Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Valley of the Temples


This morning we drove a few kilometres up the road from our seaside town, San Leone to the Valley of the Temples, where the ruins of eight Greek Temples built between 510 and 430 BC lie. They are very imposing sitting high over the countryside near Agrigento. The settlers came from Rhodes and Crete to cultivate olives, grapes and cereals. In its heyday Agrigento became one of the most prosperous cities in the Mediterranean. Although some of the temples are intact and quite beautiful many of them have fallen into huge piles  of gigantic rocks and pillars. It was an amazing feat that the Greeks moved all these large rocks from the quarries to build the temples.

I was sitting admiring one of the temples, when some Italian school kids from Bari started talking to me and asking where I was from. When I said Canada they were quite excited because one of their schoolmates came from Canada and they set off to find him so we could have a chat. It turns out he was on exchange for a year from Newfoundland.

After we had toured around we stopped at a bar in the middle of the site where we had freshly squeezed blood orange juice and for Seamus a pistachio gelato and for me a mandoralo gelato, which is made from almonds and naturally tastes like marzipan. It is definitely the gelato of the gods.

We stopped to look at the necropolis, which was just outside the walls. You could quite clearly see where the bodies had been interred. On the way back to the car I was wondering if the temple up ahead had been used in the Inspector Montalbano TV series, when I managed to trip and take a flyer on to the hard path. No harm done but you have to be sure footed around these ancient ruins.

We then drove to Porto Empodocole, eight kilometres along the coast. This is where Andrea Camilleri, who is now 87, was born and where he still spends the summers. He is the author of the Inspector Montalbano novels, which take place in Viagata, a mythical city based on his home town. The town has a hydro plant on the front and has many quite ugly buildings. Where Montalbano's home should have been was very run down; although there were some nicer places up the beach. We looked for a restaurant he frequented but couldn't find it so settled for some risotto marinara and tagliattelle with shrimp and a salad for lunch.

Back in San Leone we drove up to the sandy beaches to go for a walk but not before going in a really funky bar right on the water, with a number of college students drinking, sunning and playing cards. There was really great jazz and blues playing. What a great coffee spot.

Tomorrow we will head to Siracusa for our next stay.

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