Lace up your Walking Shoes: a tour through Agrigento, Sicily

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Are you traveling to Sicily this spring or summer? Our local guide Sara has kindly sent us a suggested walking itinerary for travelers looking to explore the winding streets of Agrigento’s old town in a morning or afternoon.

To visit Agrigento's old town you need half a day, a comfortable pair of shoes and an open and inquisitive mind.

Park your car in the closest parking to via Atenea, the gateway to your tour. Leave behind your guide books and maps: you will never get one with enough detail to show the crazy, entangled succession of "cortili" and "vicoli" (courts and lanes of Arabic origins) and try to take the best of the poor but enthusiastic English spoken by locals.

Don't give up at the sight of the 110 steps that separate via Atenea from Santo Spirito cloister: just go for it. The surprise of an enchanting gothic monastery from the 13th century will reward your efforts. And the home made almond cakes from the convent will return to you more than the calories you burned.

Continue straight up. Look for the Norman Cathedral. Don't listen to people warning about it possibly being closed. It deserves a visit. And the same attention is necessary for the several baroque facades that you will meet on the way. Palazzo Del Carretto, Celauro, Borsellino, Xerri, Casa splendid phantoms of a noble life, gone for ever.

Explore the crypt and the basement of Santa Maria dei Greci church. You'll find there a Greek temple hiding underground, a temple that has been supporting a different faith for two thousand years.
And then start finally to go down the steps, hundreds of steps, to descend into the most Arabic quarter of the town, the "Rabatu". Smell its spicy odours, listen to the voices in the houses (always too loud to be ignored), smile at the children asking you "Yu spiik inglish?" Stop and look at the faces of people. You will see a lot of Tunisian and Moroccan faces here. Arabia is back! Arabia has never left here.

Now turn your eyes southwards, to the brilliant blue colour of the Mediterranean and you will suddenly realize just how close Africa is.

Should you wish to explore the town with a local guide, Sara is available to accompany you through Agrigento’s old town, and also the nearby Valley of Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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