We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Why did we schlepp all the way down to Agrigento last week? To see the Valley of the Temples (and to get a good lunch).
Why they call it "valley" I do not know, because this assembly of Doric Greek temples were built along a ridge - an acropolis, as always - within view of the busy harbor. It must have been quite a sight.
These were built before the Parthenon, around 460 BC - by Carthaginian slaves. The Temple of Zeus was five times the size of the Parthenon. The old Greek-era town was large (200,000 in 500 BC) and prosperous. Empedocles (the four elements, etc) lived there.
Most of the temples are in ruins either from earthquakes or use of the stones for other building purposes. The so-called Temple of Concord is in good shape, and was in use as a Christian church until the 1700s:
That's limestone. No marble around. You cannot really make good sculptures with limestone. To make the temples white, they were covered with a layer of plaster - some of which remains. The proscenia were painted bright colors, as the Greeks always did.
More about Agrigento, and lunch, below:
I tried to artistically frame that temple under this 800 year-old olive tree (full of olives), but it didn't work. Olive trees are said to be able to live over 1000 years.
These temples had wooden roofs. The Gods were thought to inhabit them, so regular people had to stay outside the sacred area - in the profane (pro-fanum: in front of the temple) area in front where the sacrifical altars were.
The altar in front of the Temple of Zeus was large enough to sacrfice 200 oxen in it at once. Nice feast:
Not much left of the huge Temple of Zeus, which was decorated with 38 limestone giants around 15' tall, designed to appear to be supporting the roof. I was standing inside the front entrrance area. You can see part of the rear wall in the distance to get a sense of the size of this place:
You can see the holes for the wooden dowels in the pieces of column, used to line up the pieces during building.
There are prickly pear hedges all around Sicily, up to 6' high. They love to eat that fruit. Like the tomato and the potato, the prickly pear was brought in from the New World.
An almond grove surrounds the temple site:
The Greek walls of the temple area overlook the harbor a few miles south. They are full of Byzantine-era Christan crypts:
I often forget that ancient Greece wasn't limited to Greece itself. Magna Graecia (Italy and Sicily) were first settled by Greeks in 800 BC.
History and architecture buffs can google and learn more about Greek civilization in Sicily and Italy. It's time for lunch.
For il primi, Swordfish, a cube of it sliced horizontally for a layer of pignoli nuts and herbs, with a saffron and herb sauce and a breadcrumb crust. Dynamite.
For il secundi, a simple seafood ravioli with fresh basil and oil.
Then an arugula salad.
Then for the main course, a classic and simple braciole but with a phyllo-like pastry crust and a raisin-wine sauce on a bed of my favorite food - mashed potatoes. (I call braciole Italian Pot Roast, but it's much better).
Tiramisu as the dolci. Then it's nap time.
I don't think the Sicilians export their good wines. Their white and reds (even the Merlot were delicious. I do not even usually like a Merlot - too one-dimensional.) Or maybe I was just thirsty from the 95 degree F. heat.
That's the real Italian! Except for the ravioli, we were happy once again to visit Italy without touching or seeing any pasta.
Marvelous! (also looks e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e). Anytime I see white linen table cloths and Italian mentioned, I just see $$$ flying out of my wallet. Anyway, thanks for the 'flavor' of your Italian trip B.D.
After coming back to the states from four years living in Germany, my parents met up with friends and kids our age and took us on a tour of DC. It was cherry blossom time, and I remember this as if it happened yesterday. We kids were in the back exclaiming over seeing squirrels when I heard one of the adults say, "Doesn't it figure... we have world travelers squealing over squirrels in the greatest city in the world."
On that note: What kind of way is that to hold a fork? (Last picture)
Awesome and lovely, thanks for sharing details of your journey. You the lucky ducky.
Not to be picky, but that cuisine is very much Sicilian, not Italian. Sicilians are very proud and distinctive people with their own dialect and culture, they consider themselves somewhat separate from the rest of the Italian nation. My ex was Sicilian through and through, and I learned a lot about the culture and the cuisine especially. His papa was the oldest of sixteen children, a few of the younger siblings were born in the States, and his cooking was exquisite. He lived to ninety two, must have been all those olives, raisins, and pignoli.
More Sicilian wines are becoming available to us Stateside, that Merlot pictured I have found in three states, as well as other varieties from that winery. Nero d'Avola is a great, tasty bargain red.