Sunday, May 28, 2017

They Might Be Giants

After our respite at La Planeta we took off for the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.  Since this is a food and wine tour, our first stop was a monastery in the city center that has been making almond and pistachio pastries for over 100 years.

Sister Maria Gabrielle took us for a tour of the church, with its plaster statuary that was inspired by Bernini.
Because almonds and pistachios grow (almost) wild here, the sweets are almost entirely made of marzipan
Then we were given some of the pastries to try.  Since this is a semi-cloistered order, we were not allowed behind the grills of the monastery.  Yes, this is not a convent but a monastery here in Italy.  A convent is where the men live, monastery is where the women live, the exact opposite of what we call them.

You really want to eat these sweets because you have to climb these stairs to get there

Our guide for the day, Laura took us to the Valley of the Temples, built in the 5th century before Christ.  What is amazing is that these temples are still standing, and that they are some of the best preserved examples of Greek temples in the western world.
The first temple is the temple of Hera, the wife of Zeus, with a total of 38 pillars, an interior court for statues, and an outside altar for animal sacrifices. 

The second temple is even more well preserved, and is the Temple of Concordia.     High on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean it is an amazing example of Greek architecture.  I found it hard to imagine the labor, and the means it took to erect such an impressive monument to the Gods. 

There are several temples that have been completely destroyed including the temple of Hercules, which was reconstructed by a British Lord who built a villa next to the sight.  At this time the villa is used by the Italian National Park Service.
reconstructed Temple of Hercules

The only intact column from the Temple of Hercules
The Temple of Zeus has been destroyed, but there are still remnants that give you an idea how large this temple had to be.  At this temple there were statues of Titans that were seen to be holding up the roof of the temple.  The temple itself is a ruin, but the sheer size of the remnants of the columns, pediment pieces, and the reconstructed bodies of the giants give you an idea of how large this area was.  Since Zeus was the King of the Gods, his temple would have been massive.
This is the top of a column that was destroyed at the temple of Zeus

Reconstruction of a Titan

These Titans held up the columns

Temple of the Fertility Goddess Demeter
After a wander around we took a walk into the gardens containing olive, and citrus trees, as well as capers, almonds, and vegetables.  Cool springs irrigate the garden which is an example of the type of agriculture that was farmed during the 5th century BC.  

Capers!  They grow wild here

5th century BC irrigation system



Artichoke in flower

Citrus trees

sandstone walls
 Our stop for the night was at Azienda Agricola Mandranova, an olive oil producing agriturismo.  We arrived just in time to take in the pool, and then to enjoy dinner, served family style for our group.
Broccoli Pasta

Calimari pasta

carrot flan, mushroom flan, potatoes, and spring onions


An almond pudding with candied almonds

Today was a great day, filled with history, and culture, as well as friendly people.  It was a trek, though, since we walked about 4 miles.  Visiting Sicily is visually stunning, with breathtaking vistas, and amazing history, but you have to work to get to the sites, so I suggest you begin your work out training at least 4 months before you get here.  Ciao for now!

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