If you are planning a trip to Sicily, I can help you… Destination Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples! Follow me and I will show you what to see in and around Agrigento.
Before telling you what to see in Agrigento, I think it is necessary to take a step back into the past and recall the history of this wonderful city.
It was founded in 581 B.C. with the name Akragas and quickly became one of the most important cities of Magna Graecia. In fact, its supremacy is still visible to our eyes, thanks to the ruins of what were once the majestic Doric temples… It is no coincidence that it is called the “City of Temples”!
Agrigento is located in an area where various peoples settled and left traces of their passage. During the Punic wars, it was conquered by the Romans who called it Agrigentum, then by the Arabs with the name of Kerkent, in 1809 by the Normans it was renamed Girgenti until 1927, when it acquired the name of Agrigento.
Agrigento has got a lot of history to tell. It is also the birthplace of writer Luigi Pirandello! So, follow me to find out not only what to see in Agrigento, but also how best to visit the city to avoid long queues or inconveniences!
In my guide, I will explain the main things to see in Agrigento and I will also focus on the city’s surroundings. I therefore advise you to set aside at least four or five days to visit everything in the best possible way… But don’t worry, if you only have one or two days available, I will list the places that you absolutely cannot miss if you come to visit Agrigento.
Let’s go! 😉
What to see in Agrigento: the unmissable stops!
1. Historic centre and monuments:
The Cathedral of San Gerlando
Built up following the Norman tradition, it is a marvellous testimony of different artistic influences: Arab-Norman, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Today, it is the main Catholic place of worship in Agrigento.
The Monastery of the Holy Spirit
It stands in the historic centre of Agrigento. In the course of time, it has been used for different roles: initially it was given to the Benedictine nuns, then it became an orphanage, a canteen for the poor, during the Second World War it became a warehouse for war weapons, until after the war it was transformed into the Civic Museum, which is still there today.
The Pirandello House Museum
The house where Luigi Pirandello was born is located overhanging the sea and was named “Chaos” by the poet himself. In 1943 it was damaged by an explosion but later rebuilt. Today it periodically hosts exhibitions dedicated to the writer.
The Diocesan Museum
It was opened to the public in 1964. The present collection allows you to follow, in eight exhibition rooms, the history of the Diocese of Agrigento from the Christian re-evangelisation.
The Pirandello Theatre
The theatre is located in Piazza Luigi Pirandello and dates back to 1870: since then, its artistic performances have always been very popular!
The Church of Santa Maria dei Greci
This religious architecture dates back to the 13th century and houses the remains of a cycle of frescoes dating back to the 14th century.
The Artists’ Staircase
A noteworthy staircase that starts in Via Atenea, it is the most colourful in the whole city of Agrigento… But that’s not all: you should know that this artistic work has been included among the sixteen most colourful staircases in the world.
2. The Agrigento Market
There’s no better way of getting to know a place than at the traditional city market, where you can get to know and savour the local traditions to the full. The Agrigento market takes place on Fridays and will enrapture you with its Sicilian flavours!
Definitely one spot to put on your list of what to see in Agrigento!
3. The Valley of the Temples Archaeological Park
If you’re wondering what to do in Agrigento first, I think this archaeological park is the answer. As already mentioned, the city is known as the city of temples, as it includes the remains of the Hellenistic city, the imposing Doric temples, the agora, the pagan and Christian necropolis and the dense network of underground aqueducts, all in the Valley of the Temples (in Italian, Valle dei Templi), which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Here you can admire the Temple of Zeus, which was one of the largest Greek temples of antiquity, then the Temple of Juno, the Temple of Concord, the gardens of Villa Aerea, the Temple of Hercules and the Tomb of Theron.
In the same valley we also find the garden of the Kolymbethra, a beautiful green area irrigated according to ancient Arab techniques, which preserves inside the Temple of the Dioscuri.
A wonderful feature of the Valley of the Temples are the almond and olive groves. In fact, the latter are the most characteristic vegetable component of the passage.
From a practical point of view, you need to know a few things: first of all, the route is quite demanding and with few points of shade. So, arm yourself with a hat and water (there are also drinks dispensers inside), but I assure you, it will be worth it!
If you prefer to visit the Valley of Temples in the cooler weather, there is also the option of an evening ticket, where you can admire the illuminated temples under the starry sky. As for tickets, you can buy a single ticket or a combined ticket, which also includes the Kolymbethra Garden. And you can choose whether to do it at the box office at the entrance or online, and to avoid long waits in the sun, I highly recommend the latter.
Finally, you should know that the Valley of the Temples is located 4 km from the city centre and can be visited in about three hours or more.
4. Pietro Griffo Archaeological Museum
This is one of the most amazing museums in the whole of Sicily! It contains around 5000 artefacts from the Valley of the Temples site. Again, I recommend buying tickets online to avoid getting lost in long lines.
5. Villa Bonfiglio
As you can see by now, the Valley of the Temples is the main attraction of the city and if you are looking for a vantage point overlooking Agrigento temples, Villa Bonfiglio is for you. It is a park from which you can admire all these wonders or enjoy some shade and nature… Especially wonderful at dusk! It is certainly one of the most beautiful things to see in Agrigento.
6. The Modugno Belvedere
Another panoramic point of the city is this Modugno Belvedere. It was inaugurated in 2017 in honour of Domenico Modugno, remembered for being one of the fathers of Italian song, but also for his civil commitment to Agrigento.
From the Belvedere Modugno, it is possible to observe a space that includes the Valley of the Temples and its park, but also the Mediterranean Sea. There is a white-painted steel silhouette representing the Italian singer-songwriter. The silhouette invites visitors to enjoy the panorama and the blue sea.
At this point, the things to see in Agrigento are more or less finished, so let’s move on to see which of the city’s surroundings are worth a visit.
Visit Agrigento and its surroundings
1. The Scala dei Turchi and Realmonte
We definitely start with the Scala dei Turchi (“Stair of the Turks” or “Turkish Steps”), a spectacular white promontory! It is a cliff made of marl, an icy white rock.
The Scala dei Turchi is entirely sculpted and polished by the wind and has natural seats, perfect for sunbathing or relaxing while looking at the beautiful sea. It is a very touristy place, so I would advise against visiting during the high season. Moreover, it is also difficult to get to, as you will need a car, either your own or a rented one, as there is no transport to get there. The walking route is suitable for everyone, but non-slip shoes are required. Don’t be put off by these little difficulties, as it really is a magical place!
A few kilometres from the Scala dei Turchi is Realmonte, 15 km from Agrigento. It is a village located on a slight hill overlooking the sea, characterised by wonderful beaches. To the territory belongs the bay of Capo Rosello, a promontory of red calcarenite, which creeps into the sea. It offers you the possibility to observe the beaches from above: seeing on one side the white ones (like the Stair of the Turks) and on the other side the red ones. In addition, Realmonte is also home to the Salt Cathedral, a salt quarry in which a church has been excavated.
2. The Torre Salsa Nature Reserve
It is a WWF oasis covering 762 hectares between Siculiana Marina and Eraclea Minoa, in the province of Agrigento. The nature reserve protects about 6 km of unspoilt coastline characterised by cliffs, dunes and beaches. The name of the reserve derives from Torre Salsa, an ancient watchtower, which dominates the top of a small clay promontory. In certain conditions, the herbaceous and bushy vegetation of the area allows access to the splendid local beach, with a crystal clear sea and seabed rich in flora and fauna.
If you are in and around Agrigento, this is definitely a place to consider!
3. Heraclea Minoa
This was an ancient Greek city, whose ruins can be found today in the archaeological area of Cattolica Eraclea, in the province of Agrigento. There is a legend behind the name of this town. In fact, it is said that it was called “Heraclea” in honour of Heracles and “Minoa” after Minos, who chased Daedalus to punish him after he helped Ariadne and Theseus grapple with the labyrinth, but died here.
The archaeological area and the city walls are worth a visit to see the remains, as is the wonderful beach, with its crystal-clear water and breathtaking views.
It is a wonderful seaside town, full of tourists and characterised by its thermal baths and spa treatments, but it is also known for its churches and monuments. For all that, it is the most populous municipality in the province after the main town. It is also very famous for its historic Carnival and for ceramics, which have been made since the 4th millennium B.C..
If you happen to be travelling in the area between Shrove Thursday and Ash Wednesday, don’t miss the Carnival of Sciacca… It will take you to a magical world of decorated floats and masks!
5. Punta Bianca Nature Reserve
If you want to spend some time in total peace and relaxation, surrounded by nature, this is definitely the place for you! It is a natural landscape characterised by an outcrop of completely white rock that juts out into the sea. This reserve is known for its beautiful beach and cobalt-coloured sea, as well as for the views and paths it offers to walking and trekking lovers. Here you can indulge in these activities, breathing in the air of this wonderful unspoilt place.
6. Farm Cultural Park in Favara
This association was set up by a family from Favara, unfortunately following a bereavement, with the aim of restoring the town’s historic centre, which would otherwise have fallen into disrepair. They have transformed Favara’s courtyards into an art gallery open to all, with residences for artists and places where food becomes culture and aggregation. Conferences and concerts are also held in this wonderful cultural space! It really is a beautiful place to visit if you are in and around Agrigento, full of good intentions and a big heart.
This town owes its name to the Arabs who, on arriving in the city, found it desolate, with the population entirely exterminated by the plague. They therefore gave it the name “Rahal Maut”, or “Dead Village”.
Today Racalmuto is a small charming town set among hills that give it a fresh, clean air. It offers several attractions, both religious, such as the Cathedral of Racalmuto, or the Sanctuary of Santa Maria del Monte, and military, such as the Chiaramontano Castle, in the historical centre, or Castelluccio in the suburbs.
Ah! Racalmuto is also the birthplace of Leonardo Sciascia and features his House Museum, which will allow you to enter the life of a great writer!
To conclude our tour of Agrigento and its surroundings, we cannot leave out Naro, a town in the Agrigento hinterland known for its production of table grapes.
It offers tourists the opportunity to visit several wonderful and suggestive places, first of all the Chiaromonte Castle, with a fantastic all-round view over the town and the surrounding areas. Inside, you will find typical nineteenth-century noble clothes and discover the history of the village and the castle itself. Entrance is free! Finally, Naro has some wonderful narrow streets and Baroque churches, including the Church of Maria Santissima Annunziata and the Church of San Nicola di Bari.
At this point the tour of Agrigento and its surroundings is over, I think I’ve covered all the main tourist attractions! As you can see, there are many things to do in this area, but if I had to tell you the top ten things to see in Agrigento, they would certainly be the following.
10 top things to see in and around Agrigento:
- The Valley of the Temples
- The Kolymbethra Garden
- Villa Bonfiglio
- The Artists’ Staircase
- The Scala dei Turchi
- Heraclea Minoa
- Realmonte and the Salt Cathedral
- The Farm Cultural Park in Favara
- Churches of Agrigento
- Pirandello’s House Museum
So, these ten things certainly answer the question: what to see in Agrigento? But let’s see now also the best things to do in Agrigento!
What to do in Agrigento, for everyone!
There are many things to see in Agrigento, but also many things to do! It is a lively city, with many activities both during the day and in the evening. I suggest you visit the city even in the late hours, as it offers some great places and breathtaking views. You can enjoy an aperitif or a fantastic dinner with a Sicilian menu to die for!
In this regard, it is certainly worth mentioning the local food and wine: it offers our palate delicacies such as extra virgin olive oil or the tarallo di Racalmuto, nougat, pistachios from Raffadali PDO, and again, the strawberries from Sciacca and the oranges from Ribera, but also great wines such as Syrah or Nero dei Greci.
Precisely for this reason, I also recommend that you immerse yourself in a fun cooking class – you won’t regret it!
We are almost at the end of this guide and I think it is clear to you how much Agrigento is a city of culture… It has given birth to a large number of writers, in addition to the already mentioned Luigi Pirandello and Leonardo Sciascia, we find Andrea Camilleri in Porto Empedocle, Antonio Rossello in Favara, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa in Palma di Montechiaro and Santa Margherita di Belice.
In honour of these great names, the Writers’ Route has been established in Agrigento! An itinerary that will allow you to retrace the places experienced and loved by the writers and those described in novels, coming into contact with the faces and personalities described in the pages of literature.
Another place known thanks to the magical pen of Andrea Camilleri, in his work Commissario Montalbano, is the Marinella Beach. Together with the town of Marinella, which is a fictitious place in the novel, it is the place where the protagonist of the novel lives. A wonderful beach, definitely worth a visit!
Now let’s talk about the events taking place in and around Agrigento! First of all, we find the Almond Blossom Festival. From 28 February to 8 March, there are many food and wine initiatives and events linked to ethnic traditions. Various folk groups, from all over the world, entertain those present with music and dance. It’s a truly incredible experience and I highly recommend it!
Also in July (from the first to the second Sunday) there is the festival of San Calogero, the patron saint of the town. The festivities last for eight days, during which there are displays of Christian faith and mysticism.
How to get and move around Agrigento
To visit Agrigento these are the basic things you need to know! There are three railway stations in Agrigento: Agrigento Centrale station, Agrigento Bassa station and Tempio Vulcano station.
The nearest airport to Agrigento is Comiso Airport, which is 98 km away. Other nearby airports are Palermo (105.8 km) and Catania (132.8 km).
In the city it is best to travel by car or scooter to reach every place, even the most hidden ones, but shuttles or buses are also available. If you prefer to enjoy the city up close, I recommend a bicycle!
I hope I have convinced you to spend a few days in this beautiful city knowing what to see in Agrigento. Now it’s up to you, find the right dates and book now!
Enjoy your trip to Agrigento and its surroundings! 😍