Travel Notes: Agrigento and Segesta

In May and June of 2011, I spent 5 weeks traveling around Europe. This post is one of a series chronicling the different places I visited on that trip.

Our last day in Sicily was filled with ancient Greek temples. On the trip, I heard many people say that, ironically, you can probably find better preserved Greek temples in Sicily than you can in Greece. And, truly, the ones we saw on our last day were stunning.

We started by visiting Agrigento’s “Valley of Temples.” Located high up on a hillside, this was a spectacular collection of temples. Here are a few of my favorite shots:

We also saw a group of overturned stones that looked suspiciously like the Michelin man:

From Agrigento, we headed onto our farewell lunch – our tour would officially be over the next morning. Our tour guide referred to this lunch as our “Sicilian wedding feast” – and it was perhaps our most spectacular meal yet, with course after course of awesomeness. Some of my favorite parts of the meal:

Pasta rolled in eggplant. These were so delicious – I wish I could recreate something like this:

Calamari. I know, I know – this doesn’t seem like anything special. But it was way more delicious than calamari I’ve had elsewhere (likely because it wasn’t from a frozen bag, which I would suspect is the case at most restaurants).

Cannoli. Yes, it seems no Sicily post would be complete without mention of cannoli. And for our last meal, we each got not one, but two – one traditional, and one with a chocolate-pistachio shell. Excellent.

After lunch, I coma-slept on the bus until we reached Segesta, site of a Greek theater and temple. The thing I loved about the theater was that, because it’s located up so high, you got gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside from the theater.

We walked downhill from the theater through some mildly treacherous paths, and then back uphill to reach the temple at Segesta. This temple, like the ones we’d seen earlier in the day, was magnificent. We arrived as the sun was just beginning to set, so the light was beautiful.

From Segesta, we headed back to Palermo. In the evening, we didn’t eat a full meal because we were so full from lunch. But, we did head out to grab drinks and gelato with our tour group to say our goodbyes. I have to say, we traveled with a pretty cool group of people – I definitely felt sad about saying goodbye to everyone, and to Sicily.

And I suppose here would be a spectacular time to post some profound reflections on Sicily and what it all meant. And while this may not be particularly profound, my main thought is how impressed I was with the food (when is the last time I’ve eaten better?) and the beauty of the landscapes. Another treat of this trip was getting to learn so much about the culture and customs of Sicily – from how to make the perfect pizza dough to the proper way to give a toast (eye contact!) to the art of crossing a busy Sicilian street without getting hit by a car (also eye contact).

Ultimately, the simple truth is that Sicily was not quite what I expected, but it was also more than I expected. More art, more antiquities, more food, more stunning countryside. Just more.

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