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A Night in Agrigento, Sicily: Exploring by Moonlight

Uncover the enchanting allure of Agrigento, Sicily by the magic of moonlight. From ancient ruins to late-night dining, embrace the unexpected and let the adventure begin!.
A dark silhouette of a woman looking at an illuminated ancient Greek temple's ruins. Through two columns, a crescent moon is visible.
Admiring the Temple of Hera by moonlight. Photo by Vittoria Urzetta.

I had no idea that Agrigento existed, a city on the southern coast of Sicily and the province's capital with the same name: Agrigento. The reason my cousin drove us all the way into Sicily from Calabria and then across the region was to come to this city, particularly to the Valley of the Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that she knew I would obsess over for days to come (yes, my cousin is amazing and I am eternally grateful for the best tour guide Italy has to offer). With bubbling excitement and anticipation of the history waiting here, we drove from our morning in Taormina to the other side of the region, with Google Maps screwing us over only once or twice… but enough for us to be thrown off course for a time that required us to stress eat through all of our road trip snacks with hours still left in the car.


But I digress. Instead, let me introduce you to Agrigento. In this city, the ancient whispers of history intertwine seamlessly with the vibrant rhythms of modern life, weaving a tapestry of experiences that have you dreaming of centuries (and even millennia) gone by. As you start this adventure, traversing from the picturesque roads of Agrigento to ancient mountaintop temples and back again, you'll find that every twist and turn holds the promise of discovery, reminding you that sometimes, the most memorable journeys are the ones where reality surprises us in the most enticing of ways.


A panoramic green landscape of rolling hills in front of a clear blue sky. To the right is a large palm tree and to the left is a walkway with an old building in the background.
The rolling landscape surrounding Agrigento, as seen from Cattedrale di San Gerlando. Photo by Emily Fata.

Checking into the Hotel


Due to delays caused by unavoidable highway construction, we arrived in Agrigento as the sun was setting. Unfortunately, the original plan was to watch the sunset from the Valley of the Temples, but that wasn’t in the cards for us. Another minor detour into the realm of parking nightmares and narrow cobblestone streets eventually had us parking a distance from our hotel, which was nestled in the heart of countless row homes with no street access, only accessible by walking down and climbing multiple stairs.


Tiered steps leading up to an old church. To the right is a bell tower with one bell visible.
The walk up to Cattedrale di San Gerlando. Photo by Emily Fata.

Who needs a gym membership when you have Agrigento's streets as your personal obstacle course? As we carefully rolled our carry-ons across the uneven walkways into the home and carried them up the stairs to our second-floor room, we had a few seconds to drop off our bags and take a breath before navigating our way back to the car to speed along to the awaiting ancient temples.


Navigating narrow streets designed for horse-drawn carriages rather than modern automobiles isn’t ideal for someone in a car, let me tell you, and the thought of ever having to drive my hefty SUV back in Toronto down any Italian street is anxiety-inducing. It's a good thing I was a self-designated Passenger Princess for my entire trip and could trust my cousin and the parking gods to get me where I needed to go (of which, spoiler alert, there was no temple for these particular gods in the Valley).


A massive statue lying on its side on the dirt ground, coloured a green patina, is in the foreground. In the back right corner is the massive Temple of Concordia, still in perfect shape after thousands of years.
A massive, fallen bronze statue in front of the Temple of Concordia. Photo by Emily Fata.

Exploring the Valley of the Temples


Undeterred by anything, we approached the pièce de résistance of our Agrigento adventure: the Valley of the Temples (Valle dei Templi). Cue the dramatic music and the inevitable traffic jams accompanying every major tourist attraction. Who knew ancient ruins could be such a draw for selfie enthusiasts and amateur archaeologists alike? And at close to 9 PM! As we inched our way towards our destination, patience became our greatest virtue—or at least our most begrudging companion.


“Just jump out and go in without me! I’ll find you,” my cousin told me, forgetting that I have slight social anxiety and feel like I can’t do anything alone in foreign countries where I should know the language fluently but refuse to practice. But that’s another story with no valid excuse.


A woman in a reb and blue patterned dress standing amongst massive ancient and crumbled columns from fallen Greek temples.
Standing amongst the temple ruins. Photo by Vittoria Urzetta.

“No, I’m okay,” I told her, squinting to bring the far-away temples into focus. We can rush when we get in and find parking.”


Perseverance pays off. We eventually got into the parking lot, found a spot mid-way through the lot, and made our way to the site and the ticket booth. Frugally, we got just one audioguide in Italian and made our way to the first temple, the Temple of Hera, where my cousin translated the facts that spewed into her ear from the guide.


Under the moonlight and cast in an otherworldly glow from warm spotlights positioned around the ancient landmark, the ruins hauntingly stretched before us. If you’ve been following Wanderous Affair for a while, it won’t come as a surprise that I got all teary-eyed over the sight of this historical marvel. I mean, with the beautiful crescent moon peeking through columns thousands of years old in the most magical and ethereal experience ever, how could I not?


Each temple holds a piece of history waiting to be unearthed, from the Temple of Concordia to the Temple of Juno. It's like stepping into a time machine.


Trying to Find a Late-Night Restaurant in Agrigento, Sicily


A woman in a blue tank top is sitting at a table with a white table cloth, admiring the beautiful plate of pasta in front of her.
Finally enjoying dinner! Photo by Emily Fata.

And then, as night fell completely and hunger gnawed at our insides like a starved Cerberus, the quest for sustenance began. In fact, I was thinking about it as we walked back from the furthest temple at the far end of the site, back to the front entrance.


With the clock striking 11 and our stomachs growling in protest, we got back into the car, and I began desperately searching Google for restaurants. It started with ‘best restaurants in Agrigento,’ and to ‘restaurants in Agrigento,’ as I realized half the city was closed or closing. Eventually, I desperately searched ‘What is open to eat in Agrigento?’ and found a handful of places in the city that closed at midnight.


As if this wasn’t bad enough and we weren’t desperate, we had a few options that we then spent another 20 minutes walking back and forth between, trying to decide. Would it be traditional Sicilian food or poké bowls and sushi? We settled on Sicilian food for the greater number of vegetarian options available to me. We ordered pasta, a bread basket, and a seemingly unending water supply (I was parched).


Oh, and again, I almost cried. This time, it was because the crumbled pistachio and braised cherry tomato pasta with burrata was so good (but also, maybe, because I hadn’t eaten in 11 hours).


(Accidentally) Sneaking into the Cathedral of Saint Gerland


The next morning, bright and early, we set out on a quest to explore the Cathedral of Saint Gerland (Cattedrale di San Gerlando) before returning to Calabria. We navigated the quiet streets of Agrigento, the cobblestones echoing the rhythm of our footsteps and the click-click-click of our luggage clacking against them. As we approached the cathedral, its ancient façade stood as a silent sentinel, a testament to centuries of faith and devotion.


We climbed the steps to the entry, admiring the architecture more and more the closer we got. Vittoria took photos of the view from the top of the hill, and I waltzed my way into the old building and past the volunteer who was mid-conversation with someone. I nodded with a smile and walked confidently into a beautiful side chapel where partitioners were deep in prayer. I stayed there a moment to admire the floor-to-ceiling art, drew a deep breath to inhale the incense-laden air that old churches always have and let myself feel the peace and stillness that comes with most old places of worship.


An old church façade, with the entrance containing a large doorway with bricks around it and a cross at the peek. To the right is a bell tower with two bells visible. In front of the entry, people are walking.
The front entrance of Cattedrale di San Gerlando. Photo by Emily Fata.

Then I left, walking to the end of the aisle to admire the cathedral’s beauty for a moment before smiling at the volunteer who eyed me strangely, and walking out the way I came. This was when I saw the massive sign I didn’t even glance at on my way in, that said all visitors had to pay to enter.


Oops.


All in All


A night in Agrigento is like a rollercoaster ride through history (and, if you put history above eating, it’s also a ride of hunger), with twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat—and occasionally, on the brink of hangriness. But amidst the chaos and cobblestones, there's a magic to be found—a magic that lingers in the moonlit temples and the laughter-filled trattorias, reminding us that sometimes, the best adventures are the ones that don't go according to plan.


So, are you ready to embark on your own adventure in Agrigento? Whether exploring ancient ruins or navigating narrow streets to incredible late-night restaurants, Agrigento promises an experience you won't soon forget.


 

4 Comments


Olga Wefler
Olga Wefler
Apr 17

I love your idea to see Sicily at night. Agrigento seems cool place. I used to love night life and late nights cafes.

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Marysa Nicholson
Marysa Nicholson
Apr 16

It is fun to check out places at night. It looks so nice in the lights, and I like taking advantage of cooler temperatures. Always seems like a calmer time to view the sights.

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Richard Lowe Jr
Richard Lowe Jr
Apr 14

This is a wonderful way to see this area in Sicily. I always like doing things at night, and I love night photography.

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Angelica
Apr 14

It looks beautiful. Glad you were able to enjoy despite the hurdles.

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