Agrigento, Sicily

Photo: Hotel Villa Athena
Photo: Hotel Villa Athena

Good morning, Sicily. You slept like a baby, or more like a rock, last night. After all the restless nights you’ve had recently, it felt so good to get eight uninterrupted hours of sleep. You could blame the extremely comfortable bed, the intoxicating scent of Saracen olive trees, or the extra glass of wine you drank after dinner. But you think it has something to do with the view from your balcony.

You’re at the Hotel Villa Athena, a restored 18th-century residence, outside of Agrigento on Sicily’s southern coast. The Temple of Concordia is right in front of you. Okay, maybe not right in front of you. It’s about 200 yards away, and you have an incredible view of the well-preserved Doric masterpiece.

Agrigento, or Akragas as the Greeks called it, was once one of the largest cities in the world. It sits on a plateau overlooking the vast Mediterranean. The area is now known as the Valley of the Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where 10 Greek temples, built in the 5th century BC, dot the rolling hillside.

Photo: Hotel Villa Athena
Photo: Hotel Villa Athena

After a cappuccino and a quick breakfast, tour the temples’ necropolises and fortifications early, before the parching heat settles in for the afternoon. Weddings were celebrated at the Temple of Juno Lacinia. Sick people made pilgrimages to the Temple of Asclepius. The Temple of Olympian Zeus was the largest temple in the ancient Western world. And the Temple of Concordia was later used as a Christian basilica.

Since your mornings in Agrigento are reserved for the temples, you have the afternoons to relax. Wander through the maze of tiny alleyways and piazzas in Agrigento’s historic center. Visit churchesthe Church of San Calogero, the Church and the Convent of the Holy Spirit, and the grand Cathedral—along the way. Stroll along Via Atenea, the city’s “living room,” to see Sicilian bagpipes, cork sculptures, and tiny restaurants. Eat homemade pasta for lunch on the balcony of Kalos. Or wait for aperitivo time at Café Girasole. See the ancient vines and taste Marsala, Nero d’Avola, and Preula wines at vineyards with ocean views. Then visit the windswept beaches: San Leone, Porto Empedocle, and Realmonte.

Just return to Villa Athena’s Terrace of the Gods at the end of each day. You’ll be surrounded by almond trees, olive trees, and century-old palms. You’ll have a glass of cool Inzolia in your hand. And you’ll watch the Temple of Concordia light up after dusk. Together, they’re the perfect recipe for another great night’s sleep.

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