A close contender to Segesta for most romantic setting, Selinunte is bordered by the sea to the south, with its eight ruined temples and ancient acropolis set amongst a landscape scattered with wild flowers and aromatic herbs.
Whilst Selinunte – or Selinus as it was then – was not a huge city, the scale of its temples is indicative of how the city viewed itself. Founded in the seventh century BC by Greeks from Megara Hyblaia, the town reached its peak at the time of the construction of the temples, in the sixth and fifth centuries BC.
The destruction of the town by the Carthaginians in 409BC and later earthquakes meant that the site was not rediscovered until the sixteenth century and excavation did not begin until the early nineteenth century and is still ongoing.
The ruins are divided into three sections: the trio of temples on the Collina Orientale; the five temples of the ancient Acropoli (central citadel); and the sacred area of the Santuario della Malaphorus. The eight temples are now referred to by letters (E, F and G representing the initial trio) as archaeologists do not know to which gods they were dedicated. Temples E and F are the best preserved but it is perhaps the ruins of Temple G, where a single column remains upright, that is most evocative. This was Sicily’s second largest temple, after the Tempio di Zeus Olimpico (Giove) in Agrigento, measuring 110m by 50m and with seventeen 16m high columns down its length and eight across its width.
It is a ten-minute walk to the Acropoli and a further walk along a path through fields to the Santuario della Malaphorus. You should allow three to four hours if you wish to visit everything.
If you have the time, there is a sandy beach that runs to the west from the village of Marinella – a good place also for a simple lunch at one of the trattorias on Via Marco Polo above the beach. Picnic tables are also available in the valley between the Acropolis and Collina Orientale.