Imagine being transported into the past where towering Doric pillars support the structures of temples from ancient Greece on top of a cliff, to a backdrop of the azure Mediterranean Sea and endless blue skies. This place does truly exist and you can find this and more in a town on Sicily’s coastline called Agrigento.
The archaeological site of the “Valley of the Temples” is one of the most well-preserved Greek archaeological sites in Italy. Agrigento is also a city which has a rich history, it dates back to 581 BC, when it was originally established as the city of “Akragas” by early colonists from Gela. Since then it has endured numerous conquests and sackings and its diverse Carthaginian, Arabic, Greek and Roman roots are reflected in all aspects of the city and surroundings.
Though the silent and majestic ruins on the top of the cliff appear peaceful, it was first ravaged several times by the Carthaginians a until it was captured and conquered by Romans in 210 BC. Agrigento is a paradise for history buffs who can explore seven Doric temples including the Temple of Zeus and Hera as well as the stunning Sanctuaries of Demeter and Persephone.
There is plenty to do in Agrigento and a full day is recommended to explore the city and surrounding areas properly. Aside from the Greek ruins, the city of Agrigento boasts buildings from different periods of its rich history, a cathedral, gothic monastery and church from more recent history. You will be doing plenty of walking around ancient ruins and historic streets in Agrigento, but you can also find a lot of adventure sports and activities that include surfing, canoeing, windsurfing, snorkelling and sailing around the coast.
There are some delightful towns in the region that can be reached by car. The nearby town of Sciacca is the perfect place to take in the atmosphere of a typical Italian coastal fishing village or even have a spa treatment and relax in the natural thermal baths. Another place that you can visit from Agrigento is Palermo whose narrow winding alleyways echoes of another time, from a distant Arabian past.
History that you can breathe, a rich culinary cuisine based on the harvests from the sea and stunning agricultural landscapes. What more can you ask for? Find out more in our ultimate guide to Agrigento.
This ultimate travel guide to Agrigento will show you all the most beautiful places in Agrigento, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Agrigento and things to do in Agrigento which will help you in planning a trip to Agrigento.
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How to get to Agrigento
By air: Palermo is the airport which is closest to Agrigento. You can fly into the Palermo Falcone and Borsellino Airport or alternatively to Trapani Vincenzo Florio Airport. Catania is another access point for Agrigento and there are internal flights to Catania Fontanarossa Airport from various cities in Italy.
From Palermo Airport you can catch a bus connecting the main towns and cities of the region and Agrigento city is one of the stops. The buses are run by the company called Autolinee Sal Licata Spa, ticket costs around €13.40 one-way per person, while return tickets cost €22. The bus is only operational on weekdays and doesn’t run on weekends.
Alternatively, Cuffaro Tours srl has a bus that directly links Palermo with Agrigento, the ticket costs either €9 for a one-way ticket or €14.20 for a return ticket to Palermo. Advance booking is not required and tickets can be purchased on the bus.
By bus: If you are on a budget there are even buses run by Sais Trasporti SPA that on routes from Naples, Rome and Salerno to Agrigento city.
By train: From Palermo and Catania you can take a train to Agrigento city, from there you can take a bus to explore the archaeological site of the “Valley of the Temples” as well as nearby beaches and towns.
By ferry: Cagliari, Genova, Naples and Livorno all offer daily ferry services to Sicily, after which you can travel to Agrigento by bus, train or car.
What to expect in Agrigento
Agrigento is a small city that is not the most picturesque in Italy but is a gateway to visit one of the most well-preserved historic sites in the country. The main attraction of this area is the Valley of the Temples, so a day and a night is usually sufficient for a visit to Agrigento. A tour of the archaeological site and museum will take around 4 hours in total.
Agrigento is an ideal base from which you can continue exploring Palermo, or even visit in an organised day trip, surrounding attractions and beaches like the Scala dei Turchi or Sant’Angelo Muxaro, then allocate two nights. From Agrigento you can also set off to explore various nearby points of interest by car such as Erice, Segesta, Egadi, Marsala or visit more ruins at Seliununte, Mazzara del Vallo and Sciacca.
The language spoken in Agrigento is Italian and the currency is the Euro. The city is generally quite safe despite appearing a bit run-down due to this area of Italy being one of the poorest. It is advisable to keep an eye on your personal belongings as pickpockets are quite active in cities and marketplaces.
How to get around Agrigento
Sicily is not one of the easiest regions in Italy to get around and it is advisable to rent a car to allow you to explore the area at your own pace. Agrigento is located 140 km from Palermo and just 200 km to Syracuse and Catania. There is plenty of parking around Agrigento and most of the historic centre and the sites are easily accessed on foot. Bring some excellent walking shoes as you will be walking a lot! Perfect for active travellers who want to stay in shape after eating all the delicious food on offer.
The best time to visit Agrigento
The Valley of the Temples is quite an exposed site, buffeted by winds and under the unrelenting sun, the best time to visit is during March or April or in October or November when the sun is not so strong. Even in Autumn the heat can be quite intense and it is advisable to wear sunscreen and bring water with you when visiting the site, there are some cafes nearby but they charge tourist prices.
Things to do in Agrigento
Visit the Valley of the Temples
Agrigento’s star attraction is the UNESCO heritage site of the Valley of the Temples, this series of Greek Doric temples sit astride the clifftop and is a paradise for history buffs. Most visitors spend around 3 to 4 hours in the Valley, to avoid the crowds during the visit the Temples it is advisable to go either early in the morning or at sunset, this will allow you to escape the hottest hours of the day.
The Eastern and Western valleys are connected by a pedestrian bridge that starts from behind the Temple of Hercules. The site is easily traversed on foot but for those who have mobility issues or are too tired to walk, there is a shuttle service between the Temple of Juno and Hercules that costs only €3 per person one-way.
Tickets for the Valley of the Temples can be purchased at Porta Quinta, at the ticket office located in Contrada Sant’Anna or you can purchase tickets at the ticket office at Temple of Giunone situated near the Temple of Juno. A parking lot is available on site for €5. The price for a combined ticket to the archaeological park and museum is €13,50 per person. From mid-July to mid-September there are night-time tours of the beautifully illuminated temples which is a magical time to see the Temples.
Discover the artifacts at the Agrigento Archaeological Museum
The combined ticket to the Valley of the Temples is worth buying as it includes entrance into the museum which is situated in the centre of the archaeological site, on top of a hill. The museum boasts an extensive collection of artefacts discovered onsite and you will some impressive and well-preserved stone and marble statues, the most famous statues being the Agrigento Ephebe or the Telamon.
Explore the cliffs of Scala Dei Turchi
The Stair of the Turks is a dramatic limestone cliff-face situated on the Realmonte Coast. A natural stairway has been carved into the cliff by the forces of nature, blasted by centuries of the wind and sea.
It is a popular destination for travellers visiting Agrigento and the best time to visit is at sunset where you can catch dramatic sea views from the clifftops, it will also allow you to avoid the crowds. Parking is available onsite for around €7 for two hours.
At the Scala di Turchi, the bravest travellers can descend the steps to get even more stunning sea views and amazing photographs, afterwards you can descend a staircase to visit the beach at the base of the cliff and perhaps even have a swim!
Visit the beach of Capo Rosso, Realmonte
After the Stair of the Turks you can visit Capo Rosso, a sandy beach and small port with gorgeous natural rock formations, this nearby beach is much quieter than the beach at Scala di Turchi and you can enjoy a quiet swim in the warm turquoise waters without hordes of tourists.
Escape the crowds at the Nature Reserve of Torre Salsa
Situated just 15 minutes’ drive from Realmonte is the gorgeous stretch of beach at Torre Salsa. It might seem a bit of a trek to get there but if you want a beautiful isolated beach this is it! Head to Siculiana Marina by car, the entrance point to the Torre Salsa Nature Reserve.
The route is sign-posted and the rough dirt path is not the smoothest of drives, especially if there have been recent rains and the path turns to mud, in this case it is not advisable to continue. It takes approximately 20 minutes by car to reach a plot of land where you can leave your car and from there walk the three minutes it takes to reach Torre Salsa Beach. It is advisable not to leave any valuables in your car and to bring food and drink with you as there are no cafes or restaurants in the nature reserve.
Wander around Agrigento’s historic centre
The historic centre of the city is full of delightful cobbled streets and stone churches, as well as plenty of steps! There is a route to follow around the historic centre with signboards indicating where you can find the numerous palaces, churches and points of interest.
One of the places you must visit is the Monastero de Santo Spirito which is renowned for its delicious almond cakes, freshly baked by the silent nuns of the renowned San Gerlando Cathedral, these make the perfect snack to keep you going on your wanders around the city. You can also visit the Episcopal Palace and several beautiful rustic churches during this one-hour route around the centre.
Watch the world go by in Piazza Cavour
The main piazza of the city is always the hub of all the action, here people meet, sip coffee, watch the world go by and this grand palace is the perfect place to stop and enjoy the ambience and activity of Agrigento. The Liberty-style buildings that flank the Piazza convey a feeling of being in the heart of Italy, far away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist crowds.
What to eat in Agrigento (traditional dishes)
Hand molded rice balls filled with gooey mozzarella or meat ragú or prosciutto are deep fried in hot oil, this indulgent treat is named after it’s orange colour and its round form. This dish was said to have been created by Eastern Sicilians who lived in the 10th century under Arab rule. Arancine is the perfect snack and street food.
Pasta with fennel and sardines
This typical Sicilian dish is called Pasta con le Sarde e Finocchietto Selvatico and hails from neighbouring Palermo. This is another dish that was born from the Arabian influence of this southern Sicilian city, the sardines are freshly caught on the coast and tossed with pasta with hints of the liquorice flavour of wild fennel.
Another dish that comes from the nearby city of Palermo, this thick focaccia is a type of Sicilian folded pizza, stuffed with spinach and ricotta or meat and baked with a crumbly breadcrumb topping. This delicious calorie bomb is definitely one to try.
Cous Cous with fish
Another dish that harks back to the Arab influence in Sicilian cooking is the traditional dish of cous cous served with snapper, mullet, shrimps or bream and sometimes shellfish as well as a selection of local vegetables and topped with crunchy ground almonds. The cous cous is a fusion of the best of modern Italian flavours and its Arabian roots.
Timballo di Maccheroni del Gattopardo
This dish was made legend for its inclusion in a famous novel. This French influenced dish is sometimes called the pie of Monsù and its name resonates with its aristocratic past, when French cuisine was hailed as the epitome of gourmet and French chefs were brought in to cook for the ruling classes.
The macaroni is cooked in ragu, tomato sauce and includes mushrooms, chicken, peas and herbs such as sage, rosemary and cinnamon. The abundance of different meats in the dish was an indulgence that exhibited the wealth of the diners who would enjoy this dish in Sicily.
Gelato and Granita
No trip to Italy is complete without trying the gelato. The delicious whipped peaks of gelato in Sicily are flavoured with local ingredients such as the bright, acidic lemons that come from the region. Another favourite is fresh granite, or crushed ice which is served in most bars in Agrigento, the local specialty is Gelsi, which is made from mulberries.
The ancient Greeks and Romans were great lovers of wine and the climate on the coast of Sicily has long been used for growing grapes for a variety of wines. Some native grapes such as the Grillo variety are hardy and can withstand the sweltering heat and its bold and full-bodied flavours are used in the manufacturing of Marsala wine.
The Grillo wine, known as Contea di Sclafani, obtained a DOC status and is produced around Agrigento, making it the perfect wine to accompany your meals whilst enjoying your stay in Southern Italy.
Where to stay in Agrigento
There are many different options of places to stay in Agrigento, from modest to palatial, depending on your budget. Agrigento is the perfect getaway if you’re looking for a rural rustic hotel or even agrotourism.
Due Ganèe – This rustic farmhouse is the perfect getaway, it is nestled amongst a grove of olive trees and vineyards and close enough to the Valley of the Temples and Agrigento City. This ecological farm creates its own olive oil and grows their own vegetables which are served up in delicious meals that taste of authentic Italy. The hotel is just a short distance from San Leone and you can easily reach Eraclea Minoa, Siculiana Marina, Torre Salsa and Punto Blanca by car. A double room starts from only €60.
Agriturismo Passo dei Briganti – This hotel is part of a farm and you can stay in an authentic 19th century farmhouse just minutes’ drive from the sea, is surrounded by olive groves, fruit trees and vegetable gardens. The rooms are fully-furnished with air conditioning, LCD TVs and showers and there is an onsite restaurant which serves traditional dishes of Sicily. This rustic place is perfect for unwinding and the owners are sure to give you a warm family welcome. A double room starts from only €50.
Agriturismo Baglio Lauria – If you’ve ever wanted to stay in a Franciscan hermitage upon a plateau in the midst of vineyards and olive groves, this is THE place! This hermitage was once called “The Crucifix” and was once inhabited by Franciscan monks. The onsite restaurant makes spectacular traditional Sicilian dishes from the produce harvested on the 50-acre farm. The site also features a swimming pool and lounge area where you can disconnect and take in the views. The rustic hermitage is only a few minutes from the sea. A double room starts from only €70.
Hotel Exclusive – This hotel is in the bustling centre of Agrigento yet still has wonderful sea views and the distant shadows of the Valley of the Temples in the distance. This modern hotel is right opposite Agrigento train station and rooms have air-conditioning, satellite TV and breakfast. The hotel also offers free parking which is ideal if you are renting a car during your stay. Prices start from €81 per night.
B&B Sorahnia – This stylish B&B is tucked away in a quieter part of Agrigento but offers great value for money. The location is excellent, just a short drive from the Valley of the Temples and Scala del Turchi. Each room is equipped with air-conditioning, flat screen television, minibar, luggage storage space and a buffet breakfast which you can start your day with on their gorgeous veranda. Prices start at €69 per night.
Tours to do in Agrigento
Agrigento is the home to amazing food and wine, being surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. There are a few amazing culinary tours to do in Agrigento.
Enjoy cooking with some of the best local ingredients in the setting of the Contemporary Art Centre near Agrigento. The three-hour cooking course will be paired with local wines and you will learn how to make three traditional Sicilian dishes under the guidance of a local chef. Prices start from €99 per person and afterwards you enjoy a tour around the museum, transport and museum entrance not included.
If you want to enjoy a cooking class and explore the processes involved in making Sicilian olive oil, this experience will allow you a combination of cultural activities. This four-hour course includes a tour of an olive oi estate followed by a cooking class hosted by the owner. An olive oil tasting is also included. In this course, you can learn to make pasta with sardines, Italian meatloaf and some desserts using deliciously sweet ricotta and almonds. Prices start from €119 per person and does not include transport.
Are you an adventure junkie? Go off-road on a four-hour adventure to explore Agrigento’s natural landscapes and Sciacca. The trip departs from Ribera, taking you cross-country through forests, coastal routes and along a river. Prices start from €72 and include a guide, snacks and equipment.
Day trips from Agrigento
This city in Sicily is famed for its thermal baths and beautiful ceramics. Sciacca is a city that is rich in history and you can discover Mount Cronio, a grotto where local people have been coming for centuries to enjoy the healing properties of the mountain and also to visit the nearby 5th century Hermitage Saint Calogero. Sciaccia takes around four hours to explore and there are a few beautiful castles such as Castle di la Luna, Castle Nuovo and the Baroque Duomo which can be accessed on foot.
Sciacca is also home to some beautiful churches such as the San Domenico Church and Santa Margherita Church. Here in the city you will also find the San Salvatore Gate and various palaces. It is recommended to spend at least half a day here to really take in the wealth of history and beauty of the architecture.
There is plenty to do in Palermo and a full day or overnight stay is recommended. One of the most interesting ways to delve into the local culture is to explore the markets to soak in the bustling atmosphere, the best markets to visit are Mercato Della Vucciria, Mercato Capo and Mercato Ballarò.
You can spend the day wandering through the narrow alleyways that are reminiscent of the region’s Arabian influence. Though the city appears a bit neglected and poor and has a reputation for being home of the Sicilian mafia, the city is relatively safe but you need to be aware of pickpockets. For cinema buffs, the famous Teatro Massimo served as the backdrop for the finale of the Godfather III and is one of the most photographed sites in the city.
Amongst the attractions of Palermo which can be explored on foot during a day trip are the various churches and cathedrals of the city, the Cappella Palatina or Palentine Chapel, the magnificent Palazzo dei Normanni, and even descend into some gloomy catacombs at the Catacombe Dei Cappuccini, where over 8,000 people including Cappuchin friars from the 17th century buried here.
No trip to Palermo would be complete without visiting the different squares, the stunning fountain in the centre of Piazza Pretoria, before heading down to the piazza Marina and taking in the sights of the oldest port in the city, Cala di Palermo.
Recommend budget tours in Agrigento
- 2-hour Private Valley of the Temples Tour in Agrigento
- Private Tour – Piazza Armerina and Agrigento – with Local Guide
- Cooking Class at a Modern Art Museum in Agrigento
- Valley of the Temples Archaeological Area Entrance Ticket
- Soap and Olive Oil Experience
- Tour of the House Museum of Soap in Sciacca
- Agrigento Countryside Off-Road Quad Bike Trip from Ribera
- Private tour: Valley of the Temples and Archaeological Museum of Sicily
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