The Sicily Experience! Five Must-Sees near Agrigento

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Western Sicily boasts one of the Western World’s most splendid treasures: the Valley of Temples. This relic of Ancient Greece is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and deserves a thorough visit. But – as our local Sicilian guide explains in today’s blog entry – it would be a shame to travel to Agrigento and miss out on the region’s other unique attractions.

Hello travelers! When mentioning Agrigento the first image coming to mind is of the World Heritage Site Valley of Temples. This is definitely an enchanting historical and natural place. But please don't start and end your visit with it. Go out and explore...the city and its surroundings have more than a few surprises reserved for you.

I have listed below five experiences to make your journey to my part of Italy a complete Sicily Experience. This selection is suitable for the coming winter months; every season will offer new opportunities to you.

1) Don't miss the chance to see the Igor Mitoraj (Cracow 1946) exposition in the Valley of Temples. If you love contemporary art you will love it more in this extraordinary setting! The 17 bronze heroes of Mitoraj are a remarkable size but they look almost as though they grew out of the ground, and are at one with the surrounding Greek Temples. Visitors are enthusiastic about them and many of Mitoraj's admirers acknowledge that Agrigento has offered the best setting to his works. The exposition will stay until January 2012.

2) When in Agrigento, take a drive of just 15 minutes along the western coast to Scala dei Turchi. It's an enchanting white cliff plunging into the deep blue water of the Mediterranean. Erosion has modelled this pure white stone into the shape of a stair. That's why we call the place The Stair of Turks. Popular legends tell of Turkish pirates landing in the small bay nearby, to make incursions in the villages. Choose a mild afternoon to go there and take the time to climb up to the top of the cliff. You will be walking in absolute beauty and silence!

3) Taste the sweet version of North African couscous, found nowhere else in the world! This exotic sweet is only available in the Santo Spirito cloister (XIII century) in Agrigento's old town. The hands of the nuns still prepare it following a secret recipe that goes back to the Arabian period of Sicily. It's a gorgeous mixture of couscous, honey, almonds, pistachios and chocolate. It will surprise you with its exotic taste.

4) Are you a reader of the Sicilian crime fiction writer Andrea Camilleri? (No? Read one of his novels before your trip!) You can then look in Agrigento and Porto Empedocle (8 km away) for traces of the Inspector Montalbano. The writer was born in Porto Empedocle and the places of his novels are actually inspired by these two cities. Many spots are still recognizable even if the author describes places he attended in his childhood. So you can really eat in one of the Inspector's favourite trattorias near the port, or have a sweet cannolo at the main street "Caffè Castiglione". A tasty literary experience!

5) Should you be here at Christmas time, take a trip inland to visit a Presepe Village. This is a special event that transforms the whole old part of a country into a living setting inspired by the Nativity. You will walk along the streets and see people engaged in traditional activities, such as looking after cattle or sheep, making ricotta cheese or baking bread, carving wood, embroidering and so on. This is regularly organised in the towns of Montaperto, Caltabellotta and Sutera. All of them in between 15 and 40 minutes drive from Agrigento. The Presepe will be on for several days until the 6th of January. Join us!

Thank you, Sara, for making Sicily come alive for those of us who haven’t yet visited, or who have been there and would love to go back. If any travelers are planning a trip here in 2012, consider chatting with Sara and benefiting from the company and insight of a friendly local guide.
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