Italy

The Valley of the Temples (La Valle dei Templi), originally the ancient settlement of Akragas, is the most complete set of Greek ruins I have ever seen in Sicily. Home to eight temples from the 6th and 5th centuries BC, it is a hugely popular tourist destination and an active archeological site. The highlights are the very much intact temples of Concordia and Hera/Juno, as well as the partially standing temple of Hercules (pictured). But the longer you spend in the park, the more you are rewarded with the smaller details like the fossilized shells embedded in the dirt pathways between the sites, or the iridescent lizards sunbathing on the disembodied capitals of toppled doric columns.

From the park, the modern city of Agrigento is visible on the nearest hilltop, a ten minute drive at most. Architecturally, it features both modern and medieval neighborhoods, though the old town sustained such heavy damage after a landslide in 1966 that many residents moved permanently out of the city center to the developing suburbs. Because of the temples foreigners are expected in this otherwise remote part of Sicily. My pale legs (and disinterest in tanning) always give me away, but I didn’t feel out of place wandering the town. I was good-naturedly chided for choosing the hottest, dustiest week of the year to go exploring, but was otherwise smiled at and left alone.

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