Valley of the Temples

The temple of Concordia can be seen as soon as it appears at the southern extremity  of this green and all-flower floor; to the east the scarce ruins of the temple of Juno; the ruins of all the other sacred buildings on the same straight line as the two mentioned do not appear to the view of those standing above, which runs further on north, along the coast, still extended for half an hour towards the marina (…) “. Even today a little or nothing of the landscape, that Goethe could admire in April 1787, has changed, and the Valley of the Temples is the most known and vaunted area of ​​Agrigento. The monuments that stand there are the rests of the ancient city of Akragas, founded in the VI century BC. by  settlers of the Greeks and became in about a hundred years “the most beautiful city of mortals” (Pindar). Destroyed by the Carthaginians in 406, it was refounded by Timoleon in 340 BC and lived new moments of splendor, when inevitably started to decline, definitive with the advent of the Byzantines. The ancient city was abandoned in the IX century, after the Arab conquest, and the urban nucleus narrowed on a hill above it taking the name of Gergent. Passed to the Normans, the city was named diocese and was embellished with numerous churches. Palaces and monuments continued to rise even between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and then again between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In 1927 the city took the name Agrigento and now has about 56,000 inhabitants. You need one day to  visit it.

 

 

 

Saline

The Saline della Laguna are located in western Sicily, on the coast connecting Trapani to Marsala. A unique area in front of the island of Mothia, on the famous “salt route”, which offers visitors many opportunities like: the visit of the Mill of Infersa and the museum with the multimedia route; experiences and activities at  “Ettore and Infersa” Saltpans; the visit of Isola Lunga (Long Island); the stay in one of our rooms with view on the saltpan.

The Saline della Laguna were elected “Place of the Heart” FAI, winning the special prize EXPO 2015. This result was made possible by the vision and the conservation work made by the company that manages Ettore and Infersa Saltpans and some of the surrounding sites:

  • elegant  “Finestra sul Sale”, result of a careful restoration that has produced three tastefully furnished rooms with beautiful views of the Saltpans;
  • Infersa Windmill (and the other two fully functional mills), housing the museum with the multimedia route, the visitor centre and the salt shop;
  • Ettore and Infersa Saltpans, still used today for the production of sea salt, where it is possible to try unique experiences, even inside the baths;
  • Isola Lunga, solitary and fascinating island, where “get lost” between the lush nature, reaching a spa dedicated to regenerating diving or just lie on the salt crust.

A path to discover, in the heart of the Natural Reserve of the Stagnone Islands. You will have the possibility to participate in the exclusive tasting “there is salt and salt”, a very original and tasty experience.

 


Palermo

The wealth and the beauty of Palermo are in its thousand souls, the result of domination, arrivals and departures, hospitality and exchange. It is proved by its landscape, language, monuments,  cuisine and its urban net.

A stratified and syncretic richness that is easy to read in art, among the light folds of an arabesque, on a capitello, among the mosaic tiles, in malicious cherub, between classic architectures and volutes liberty or also in the “Opera dei pupi”; a wealth that is equally easy to  read in the dozens of initiatives, seminars, exhibitions, conferences, shows that welcome the inhabitants of Palermo and tourists throughout the year.

Palermo is a multi-ethnic mosaic that expresses beauty in  cultures exchanging.

Palermo, the Italian Capital of Culture, is a capital of Cultures, of artistic culture and other Cultures, not only a rich calendar of events, but a vision project that sees the  culture as “capital” around which grows the whole community.

Culture at 360 °, not only artistic culture but also culture of peace, hospitability, legality, enterprise, innovation, youth, environmental, solidarity, diversity; all this within the system of   cultural institutions, associations and many actors of the civil vitality of our territory, which goes beyond urban boundaries and enhances the synergy with the metropolitan area and with the whole region.

 

Certainly there will be taken numerous initiatives and events, many of them are of international scope, which project the city towards the great themes of our era, such as international mobility right, climate change, hospitability, personal rights, relationships between peoples and states. Since a lot of all this initiatives will remain beyond 2018: new spaces and cultural circuits, an integrated system of the tourist-cultural offer, and, specially, the pride of our rediscovered beauty.

 

 

 

Aeolian Islands

Proclaimed by UNESCO World Heritage of Humanity in 2000, the Aeolian archipelago is made up of seven islands: Alicudi, Filicudi, Lipari, Panarea, Salina, Stromboli and Vulcano. All seven islands are of volcanic origin, but only the volcanoes of Stromboli and, of Vulcano are still active. In the other islands, however, volcanic activities, such as fumaroles, still occur. The largest centre of the archipelago is Lipari, which is 24 miles distant from the Sicilian coast: it is both for the size of the territory (37.6 square kilometers ) and for the number of inhabitants (around 9 thousands). The island, whose inhabitants are called liparesi or lipari, is divided into six areas (Lipari centre, Piano Conte, Canneto, Quattropani, Acquacalda and Porticello) and the rest of the archipelago depends on it, except Salina. Lipari can rely on three ports: Marina Corta for small boats, Marina Lunga for ships and hydrofoils and Pignataro for fishing boats and pleasure boats. It should be noted that, together with Salina, these are the only landings for fishing in the Aeolian Islands. In other islands, in fact, the fishers are forced to keep boats on dry beaches for the most part of the year. Finally, it is to be noted the suggestive view of the archipelago from the summit of Monte Chirica, which stands 602 meters from the sea level, and is the highest peak of Lipari.
On the routes of the mythical Ausoni and the cnidii navarchi, north-east of the Sicilian coast, beaten by the wind, the Aeolian archipelago unfolds its seven enchanted islands, which, due to their explosive volcanic nature, are sisters of Hawaii, the pearls of the Pacific. The Aeolian Islands, since the remote antiquity, were colonized by Neolithic peoples interested in the exploitation of obsidian, an unsurpassable material for manufacturing cutting tools. Between the XVIth and XIVth centuries BC, the islands became an important commercial stop on the metal route, particularly on the course of the tin, which was descended from the British Isles to the East, passing through the Strait of Messina. Subsequently, in the Roman period, the archipelago prospered on the trade of sulfur, alum and salt, gradually decaying, until the final abandonment, determined by further volcanic eruptions and its designation, arising from the Second Council of Nicea, a dwelling of the devil and place of the physical manifestations of its disturbing presence. In the Norman period there was a progressive repopulation of the islands that began to live a true season of splendor, forming their current aspect.

 

ERICE

 

It stands on the top of a solitary mountain overlooking Trapani, the valley and the sea. Its origins are ancient and mysterious, wrapped in legend. At first only one temple  was risen on the summit, dedicated to a female deity of fruitful nature. It was always venerated by all the peoples of the Mediterranean and its main care was  to protect the sailors, who  saw from a distance the fire that burned in the sacred building and which was also used  as orientation. Soon there was built a very strong fortress, disputed by Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans. It was destroyed by the Carthaginians in 260 BC. and the inhabitants were transported to Trapani. During the Roman era, the old fortress had little importance. The temple on contrary   was placed indeed at the head of a religious confederation of seventeen Sicilian cities, permanently defended by a garrison. There was no more news on the city and the sanctuary until the Arab era, when the centre reappears with the name of Gebel Hamed. During the Norman domination and in the course of the following centuries, Erice composed the urbanistic aspect that was saved   intact up to nowadays  and that constitutes its main attraction. All collected in a triangular perimeter, it is one of the most unique towns in Sicily. The narrow cobbled streets, the small squares, the flowered courtyards, a rich craftsmanship that includes ceramics, sweets and rugs, make it a  target site  for every excursion in Trapani.

The Mother Church was built during the first half of the XIV  century and was  dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin. It is preceded by a mighty isolated bell tower,
contemporary to the church, originally a lookout tower. A rectangular portico on four pointed arches was added to the facade in the XVth century. The interior is in a hybrid Gothic style, due to a remake of 1865. There are numerous examples of painting, sculptural and  artisan art attributed to well-known Sicilian artists, such as the Laurana and the Mancino.

The Castle stands on the ruins of the ancient temple dedicated to Venus, which preserves evidences of the V – VII century BC., on a high isolated cliff which was formerly accessed by a draw-bridge. It was made impregnable by the Normans, who endowed it with walls edged with merlons. Some temple columns and  cornice fragments dated the Roman reconstruction period, were found at the beginning of this century. Later  some fragments of mosaic floor  were also found. Around the castle are extended  the Balio Gardens, magnificent for their terrace layout and the variety of cultivated plants. They take the name of the Norman governor (Bajulo) who resided in the adjacent castle.

The Medieval Towers constituted the outpost of the Castle of Venus, which were joined by mighty curtain walls. They were partially rebuilt in the middle of the last century by the will of Count A. Pepoli, who  also initiated the construction of the Torretta Pepoli, a manneristic construction in a vague Moorish style.

 

 

 

SELINUNTE

Selinunte

Founded during the VII century by the settlers of Megara Hiblaea, it was the most advanced point westward of the Greek territories in Sicily. Thus, for almost three centuries, there  were noted  conflicts  between Greek and Phoenician-Punic civilizations, which   dominated  the life of the peoples of the Mediterranean lands for ages. Selinunte has developed over the centuries to become the most grandiose of the Hellenistic cities of Sicily, especially for its colossal temples, the only ones in Sicily to be decorated with sculptures. Its inhabitants, proud of such power, felt invincible and when, in 409 B.C., the Segestani, with whom they were in constant contrast, invoked against them the help of the Carthaginians, they did not worry too much. But it was wrong. An army of 100,000 men landed in Sicily and besieged Selinunte. Despite the strenuous defense, the city succumbed and the enemy army seized it. Historians tell of a real massacre: 16,000 citizens were killed, 5,000 found in slavery. Each building was looted and destroyed, including the magnificent temples, desecrated by warriors thirsty for booty. Selinunte never managed to get up again, despite the generous attempt of a Syracusan, Hermocrates who, in the following two years,   undertook  to  rebuild the walls. There are no traces of other settlements until the Byzantine domination. Hermitages and religious communities and later, during the  period of Arab domination, the Muslim tribes, were established on  the ruins . Over the years and centuries, the ancient Selinunte was completely forgotten, and only in the XVIth century the historian T. Fazzello identified the site. In the XIX century was started a systematic excavation campaign. The archaeological area is determined  in two main zones: those of the oriental temples and the other one of the acropolis. Temple E, according to an inscription, would have been dedicated to Hera. Built in the Vth century, it is  one of  the best examples of Doric temple. Four metopes,  coming from it,  are kept in the National Museum of Palermo. Temple F, of archaic style, arose in the VIth century. It is exactly this   one that suffered the most robberies, however, some metopes were also found here, representing Athena and Dionisio fighting with the giants. Temple G is one of the largest temples of classical antiquity. It seems to have been dedicated to Apollo, the tutelary god of the Selinuntians. They undertook its construction in 580 BC. and a hundred years later it was not  finished yet. The temple covers an area of about  6,000 square meters, surrounded by a peristyle of 46 columns 16,27 m high, with a circumference of 10,70 m. From the enormous pile of its ruins, the stem of a column, restored in 1832, emerges solitary, which gives an idea of ​​the grandeur of the building. On the irregular esplanade of the acropolis, surrounded by walls of two -three meters thick, several towers and gates were recognized. There are six templar buildings in addition to more modest buildings of a sacred nature. These temples are also indicated with letters of the alphabet.   The temple C has particular importance, the largest of the Acropolis, built in the mid-sixth century on the highest point of the terrace. The two pediments, inside which there was a gorgonian terracotta mask, today kept  in the National Museum of Palermo, together with the metopes of the same temple were covered with terracotta slabs, decorated with floral motifs. It is  also remembered the temple of the “little metopes” that gave us six metopes, which constitute the most ancient plastic document of Selinunte, taking  back to the beginning of the VIth century. At the northern edge of the Acropolis you can see the main gate, defended by imposing fortifications, partly dating back to the ancient city, partly to the reconstruction of Hermocrates.

 

LE CAVE DI CUSA
Sebbene non facciano parte dell’area archeologica propriamente detta, le cave dalle quali i Selinuntini traevano i materiali di costruzione sono molto interessanti da visitare, se non altro per la suggestiva bellezza del parco archeologico che le racchiude. Olivi argentei a perdita d’occhio circondano i grandi rocchi di colonna abbandonati qui da più di duemila anni. Alcuni ancora attaccati alla roccia, altri già pronti per essere trasportati a Selinunte, i rocchi imponenti emanano qualcosa di misterioso, legato al segreto della costruzione dei templi.

 

Monreale

The Cathedral  (S. Maria la Nuova) arose in a short time between 1174 and 1176 by the will of  William  II. It is said  that the king  has undertaken the construction of the great sacred building after  dreaming  the Virgin Mary, who had revealed to him the place where a rich treasure   was hidden, which he should have used for a pious purpose. William was probably driven by the desire to emulate his grandfather Roger, the founder of the superb Cefalù Cathedral,the  Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti  and Palatine Chapel  in Palermo.  Thus, the great cathedral would has served to perpetuate his name over the centuries.   Islamic architects linked to the Fatimita art were called for the design of the cathedral. They transferred and adapted to the Christian artifact expressive ways and spatial solutions typical for  the palatial architecture of their country. The additions and the renovations not always successful didn’t obstruct the cathedral to reach its present day substantially intact in its splendor. The façade is decorated with a pattern of blind arches, today partially hidden by a portico, built in the XVIIIth century, under which there is a large door with bronze knockers of 1186, made by  Bonanno Pisano. Along the left side there is another long portico,  made  by Gian Domenico and Fazio Gagini in the XVI th century, and finally there are three great apses, still intact and magnificent in their limestone and lava stone decoration. The interior of the cathedral corresponds still to the aspect it had in the XII century (excluding  the wooden ceiling, which was redone after a fire in 1811). The construction is basilica, the large surface: 102 m long and 40 wide. The walls are almost entirely covered with a golden mosaic covering for a total of 6340 square meters. The general level of these decorations, both in terms of design and execution, is surprisingly high. The execution of the mosaics was entrusted to Byzantine craftsmen  and the iconography is in fact Greek. However, the relaxed attitudes of the characters, their softly draped clothes, the rhythm of the movements, reveal a clear evolution of style compared to that of the Palatine Chapel and the Martorana, a typically Italian evolution. At the end of the XII century, in fact, it was Italian artists who held the primacy of iconographic art. The mosaic cycle carries out the concept of the triumph of Christianity in three different moments, depicting: facts preceding the incarnation (Old Testament); episodes from the life of Jesus (Gospel); facts after the death of Christ and the life of the Apostles (Gospel and Acts of the Apostles). Everything is dominated by a giant Christ Pantocrator (the only right hand is two meters long) in the apse, which represents the synthesis and purpose of the whole complex figuration.