Sicilia - Places to Visit - Agrigento
The town lies 230 m. above sea level on a hill running parallel to the Ionian coast, some 3 km. away, in a position dominating the Valle dei Templi. The old nucleus still has a stepped medieval structure with steep narrow winding streets.
Founded with the name of Akragas by the inhabitants of Gela in the 6th century BC., Agrigento quickly became an important centre in Magna Grecia, as can be seen from the massive remains still visibile near the town. Destroyed by Carthage in 406 BC., it rose again and about two centuries later was under Roman rule. After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was dominated by the Goths and then the Byzantines (6th century), under whose rule it sharply declined until, in 829, it was taken by the Arabs, who destroyed the town only to rebuild it on a higher site.
The principal ancient monuments are the Doric temples in the Valle dei Templi, dating to the 6th and 5th centuries BC., dedicated to Hercules, Olympian Jupiter, Juno, Castor, Pollux and Demeter, as well as the temple called `the Concordia', still in an excellent state of preservation.
The Tomb of Terone, the Oratory of Phalaris and other small temples are also of great interest. Other monuments include the church of S. Nicola (Romanesque-Gothic, 13th century), the Duomo (14th century, with later alterations), the church of S. Spirito.
The economy of Agrigento is based on traditional agriculture (olives, almonds, sheep) and on a consistent proportion of tourism attracted to the nearby coast and especially to the city's exceptional archeological heritage. Industry is limited to the extraction of rock salt and potash and the transformation of agricultural products.
Events: Sagra del mandorlo in fiore (February), Premio Efebo d'Oro (cinema).
Famous People: Empedocles (philosopher, 5th century BC.), Luigi Pirandello (man of letters and playwright, 1867-1936).
Cultural Institutions: Biblioteca Comunale, Biblioteca Lucchesiana, Biblioteca P. Marconi, State Archives, Civic Museum, National Archeological Museum (finds from ancient Greek Akragas), Museo Diocesano, Pirandello's house.
In the Province: Licata (industrial centre), Sciacca (spa, fishing harbour), Porto Empedocle (port of call), Canicatt (agricultural centre), Racalmuto (mining centre), Pelagie islands with Lampedusa (tourism).