Greeks and Romans and other assorted conquering armies.

We were picked up in Palermo by Luca, our driver for the next three days. After struggling though the stop start traffic out of Palemo (it was Sunday and everyone was going to the beach) we finally reached our first destination of Segesta and by this stage it was VERY hot out in the midday sun. There is well preserved Doric temple and a theatre, both accessed by climbing and walking on lots of rough ground. They  are both worth the climb!  After Segesta, and more driving, we had a visit to a mountain town called Erice which appears to have been settled and  conquered by almost everybody.  The photo however is of a Norman church.

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It was an early night for both of us after a dinner at the hotel.  The restaurant there  is apparently quite famous because of its celebrity chef Peppe Guiffre. He was not working that night but we still had an enjoyable meal.

Th next day we drove to Marsala (where they do make the famous wine) past salt pans and windmills,  There is an island called Mozia which belonged to an Englishman Joseph Whitaker and is still owned by a Whitaker Trust.   My grandmother’s family name was Whittaker, but I think no relation.  The salt from here is what you would be eating if the restaurant in Australia was offering Sicilian salt.  Marsala itself is a lovely town, conquered, and settled, by the Carthaginians, and in later years by the Spanish , the Normans and the French.  It is of course famous for the locally produced Marsala wine.  We had a tasting and it’s not like the marsala we used to buy in flagons in the 1970s!  More like a sherry.

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No it’s not Holland, but the salt pans, where the windmills were once used to pump out the water.

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After lunch in Marsala we were on the road again heading for Selinunte which was an ancient Greek city on the south west coast of Sicily. There were originally five temples but only one has been re-erected.  Luca, realising that we were flagging through temple exhaustion, decided we should use a little golf cart arrangement.  This was greatly appreciated as there would have been three or four kilometres of climbing and walking otherwise. The temple is again magnificent on a high point overlooking the sea! Those Greeks certainly understood the first rule of real estate.  Position, position, position.

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We then drove to Agrigento on the south coast to a hotel where had an an enormous family room  All my attempts to get an iron were in vain.  Guests do not iron, they must pay someone to do it for them was the message.  Needless to say my dress went unironed. Agrigento is a very ugly town, but it is near one of the most important archaeological sites in Sicily – the Valley of the Temples. Dinner that night was at our hotel.  We find that most dinners are antipasto (lots of it), a pasta dish, then meat and then sweets.  Waiters are surprised when we opt for only one of the courses. IMG_1297\

Photo taken from our very large balcony.

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The temples taken from our balcony with the late  afternoon haze.

The next morning we had a tour of the temples with a very knowledgeable guide – Michael – who spoke fantastic English.
The Valley of the Temples is one of the most outstanding examples of Grecian art and architecture, and is one of the main attractions of Sicily as well as being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are the remains of seven Doric temples, the best preserved one being the Temple of Concordia.
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Were we templed out?  Probably, but our intrepid driver Luca took us inland to a well preserved Roman villa at Piazza Amerina.  This is a Roman villa from the 4th century BC and contains apparently some of the  richest, largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world.  The mosaics are beautiful and quite intricate giving a good picture of Roman life at that time. If anyone thought the bikini was designed by the French think again!

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Here I am with Luca by his car.  Let me  give the info before the inevitable questions.  Mid thirties, married eight months to a very gorgeous girl in apparently (according to him) a very fancy and expensive wedding!IMG_1389

After Piazza Amerina we drove to our next hotel, an agriturismo (a bit like a farm stay) near Noto.  Our dinner that night would have fed our entire family (and the rest of the street).  Much antipasto, followed by pasta, then meat, some  fruit, and we refused the sweets course!  It’s a source of amazement to us that obesity is not a national problem in Italy!  We said arriverderci to Luca as our driver for the next day would be Bruno.

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