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Exploring Historic Segesta, Sicily

02 Segesta

When we visited Sicily a few aspects of our time there surprised me.  1)  The food was even more delicious than I expected.  2)  The landscape was far more hilly and mountainous than I thought it would be.  3) The large assortment and general good state of preservation of the country’s archaeologic sites.

Segesta (also known as Egesta) is close to the island’s most populous city, Palermo, and is even closer to its airport.  It is easily accessible by car, the Autostrada only minutes away, so a car rental is the easiest way to get there (bus connections are said to be slow and difficult).  Unlike Agrigento in southern Sicily, there is no modern city nearby — just beautiful hills, farms and views of the sea.  A truly remarkable and remote-feeling destination!

Several ancient civilizations left their mark on Segesta, including the founding  Elymians (about 650 B.C.), Greeks and Romans.  Segesta was an important community and it did well economically (because of proximity to the sea, could easily trade) and was a significant force militarily.   If you would like to learn more about the history and peoples of this site, I recommend you go to this link.

Some of the ruins in Segesta

Some of the ruins in Segesta

Visiting Segesta Today

After you’ve parked and paid for your admission, most people walk to the nearby Greek Temple, the highlight of a visit to Segesta. The path takes you up a slight incline where you will find lots of wild celery and desert-type plants growing along the path.

This ancient Doric temple is one of the best preserved in the world, even though it was never completed (for example, a roof was never added).  The temple was built before 430 B.C. and is about 60 m long and 26 m wide, with 36 Doric columns (14 on each side, 6 across the front and back).  No one knows exactly why the temple was built, although some speculate it was to impress the Greeks, nor is it known why it was never completed.

To see the rest of the archaeologic site, you need to be prepared for a long walk uphill, or far easier, pay the modest fee and take a bus ride up hill.  Here you will find Segesta’s second most popular site, its fabulous amphitheater, resting on the upper slopes of Mount Barbaro.

Segesta Amphitheater

Segesta Amphitheater

The Segesta Amphitheater was built around the 2nd century B.C.  It only has a diameter of sixty-two meters and is not very large but none-the-less quite impressive.  It was built to hold at least 4000 spectators.  The amphitheater offers an excellent place from which to view the surrounding valleys and has great views towards the Gulf of Castellamare.

The hilltop site of the ancient city was actually inhabited into the Middle Ages, and if you take the time to explore, you’ll find ruins of a Norman castle, a small church, a mosque, as well as some ruined walls and homes.

If you Visit: Adult admission to the archaeologic park is about 6€.  Each summer, classical Greek dramas are performed (in Italian) at the ancient amphitheater.

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, then right arrow to advance the slideshow)

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