Situated on Sicily’s southern coast, Agrigento is a modern city where the main attraction is undoubtedly the astonishing UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Valley of the Temples. However, you can still get a glimpse of the medieval city by wandering through the narrow alleyways that criss cross Via Atenea, an attractive street with a good selection of boutiques and restaurants in the heart of the city.
Formerly the Greek city of Akragas, Agrigento was founded in 582BC and soon became one of the most important Greek cities in the Mediterranean with a population of 200,000. During the 4th and 3rd centuries, the city was governed by the Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans who, in 210BC, renamed it Agrigentum. Much of the old town was abandoned in the 7th century when the city’s residents transferred to the site of the present-day city, possibly to defend themselves against African Saracens. Little further change took place until the 19th century when the post-year wars brought with them the construction of tower blocks that still remain today.
Literary connections to the city include references by the Greek poet Pindar, who described it as ‘the most beautiful (city) of those inhabited by mortals’ and it was also the birthplace of writer Luigi Pirandello (1867-1937) whose house in the tiny hamlet of Caos has now been turned into a museum.