The long presence of the Magna Graecia in Sicily, lasting about five centuries, has left indelible marks of its passage, visible above all thanks to the beautiful monuments that are still today a perpetual testimony of classical and Hellenistic beauty.
If the Valle dei Templi (the Valley of the Temples) at Agrigento represents the most shining (and famous) example of Greek architecture in Sicily, it is not possible to forget equally important archaeological sites, Segesta, which preserves a beautiful Doric temple among the best preserved existing today, and Selinunte, the largest archaeological park in Europe.
Segesta is halfway between Palermo and Trapani, in the territory of Calatafimi, easily reachable by car being just over three kilometers from the homonymous junction of the A29 motorway.
When you arrive at Segesta, left the car in the large paid parking, you can access in the archaeological park. You have to visit immediately the beautiful Temple, with a refined Doric style (photo 1).
The Temple has some peculiarities. First of all the columns have a singular round shape, without the typical grooves that usually distinguish the Greek temples. This aspect has suggested that it may be an unfinished temple, probably due to a conflict erupted during construction. No one knows the divinity to which the temple was dedicated or the purpose for which it was built, because no traces of the ceremonies or rituals practiced there have been received. The other characteristic element is that the Temple is devoid of the “cell”, the central and fundamental element of every Greek temple. The only sure thing is the fact that from this archaeological site it is possible to dominate the surrounding territory, an aspect that makes this temple of enormous charm.
You have to visit also the Theater, located on the top of Monte Barbaro. It is possible to reach it with a path of about 20-25 minutes on foot from the Temple (and from the ticket office). However, you can take advantage of the convenient shuttle that, with the modest amount of 1.50 euro roundtrip, saves you from an uncomfortable and tiring walk, especially if you are under a pressing summer heat (the departure is every half hour ).
At the end of the race, the shuttle leaves the visitor a few meters from the Theater. Along this short route you can admire a beautiful panorama with a view of the Temple from above (photo 2).
The Theater was built during the Roman influence (III-II century BC). It has a diameter of over 60 meters and is able to accommodate around 4,000 people. It is still location for shows during the summer season (photo 3).
The official website of the Segesta Archaeological Park is available here.
The ancient Selinus was the last of the Greek colonies to resist against the populations that dominated the western part of the island (especially Phoenicians and Carthaginians). Today the Selinunte site is the largest archaeological park in Europe.
Here are preserved the remains of seven monumental temples, although not all well preserved.
The best preserved temple is certainly the Temple E (all the Temples of Selinunte are marked with letters of the alphabet because they do not know with certainty the deities they were dedicated to), recently restored, which presents a peristyle of 6X15 columns (photo 4) .
One of the characteristics of this Temple is to be one of the few to be visited inside, or you can walk between its columns, an aspect very challenged by those who, rightly, would like these temples to be protected at best from a use indiscriminate “tourist”.
In the eastern part of the archaeological site, about 20 minutes walk from Temple E, there are three other temples. What is most impressive is the Temple G, now reduced to a mountain of ruins, which occupies the northern part of the hill in disorderly fashion (photo 5). However, what remains is a good idea of the grandeur of this temple, dating back to the 5th century BC, which was to be the largest in the entire Greek world. The presence of some columns without grooves could suggest that the temple remained unfinished.
Visiting the archaeological park of Selinunte could be tiring for its grandeur.
In this regard, there are two possibilities. The first is to be led by local guides who accompany the visitor through the temples of the park on board of comfortable electric vehicles. The second, cheaper, provides first the visit of the Temple and accessing the Archaeological Park through the lower entrance and then, leaving the site, the visit of the remaining part of the Park by going with your car to the upper entrance (one only ticket).
The official site of the Archaeological Park of Selinunte is here (only in italian).
After visiting the Archaeological Park and having refreshed the cultural and archaeological part that is in us, you can cool off with a nice bath at the Eastern Reserve “Foce Belice”, a few kilometers from the archaeological site, a protected natural area where you can relax in the sun .
Where to stay at Selinunte
I suggest the B&B Garzia, among the best accommodation in the area. It is just a few minutes drive from the archaeological park. Excellent breakfast and impeccable service. For my full review on Tripadvisor, click here.
Where to eat
The seafront, in Marinella of Selinunte, is very crowded and in the evening comes alive with bars, restaurants and pizzerias. I can suggest the restaurant “DAG”, right on the sea, which allows you to also enjoy fixed price menus with excellent general quality, having a beautiful view in front of you (photo 6). For my full review on Tripadvisor, click here.