September Travels – Selinunte, Sicily

[This post is part of a series which records my road trip to Sicily during September. I took loads of photos, but have only included a few at the end of each blog post.]

Selinunte was a total surprise. I really didn’t expect it to be that good, and by this point in our Sicily adventure, I was getting a bit sick of Temples. However, the drive to Selinunte from Sciacca was a beautiful one – it went across the famous valley of Belice where fields of grapes and orchards of olives are grown. The actual park is quite difficult to find and is a gem because of that. It’s not too touristy but there is a good cafe just outside the park where they serve ‘proper’ cafe granita (i.e. one with actual espresso and sugar rather than a horrible creamy chemical concoction.)

The history of Selinunte is quite interesting. It was one of the most important Greek colonies and founded around 628-650 BC. It’s name is thought to derive from the wild parsley/celery that grew around the area and as far as Sicilian parks go, this is one of the greener ones that I have seen.

If you’re planning to travel around Sicily and the different temple sites, visiting Selinunte and Segesta one after the other has an added interest. Around 580 BC hostilities broke out between  Selinunte and Segesta and once again in 416 BC. The Carthaginians finally did it for Selinunte in a 10 day seige during the spring of 409 BC.  The seige killed around 16,000 Selinuntines,  imprisoned, 5,000 and 2,600 escaped to Agrigento. After the Carthaginians breached the defensive walls, the Selinuntines didn’t give up easily and engaged in urban warfare, retreating from house to house. However, the numbers were still pretty against them and eventually they were defeated.

Selinunte was down, but not out. In 397 BC, the Carthaginians once again were given Selinunte and its territory. This must mean that at some point, the city had not been under the Carthaginian rule. Eventually, as part of the first Punic War, the Carthaginians destroyed Selinunte  and moved all its inhabitants to Lilybaeum. The city was never rebuilt.

When walking around Selinunte, I got the feeling that I was walking around a city. I found the mix between the totally overgrown areas and the excavated areas made the place seem more real in a way. Both part of the landscape, history and today. The fact that the Temples are separated from the main city and I had to walk between them meant we walked through aeons of re-growth and modern landscaping to cross to another jumble between history and modern-day excavation.

One of the main things that I loved was the solitude. There really weren’t that many people around and because the site was pretty big (you could rent golf carts to get between the different places), it didn’t feel crowded at all.

I came to the conclusion that I really enjoy the mix of Temples in cities rather than spiritual centres on their own. At Selinunte this comes across very well. Not only that, but the defences of the city were still apparent, there were signs everywhere that made  it easy to understand what I was looking at, and there were loads of lizards. No cats, though.

Afterwards, the rest of the group really wanted to go for a swim. It was about 25 C, but I was cold so didn’t fancy it. After checking my Blue Guide, there was a lovely beach and cafe just next to Selinunte called, Lido […]. We popped in and served by an Italian who spoke fluent English. He also was wearing the smallest speedos that I have ever seen, and had the body of Adonis, including the long hair.

We stayed there for a couple of hours until the older folks had swum their fill and then returned to Sciacca.


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