.
Then, on the right, we see a group of sub divo (under the sky) tombs belonging to the early Christian necropolis, on the left, in the garden of Villa Aurea, an underground burial area (catacombs or caves of Fragapane).
After the Villa Aurea, the last home of the late English captain and patron of the arts Alexander Hardcastle, there is the temple of Hercules (Heracles), the oldest temple in Agrigento. Constructed at the end of the sixth century. B.C. and described by Cicero in the Verrines, the temple has 8 columns on the southern side, raised in 1924 thanks to the generosity of Alexander Hardcastle. Under the temple, a few meters away, you can see a tomb of Roman times, improperly called “Tomb of Theron”.
We walk across the new footbridge over the modern road (site of the ancient Porta Aurea or Golden Gate) and , we access the area of the colossal Temple of Olympian Zeus or Jupiter, one of the world’s largest Greek temples. Built after the victory in 480 BC at Imera, it displayed, between pseudocolumns, statues of giant telamons, 7.61m high. At the center of the temple, the copy of one of telamons, the original of which is preserved in the archaeological museum. In ‘area below the Sanctuary of Chtonian deities (Demeter and Persephone). At the centre, four columns with superimposed entablature, reconstructed in the nineteenth century. and known as the Temple of Castor and Pollux. To the north, the garden of Kolymbetra, citrus grove managed by the FAI. To the south, Gate V, through which we get to the ticket office and Sant ‘Anna parking. Continuing towards Villaseta, a path to the right leads to the Temple of Vulcan or Hephaestus There are the base and two columns left.
Returning to the Porta Aurea we go to the plain of San Gregorio (Temple of Asclepius) and San Leone (old Emporion). Then, driving up towards the modern city, we come to the Hill of San Nicola, where was once the upper agora, dominated by the Gothic Cistercian church of the same name. Inside, the famous sarcophagus of Phaedra and Hippolytus and the “Lord of the Ship”, a large crucifix that inspired a novel and a play by Luigi Pirandello. Outside the church, enjoy the magnificent view towards the temples and the sea, and admire the “Ekklesiasterion”, place of meeting of the popular assembly and the so-called Oratory of Phalaris. Behind the church, on the ruins of a Cistercian monastery, stands the Regional Archaeological Museum with nineteen showrooms. Do not miss the collection of Greek vases, the Telamon and the famous Ephebe of Agrigento. Nearby, the Hellenistic-Roman Area shows the remains of houses and streets that give us an idea of the ancient city urban layout.