Greek Italy: A Roadmap
[Regions of Italy]

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The coastal areas of southern Italy were colonized by people from Greece. Today there is still widespread evidence of that civilization, which flourished between the 8th and 5th centuries BC. Art in this colony, which was known as Magna Graecia, developed along the same lines as in the motherland, although it sometimes had original features. The archeological sites which remain are among the most important and magical in all Europe. Here are some outstanding examples:

Agrigento, Sicily
The Valley of the Temples. Nowhere else on earth, not even in Greece, will you see so many sacred Greek buildings in one place. To get here from the city of Agrigento, a charming if somewhat crowded medieval hamlet with unfortunate modern outcroppings, drive along state road 118. Also visit the Museo Archeologico, which houses Italy's most important collection of art from Magna Graecia. Open 9am until one hour before sunset except on national holidays. Overlooking the spectacularly illuminated temples, the newly renovated Villa Athena is our favorite place to stay in Agrigento.

Locri Epizefiri, Calabria
The remains of this ancient stronghold are especially evocative, because they are scattered here and there in an olive grove, to be discovered one by one. First you'll come upon the temple and a wall, then you'll encounter a theatre and another temple, then the sanctuary of Persephone. One thing you'll find very little of is tourists. Locri has been left behind by modern Calabria, and if you listen quietly, you're liable to hear ancient Greek on the wind. La Casa di Gianna is only a few minutes from the site, located in the charming medieval town of Gerace.

Persephone and her husband Hades


The Temple of Zeus

Segesta, Sicily
A most evocative site on a rocky hillside, featuring a largely abandoned temple that was probably used for open-air sacrifices when it was built in the 5th century BC. Above it is an equally haunting amphitheatre. Buses leave hourly from the parking area below, or you can hike up the goat path. Open 9am-sunset. We highly recommend you stay until the last ray of sun has set behind the ochre columns, then head to Marsala or Erice for a place to stay.
 


Selinunte, Sicily
Westernmost of the Greeks' Italian settlements, it also offers several well-preserved temples whose origin is so mysterious that we no longer know the gods to whom they were dedicated. Temple E is one of the finest 5th-century BC temples anywhere, and the main gate of the site is still defended by the original fortifications. Open 9am until one hour before sunset. After you're done, we suggest you spend the night at Hotel Eracle, halfway between the temples and the beach.
Selinunte: Temple E
Selinunte: Temple E


The Theatre at Taormina
The Theatre at Taormina
Taormina, Sicily
Anyone who's been to the Greek theatre and stood on the top row, with the glorious sea and the orchard groves of Messina on the one side and the snow-capped volcanic peak of Mount Etna on the other, will never forget it. Open summer 9-7 and winter 9-4.  Here are some of our favorite lodgings in this beautiful resort town.

Paestum, Campania
In the 7th century BC, when this was a colony of Sybaris, it was called Poseidonia. Its three well-preserved buildings include the Temple of Poseidon, considered one of the most beautiful Doric temples in Italy or Greece. Also, the excellent museum features the world's only known examples of ancient Greek painting. If you want to experience the magic of ancient Greece without a hint of the modern world encroaching, this is the site to choose, and just before sunset is the time to do it. Open 9am until sunset. A great place to stay in the area is Agropoli Villa Hotel.
Selinunte: Temple E

Siracusa, Sicily
Isola di Ortigia. According to tradition, the original Greek settlement was founded here in 734 BC.


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