To Sciacca and Selinunte
This itinerary carries you to the discovery of the coast between Agrigento and Selinunte, touching the historical city of Sciacca to arrive at the final destination: the archeological marvels of Selinunte.
The coast between Agrigento and Sciacca
is dotted with gorgeous, yet still-unknown beaches: long, white, sandy beaches encircled by sand dunes and white cliffs. Coming from Agrigento, there are three beaches you should visit:
- The Turkish Stairs near Realmente, a white cliff that the wind has shaped like an enormous staircase plunging into the sea.
- Torre Salsa: between Siculiana Marina and Eraclea Minoa extends the World Wildlife Federation reserve of Torre Salsa, where chalk cliffs alternate with long, golden beaches. Beach access points are varied and can be found in Montallegro.
- Eracelea Minoa: a white, sandy shore of 5 km, circled by a dune and protected by a compact forest. In the coastal waters of the beach lie the ruins of the Greek-Roman city of Eraclea.
This Agrigentan town is famous for its carnival, its hot spring and its baroque and medieval architectural beauty, but it preserves a little-known jewel: the Arab quarter.
Sciacca has very ancient origins, even the Greeks exploited the therapeutic properties of its natural "ovens". Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, and Spaniards left a piece of their culture that we still find today in the artistic heritage of the city and in its popular traditions. In 1831, Sciacca was the protagonist in an extraordinary geological event: a volcanic island emerged from the sea in front of the city, and it sunk after only six months: the Ferdinandea Island.
The city is an intricate labryinth of alleyways, into which open up piazzas that hold beautiful churches and buildings. Sights you should see:
- The Cathedral (Duomo), of Norman origins (1108), was expanded in 1656 on the plans of Michele Blasco. The incomplete baroque façade is missing one of two belltowers; on the sides there are statues of Antonio and Gian Domenico Gagini from the 16th century. On the inside are three naves, holding many works of art, among which are various sculptures dated from the 16th century.
- The Church of Collegio, which is rich inside with paintings, among those the Adoration of the Magi by Giovanni Portalone, and a Saint John the Baptist attributed to Domenichino.
- The Church of Santa Margherita, renovated in the 1500's, is interesting for its Renaissance Gothic portal and, inside, the stucco polychromes and frescoes.
- The Steripinto is a singular building from the 1500s, in the Sicilian-Catalonian style. the facade is notable for its tiny conches pointed with diamonds and battlements with a mask in the center, a Renaissance portal, and elegant double lancet window.
The arts and crafts of Sciacca express the best of majolica, traditional Sicilian painted earthenware. The ceramics here follow an ancient tradition dating from medieval times. The glasswork of Sciacca adorns almost all the noble buildings of Agrigento from the 14th to the 18th century.
In the center of the biggest archeological park in the Mediterranean, Selinute greets visitors with its ruins of colossal Greek temples. It was founded in 650 B.C. or in 627 B.C., on a sea promontory between two rivers, whose estuary was then navigable. Selinunte was a thriving and prosperous city, but in 409 B.C. was conquered and destroyed by the Carthaginians. Those same Carthaginians destroyed it later on during the first Punic war, to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Romans.
The archeological area opens with the eastern hills, where the remains of three large Doric temples lie:
- Temple G, dedicated to Zeus, today is completely in ruins. It was one of the largest temples in antiquity: it measured 113 by 54 meters, with columns standing 16 meters high.
- Temple F, dedicated to Athena, is the smallest of the temples. Dating from the end of the 6th century B.C., today it is completely destroyed.
- Temple E, dedicated to Hera, is the most striking, thanks to the reconstruction undertaken by archeologists in the 1950s.
Beyond the eastern hill extends the area of the Acropolis, on which was discovered the remains of 5 Doric temples. Around the Acropolis were discovered fortifications made of squared blocks (from the 5th and 6th centuries). To the north and to the west of the Acropolis lie two great necropolises, still in excavation, containing dozens of excavated tombs of volcanic rock and sarcophagi of terracotta.
The excavations of the archeological area still continue; the many findings discovered at Selinunte are preserved in the Archeological Museum of Palermo and the Civic Museum of Castelvetrano.
Archeological Park Information: Telephone: +39 0924 46251
Go to directories of the Web Sites
Photos are courtesy of: AAPIT Agrigento and APT Trapani