Worth a Trip: Aidone & Morgantina

For a quiet rendezvous with the ancients, hit the road and shoot northeast of Piazza Armerina. A 10km drive away lies Aidone, a sleepy hilltop village whose small archaeological museum is worth a stop on your way to the ancient Greek ruins of Morgantina. The museum collection includes artefacts from the Morgantina site, and has displays chronicling life in ancient times. It's also home to the long-lost Dea di Morgantina, an ancient statue of Venus, repatriated to Italy in 2011 from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California.

A short 4km downhill drive from Aidone leads you to the ruins of Morgantina. The ancient town's centre is the two-storey agora (marketplace), its trapezoidal stairway used as seating during public meetings. The upper level had a market; note the walls that once divided the shops. The lower level was the site of the 1000-capacity theatre, originally built in the 3rd century BC and subsequently altered by the Romans.

To the northeast are the city's residential quarters, where the town's well-off lived, as testified by the ornate wall decorations and handsome mosaics in the inner rooms. Another residential quarter has been found behind the theatre and its considerable ruins are well worth checking out. The southwest corner of the site contains the remains of a public bath complex.

The area was originally home to Morgeti, an early Sicilian settlement founded in 850 BC on Cittadella hill. This town was destroyed in 459 BC and a new one was built on a second hill, Serra Orlando. It was an important trading post during the reign of the Syracusan tyrant Hieron II (269–215 BC), but slipped into decline after defeat by the Romans in 211 BC and was eventually abandoned. In 1955 archaeologists identified the site and began its excavation, which continues to this day.

To get to the site you'll need your own transport as no buses stop nearby. A combined ticket (adult/reduced €14/7) valid for three days incorporating a visit to Morgantina, the Museo Archeologico di Aidone and Villa Romana del Casale is available. Tickets incorporating Morgantina and the Aidone museum cost €10/5.