Sicily 2019: Agrigento, Casa Balata and the Valley of the Temples

Hands-down, the Valley of the Temples was the biggest highlight of our trip to Sicily.  It is one of the best-preserved collections of Greek architecture in the world, and illustrates just how important Sicily was to the Greek world about 2,500 years ago.  We visited the site after our drive from Trapani and after a quick lunch with temple views.

The Valley of the Temples is visible from the sea, which would have made for a pretty impressive site for visitors way back when.  Even more impressive is that all 15 of them were constructed in less than 80 years!  It was a bright, sunny day and one of the few times we were thankful it wasn’t warmer.

The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.
The Temple of Concordia.
The Temple of Hercules.

After our temple visit, we headed to our one ‘splurge’ stay, an ‘agritourismo’ bed and breakfast just outside the city.  Hostess Daniela welcomed us warmly and showed us our grand room, complete with a super-sized shower.  We would be the only guests that evening, and we opted to have dinner there, so we settled in to relax for a bit.

Casa Balata in Agrigento.
Our room’s generous shower and ‘peekaboo’ nook. (I’d be too much of a prude if I didn’t add that–of course–Andrew took advantage of the bench and viewing window that night to scare me when I was in the shower!)
Casa Balata’s breakfast table. The room opens up to the outdoor patio and pool.
The patio, pool and additional guest house (left) of Casa Balata. Our only regret: it was too cool to swim!

That night, Daniela cooked us a spectacular dinner filled with local ingredients. Believe it or not, Andrew liked the bean dish, made with artichokes, broad beans and onions, the best!  The spring herbs marinated in vinegar were also delicious. I also had fresh ricotta drizzled with her homemade olive oil, and for dessert we had panna cotta topped with a cedra marmalade. Andrew fell in love with cedro and picked two for the road from her grove before we left.  Also, called ‘citron,’ it looks like a giant, less smooth lemon.  However, the center is mostly white flesh with a small citrus middle.  You’re supposed to peel the outer yellow pith, then eat the inside white flesh, similar to a less crisp apple.  It has a mild, refreshing flavor, especially if you pair it with the tart, citrus center!

Our multi-course dinner at Casa Balata.

On another trip, we’ll have to come and stay with Daniela again for more than just one night…and perhaps later in the year when it’s warmer!

Leaving Casa Balata the next morning.

Our next stop was the archeological museum that went along with the temples. The most impressive piece in the museum is the most complete ‘telamon,’ one of 38 that would have stood at the top of a column on one of the temples. His feet look out of proportion here because he would have been 40 feet high, putting everything in proportion from below.

One of the telamon, or Stone Giants, from the Valley of the Temples.

Before leaving, we decided to give Rick’s Agrigento city walk a try.  While quiet, it was genuinely fun to wander the streets and take in all the architecture.

Via Neve in Agrigento. ‘Neve’ means snow, and this used to be a place to buy ice. Now, it’s colorfully painted and the home to artists’ studios.
The juxtaposition of hustle-and-bustle Agrigento, perched high above the Valley of the Temples (down and to the right), with the sea further beyond.

Up next: Villa Romana del Casale and Ragusa!

 

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