We are the Testy Travelers. The bed had no right side.
And Agrigento, the ruin, is a damn confounding site, with three parking lots and daunting changes in elevation. The Via Sacra and its string of temples and necropolises drop over a hundred meters in the course of two kilometers. Neither conventional maps nor new-fangled electronics can make head or fucking tail of this. There’s a parking lot at the top and one at the bottom and a mystery one somewhere near the theoretical museum. I’d like to park at the top and walk down. It seems sensible, and ever more sensible the less achievable it becomes. My ability to communicate to Alice is compromised by my misguided belief in my inner GPS, my impromptu heedlessness on the road, and my inability to speak in complete sentences. Finally we land at the downside lot, not exactly fuming but vibrating. For three euros per person, one can hire a cab to the top of the site. Oh.
Once at the top, we find ourselves at the threshold of the Temple of Giunone (Juno). No one knows for sure to what deity most of these temples were dedicated, but I only have to say, “Giunone,” with conviction. And if I hold the tips of my fingers together and gesture emphatically, I am invincibly declarative. “Giunone.” Juno’s home base in Agrigento surveys fertile countryside and horizonless blue. It is largely intact, meaning the columns and architrave and pediments have been reassembled. The material used is a soft, golden sandstone that emits warmth and light. In the day it was coated with stucco, patches of which remain. There’s quite a bit of milling at the feet of Giunone, but as soon as we embark on our stroll down the Via Sacra the crowd thins out.
Alice and I happily let gravity pull us along. Eroded burial niches punctuate the panorama of the Mediterranean in a picturesque manner as we ease our way along the wide and dusty thoroughfare to the Temple of Concord at the midpoint. We’re starting to find our fellow tourists more interesting than the monuments of the ancient ones. Possible antiquity saturation. It’s not seen-one-seen-‘em-all, but after the tenth temple or so, familiarity, compounded by the absence of any depth of knowledge, renders the experience a little dry. And there’s the usual fixation on lunch. At the lower terminus of the Via, clusters of foundations and column groupings dedicated to the Chthonic deities recharge the imagination. Chthonic is a great word used to denote the gods of the earth, but not in strict opposition to the Olympian crew. Hades – yes. Demeter and Persephone – sort of.
It’s time to go get the car and attempt to find the parking lot at the Museo Archeologico. Up and down, back and forth. At last, Alice’s GPS draws a bead on the parking lot. It’s free. The Museum is filled to the rafters with shards and reassembled items just missing that telling shard. Of special note – in the subterranean numismatic chambers, silver coins featuring the spirit animals of Agrigento, the golden eagle and the river crab, and a gold horde of Roman coins from the Second Punic War (that one), and nearby, a two-story human figure, a telamon, not a caryatid which is load-bearing, that stood between columns of the Temple of (we conjecture) Zeus.
We’re dying here. Gotta find something to eat. There’s a guy waving to us at the lot’s gate, ‘One euro!’ but we bolt without paying and head up the hill where spaghetti lies. Our luck is right on. The Trattoria dei Templi has divine mixed seafood and a rich cavatelli, as well as death-dealing semifreddo pistacchio and sorbetto limone.
Returning to our polished but weird hotel, we discover the busload of Chinese has been replaced by a busload of Germans. Things should quiet down.