Tuesday 8 October 2019
We’d almost forgiven the satnav of attempted murder when she guided us to our destination in Agrigento without a hitch. In total contrast to our accommodation so far, this was a recently built B&B run by a charming Italian lady. It had five immaculate, modern bedrooms, very well thought out. It was a model for the genre.
We drove through hilly country to get there, with vineyards giving way to vast olive plantations. One of the main historical attractions of Agrigento is the Valley of the Temples, built by the Greeks. It is not in a valley, but high on a rocky ridge where is can be seen from great distances. It is now the largest archaeological site in the world with 1300 hectares. There are the remains of seven Doric style temples, the best preserved being the Temple of Concordia which dates back to 5th century BC, around the time of the Parthenon in Athens. The two temples are similar, except that Concordia is smaller and dirtier than the Parthenon because it is built from limestone, now oxidised, rather than marble. Moreover, its roof was made of wood. So overall it was a bit down market.
Not the Parthenon, but built around the same time by the Greeks
Our visit to the ruins –now UNESCO world heritage listed and in the process of restoration – was blunted somewhat by persistent rain. It made the already forlorn remains look even more so, to say nothing of the long lines of soggy tourists. Static displays near the time-wrecked buildings showed how the Greeks moved the massive column sections and stone blocks from the quarry to the building site. The large sections were too heavy to be loaded onto carts, so they encircled them in huge wheels and rolled them along the lumpy and mostly unmade roads. Corners were a special challenge because there was virtually no steering.
Rolling stone, but not a pop group
Statue of a young Greek businessman wanting to get ahead
Biggus Dickus after an unsuccessful flying lesson
Capsule hotel, ancient Italian style.
Our stay in the immaculate B & B finished with breakfast in the hard-surfaced dining room where a substantial upright black piano stood as an incongruent addition to the furniture. The owner did not play it, she said, whereupon Michelle let it drop that her husband could produce a note or two. They then asked me to play, at breakfast please note, so I obliged to earn my sausage and bread. This piano was a recent Kawai and I knew, as I opened the lid, that it did not want to be played. This was confirmed when I tried a few notes and found that it was defiantly tuned to deafening. If I tried to play softly there was no sound at all. I launched into Summertime, threatening to do structural damage to the house. Being unable to control the volume I threw caution to the winds and laid into a bit of Gershwin. They were all politely thankful when I finished, and the echoes slowly died away. Peace returned to the valley, the dog came out of its kennel and we fired up the Jagwarr for some more battles with the satnav.