Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Two Days along a Visit to the Valley of the Temples, and Villa Del Casale, Piazza Armerina

Caroline Shepard's shots along a trip to Agrigento and the-valley-of-the-temples and a map of the island.

We woke up early in Siracusa and made our way East. It hard leaving Siracuse. We loved the waterfront and the energy of the old city. We hoped to make our way to Agrigento. We’re two thirds through our journey around the old island. So we have to enjoy each step between the beaches and ancient ruins, reminding us of stories long passed.

On the way, we stop at Villa Del Casale, Piazza Armerina to see some perfectly preserved mosaics in a Roman Villa from the fourth century CE in the Province of Enna. Apparently, they were covered in a mudslide. Only in the 18th century did someone discover a few of the columns and one of the mosaics. They were not uncovered until the early 20th century. With clear images of swimmers, a wide hunt, scenes from the Odyssey, of Polythemus with three eyes, conflicts between Pan and Eros, the irrational and the rational mind, the mosaics offer an extraordinary image created over a fifty-year period.

On the way to Agrigento, we talked about where we’ve been along the trip over the last month, and what we’ve learned. It’ll take a lifetime to unpack the ideas, images, and worlds we’ve seen, the relics of civilizations long passed, languages lost and found, ideas and images.

At Agrigento, we stay at Villa San Marco, a lovely country bnb in the countryside with a view of the Greek temples. A peacock and a few dogs make their way around the space. There is a little pool, but mostly the highlight of the space is the dusty view, the birds, flowers, the sunset and the spirit of the space. Our host’s family has owned this country villa for almost two hundred years.

We eat at a local restaurant up the hill, enjoying raw fish, Sicilian wine, and round after round of platters of steak, flan, spaghetti, prawns in the like, as the sun makes its way down in the valley.
At breakfast, we enjoy fresh baked bread, pasticcios, and watermelon juice.
It’ll be a big day. We’ll need brain food for our trip to see the temples and enjoy the beach, before making it home for sundown.
The ruins in the distance are aptly dubbed, the Valley of the Temples. Discover Italy notes:
The remains from the Hellenic city, and additionally from the successive Punic-Roman era, the imposing Doric temples – to this day almost completely intact – the agora, the pagan and Christian necropolises, and the crawling network of subterranean acqueducts, constitute the richness of this site. Extending over approximately 1,300 hectares, it recounts a millenary history that began in the 6th Century B.C. with the foundation of the ancient Greek colony of Akragas.

The kids are weary of another day of viewing ruins, but once they see the temples to the Olympic Gods they’ve studied, Zeus, Demeter, Heracles, Hera, and Hephaestus, the relics wake them up, arousing all our imaginations. So we stroll for a few an hour of two, contemplating their stories, wondering why some structures remain intact and others have crumbled, why some have been appropriated by newer religions, and others left to decay.
Its not long before we are in the ocean, unpacking all that history swimming through the sea. It’s the best way to help the brain digest these histories. I always imagine Homer’s characters, Odysseus and his voyages through the Mediterranean, this ocean is another another temple, hopefully not a relic.
Back at the villa, we order some pizza and take in the sunset. Our host studies in Sienna, just as I did 25 years ago. We talk about the Contrades, the districts celebrated in Siena. His dogs sit as we eat dinner, smiling. One puts up a paw. Can we feed him some, we ask. Sure, its his main source of food. So they eat with us. The girls jump in the pool and give synchronized swimming a shot as the moon shines in the distance. I jump in as well. The Valley of the Temples just below it.
The ups and downs of travel are always with us, fun and the mistakes, the hopes and histories, the images from these spaces seem to sooth and linger in our minds. Its good to laugh as we look into the distance.
There are only three days to go before we make our way back to Palermo, Rome and New York, we’d better make these days good ones.

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