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October, 2017

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The modern city of “Agrigento”: stands on the ridge high above the Valley of the Temples. Most tourists visit the “Valley of the Temples”: but few spend time in Agrigento. It is a non touristy town and most of the population work in local government.

The acropolis of the ancient city of Akragas was built on the site of the present cathedral. Most of the inhabitants of the old town moved to the top of the ridge in an attempt to escape the threat of Moorish attacks.

The cathedral is a Romanesque Gothic building dating from the C12th and is surrounded by the original medieval settlement with its network of narrow alleyways. Much of the western half of the city suffered from Allied bombing in World War Two and there are many high rise buildings dating from the 1960s and 1970s.

Via Atenea is the main shopping street and lined with old medieval Palazzi. Many of these are in poor condition as there is little money to restore them. The facades with their balconies and carved window surrounds may mask more modern buildings behind.

Steep stepped alleyways run off Via Atenea and lead to a network of narrow medieval streets lined with old Palazzi and old churches.

We spent just under two hours here after visiting the Valley of the Temples – mainly so everyone could find somewhere to have lunch. Having eaten a very large breakfast, I skipped luch and spent the time wandering.

Being lunchtime most of the churches were shut. The Monastery of Santo Spirito is set in a small square at the top of a narrow passageway. Founded in the 13th, this was once one of the most important churches in Argento. Now there are only eight elderly nuns living here and opening times are very restricted.

The only church which I found open was St Francis, set in a square below Via Atenea. This is a splendid Baroque building dating from the end of the C18th. The main altar is set in a small apse at the east end. Above the altar is a statue of the Virgin bathed in blue light. The frescoes of the apse and ceiling are late C18th and painted by the Sicilian painter Domenico Provenzani of Palma di Montechiaro.

I would have appreciate longer here, especially as it was only a short drive back to our hotel. I regret not having chance to visit the cathedral.

My full report describing the eight days spent in Sicily is “here.”:


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