The main attraction of Sicily's Mediterranean Coast are the spectacular ruins of the Valley of the Temples, unparalleled across the island for their significance, expanse and beauty. Nearby, Agrigento has an elegant medieval old town with good restaurants and accommodation, in contrast to the tower blocks punctuating other parts of the city. West of Agrigento, the development subsides and the landscape takes on a wilder, more natural aspect.
Excellent sandy beaches include the stretches at the Riserva Naturale Torre Salsa and Eraclea Minoa, and there are also tracts of beautiful, unspoilt countryside. The chalk cliffs of the Scala dei Turchi are a spectacular sight and there's a great beach here too. Further west, the spa town of Sciacca is worth a visit for its excellent seafood restaurants and handsome historic streets. Don't miss Favara's art neighbourhood, Farm Cultural Park, the innovative and vibrant art project that has revived this town.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Mediterranean Coast.
Sicily's most enthralling archaeological site encompasses the ruined ancient city of Akragas, highlighted by the stunningly well-preserved Tempio della Concordia, one of several ridge-top temples that once served as beacons for homecoming sailors. The 13-sq-km park, 3km south of Agrigento, is split into eastern and western zones. Ticket offices with car parks are at the park's southwestern corner (the main Porta V entrance) and at the northeastern corner near the Temple of Hera (Eastern Entrance).
One of the best-preserved ancient Greek temples in existence, the Temple of Concordia has survived almost entirely intact since it was constructed in 430 BC. It was converted into a Christian basilica in the 6th century and the main structure reinforced, giving it a better chance of surviving earthquakes. In 1748 the temple was restored to its original form and given the name it is now known by.
North of the temples, this wheelchair-accessible museum is one of Sicily's finest, with a huge collection of clearly labelled artefacts from the excavated site. Noteworthy are the dazzling displays of Greek painted ceramics and the awe-inspiring reconstructed telamon, a colossal statue recovered from the nearby Tempio di Giove.
In a natural cleft between walls of soft tuff (volcanic rock), the Giardino della Kolymbetra is a lush garden of olive and citrus trees interspersed with more than 300 labelled species of plants and some welcome picnic tables. Managed independently by the non-profit historical preservation organisation FAI, it's a peaceful, shady spot, perfect for escaping the heat of the valley and breaking for a picnic lunch. The climb down is steep (best avoided if you've got dicky knees).
In 2010, married couple Andrea Bartoli and Favara-born Florinda Saieva bought several abandoned buildings in the town's dilapidated heart and set up this unique neighbourhood devoted to art. Since then, the Farm has become a centre for exhibitions by international and local artists, housing a gallery of thought-provoking, often politically charged, artwork, along with shops, bars and cafes, cultural events, talks, screenings, workshops and shows going on throughout the year. There's also now stylish accommodation within the area's arty streets.
This splendid archaeological museum offers insight into Gela's great artistic past. It contains artefacts from the city's ancient acropolis and is famed for its fine collection of red-and-black kraters: these terracotta vases, used to mix wine and water, were a local specialty between the 7th and 4th centuries BC, admired throughout the Greek world for their delicate designs and superb figurative work. Other treasures include a remarkable collection of 530 silver coins minted in Agrigento, Gela, Syracuse, Messina and Athens.
This stunning 761-hectare natural park, administered by the World Wildlife Fund, offers plenty of scope for walkers, with well-marked trails and sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and coast. The long, deserted Torre Salsa beach is especially beautiful, although the access road is rough. The park is signposted off the SS115: exit at Siculiana Marina (with its own great sandy beach) or continue 10km north to the second Montallegro exit and follow the signs for ‘WWF Riserva Naturale Torre Salsa’.
The main feature of the western zone is the crumbled ruin of the Tempio di Giove. Covering an area of 112m by 56m with columns 20m high, this would have been the largest Doric temple ever built had its construction not been interrupted by the Carthaginians sacking Akragas. The incomplete temple was later destroyed by an earthquake.
Located in a restored Favara mansion, this interesting museum showcases the importance of the humble almond to Sicily. Exhibits are well labelled in both Italian and English, and there's an excellent onsite shop selling gourmet food products sourced from the surrounding region. Call ahead a few days prior to arrange cooking classes (per person €100) in the museum's well-equipped kitchen.