Trip to Agrigento and Porto Empedocle - Vigàta, Sicily, Italy (Click on any image to load a larger copy)
I originally planned to go to Agrigento to see is main attraction, the Valley of the Temples, but in my research for the trip I discovered that it had another sight that I really wanted to visit. A TV station in the Washington DC Area (MHz Networks) had been broadcasting the television movies based on the Inspector Montalbano novels by Andrea Camilleri. These movies were the inspired for me to go to Sicily and I discovered that the fictional town the books are set in, Vigàta, was based on the author's hometown of Porto Empedocle which was a few kilometers/miles away from Agrigento. I could not pass up the opportunity to see Vigàta and I contacted Michele Gallo, a guide in Agrigento to arrange a tour of the Valley of the Temples and enquired if he could arrange a tour of Porto Empedocle for me. I was one of the first people to ask him this but he was able to arrange it.
I arrived in Agrigento after taking a 2 hour train from Palermo (See Trip to Palermo and Monreale, Sicily, Italy) and checked in at the Hotel Amici. I spent the rest of my first day in Agrigento exploring the city. The city is different as it is built on the sides of a rather steep hill and almost all walking involved claiming stairs. I found the town interesting an enjoyable as is it was not full of tourist but was experienced with them.
The next morning I was met at my hotel by Michele who drove me to the The Valley of the Temples and gave me a tour. The Valley is a UNESCO World heritage site that contains the remains of many temples built in the 5th century BC when this area was a Greek colony. The temples are a sight to see and are quite amazing to realize that the were built without the modern equipment that we are use to. Of course what made it possible to build the temples was slave labor and in this case the slaves were Carthaginians. Interestingly many of the temples were later destroyed by the Carthaginians during a war.
Best preserved of the temples is the Temple of Concord which was used as a church from the 6th century AD to the 18th century AD. The Temple of Olympian Zeus is one of the more interesting temples in the complex. It was the largest Doric temple build and one of its features were the pillars used to support the roof were carved as men and are called telamons. A reconstruction of one was located in the remains of the temple and is 7.4 m / 24 feet tall. Michele also pointed out a Saracen Olive tree to me. The term Saracen refers to Arabs that invaded Sicily in 9th century AD and indicates a really old tree (But not that the tree is as old as the time of the Saracen). After the tour I headed back to Agrigento for lunch and a stop at the post office to send some post cards back home. This became quite a trip as the post office was being rebuilt and I had to find its temporary location which proved to be difficult as I did not understand Italian. But I eventfully found the Post Office and mailed the Post Cards.
I was met by my next guide in the afternoon at my hotel and we headed off to Porto Empedocle. I was told that the town had been renamed Porto Empedocle Vigàta to honor Andrea Camilleri (and no doubt cash in on the interest in the Inspector Montalbano books). I also found out that Porto Empedocle is the Vigàta a of the book and not the movies, they were filmed primarily in Ragusa. After arriving in Porto Empedocle we met an elderly man whole led us to some house in the outskirts of town. the first was a traditional Sicilian farmers house made of stone that is used many times in the Camilleri's stories. The second was the villa of Andrea Camilleri's mother. The villa was very large and probably built in the 19th century and reminded me of the villas that the rich people, usually not Sicilian, buy and renovate in Camilleri's stories. It was boarded up and would be a nice project to restore to its grandeur.
We then headed to the center of the town, parked the car, and started to walk around. On one street I was shown Camilleri's house where he lives for part of the year (he resides in Rome most of the year). A short walk later and we were on Porto Empedocle main street and went to the model of Bar Italia, Bar Pasticceria which now has a second name, Cafe Vigàta. Inside I saw some pictures of Mr. Camilleri and a poster indicting that he was in Porto Empedocle, and in the Bar Pasticceria, a month earlier celebrating his 80th birthday. Wish I knew about it so I could have gone and seen him. Next stop was the Trattoria San Calogero which is the restaurant that Montalbano goes to all the time in the books. The owner of the restaurant was surprised to see an American interested in Montalbano and invited us in for a drink of his homemade Limoncello. It was strong but good stuff. I talked to the owner using my tour guide as an interpreter and found out that the owner of Trattoria is the brother of the owner of Bar Pasticceria.
After leaving the Trattoria we headed off to see the Scala dei Turchi (Turkish Staircase) which is located west of Porto Empedocle. It is a strange but beautiful rock formation made of gypsum and lime stone. That was the end of the tour and we headed back to Agrigento. It was nearing sunset and we stopped at the Valley of the Temples and I was able to take some shots of the temples at sunset.
The next morning, after checking out of my hotel, I walked over to the bus terminal and caught a bus to Catania (See Trip to Catania and Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy).
For more information on Andrea Camilleri and Inspector Montalbano visit Camilleri Fan Club and The Salvo Montalbano Site (In Italian only)
I used a Olympus C-750UZ 4.0 Megapixel Digital Camera. The images were cleaned up a bit with Adobe PhotoShop Elements (To correct the color balance). Additional Camera Information
Porto Empedocle - Vigàta
|Last Updated on January 2, 2009||Images and Text © 2005 Andrew Patton - Copyright Information|