tour through Sicily’s archaeological sites can be an unforgettable
experience. Visitors will be enraptured by the Island’s pluri-millennial
history, by its monuments and archaeological sites evidence for
its glorious past.
the many sites in the Trapani province, outstanding is Selinunte
(Selinus), an ancient Greek polis founded in the 7th century BC;
it was destroyed by the Carthaginians, conquered by the Romans and
highly injured by earthquakes in the 10th and 11th century. It was
discovered by the historian Tommaso Fazello in the 16th century
and first excavated in the 1900s. Surrounded by a terrific natural
landscape, it is a major attraction for tourists from around Italy
and abroad. The Archaeological Park, comprised between the Cottone
and Modione rivers, preserves remains from ancient temples testifying
to the importance of this own, founded around 651-650 BC by the
Greek Pammilos. After a long conflict with Segesta, an Elymian colony,
the city served as a military post against Punic attacks. After
a short truce it was invaded again and successively destroyed by
Chartage and Rome. The G Temple – all the temples are named
after letters of the alphabet –, remained incomplete, dates
from the 5th century BC, prior to Carthage take over. The area also
includes: the acropolis, set on a hill between the two mentioned
rivers, supposedly enlarged between the late 6th and the early 5th
century BC; smaller temples, such as the D, built in the 6th century,
and the B, thought to be dedicated to philosopher Empedocles; the
necropolises, where innumerable relics were brought to light; two
sanctuaries dedicated to Malapholos and to Zeus Melichios, likely
erected during the Punic period. According to historians and archaeologists
much of the city still lies undiscovered.
in the province of Trapani, was an outstanding Punic post and port
able to withstand attacks of Dionysios, Timoleon, Phyrrus and Rome.
Scanty remnants of the ancient city are a door flanked by two watch-towers,
a house with peristyle, rooms and various floor mosaics. Remains
of the Roman domination are an underground funeral chamber with
precious painted decorations.
ruins of the city of Segesta testifies to the Elymians’ presence
in Sicily. They, also founders of the neighboring Erice (Eryx) and
Entella, are believed to be refugees from the destroyed Troy. The
city fought a long war with Selinus to gain an outlet to the Thyrrenian
Sea. The temple enclosed within the city walls, dating from the
late 5th century BC, is a precious specimen of the Doric architecture.
Surrounded by an impressing landscape, it has a well-preserved structure
with 36 Doric columns. The semi-circular theatre, dating from the
second half of the 3rd century BC, retains some twenty steps carved
into the rock. The acropolis was divided into two parts. The southern
side was mostly built with private and residential houses, while
the northern was reserved for public buildings like the agorà.
The site also preserves remains of the city-walls with towers and
gates, dating from between the Republic and the Empire ages, of
a towered castle enclosing a three-naves church within its walls,
and a shrine, located in the Contrada Mango, built in the 6th century
(Erice) was founded by the rather mysterious Elymian colonists,
allegedly refugees from Troy, who, along with Sicans and Sicels,
are considered to be the earliest settlers of Sicily. Partly destroyed
by the Carthaginians, Erice was taken by the Romans in 241 BC.;
it enjoyed a considerable prosperity under the Arabs and the Normans.
The many relics discovered across the territory include: remains
of the city walls still retaining three Norman gates; a medieval
fortress known as the Venus Castle; scanty remnants of an ancient
shrine dedicated to Venus dating from the 5th-4th century BC.
Greek-Roman archaeological site in Gela mainly consists of the ancient
city-walls located in the Contrada Capo Soprano. According to historians
the city was founded towards the end of 7th century BC by Cretan
and Rhodian colonists and was at its height under the Tyrant Hippocrates.
It was destroyed by the Carthaginians in 405 BC and abandoned at
request of tyrant Dionysius. The walls, 350m in lenght, excavated
in the past century, are regarded as one of the finest specimens
of the Greek defensive architecture. Unfortunately, they have partly
decayed with the passing of time. The Park also houses relics from
the 7th century BC, buildings and a ruinded shrine dedicated to
Athena from the Doric epoch. The Museum collects relics ranging
in date from 698 to 282 BC, when the city was destroyed by Akragas
(today’s Agrigento). Other relics are scattered around the
city countryside, ranging from the Prehistory to the Middle Ages.
An ancient thermal bath dating from the 4th century is also enclosed
within the park.
Hyblaea was founded north of Syracuse by the Greeks in the 8th century
BC. It greatly flourished and expanded as far as 483 BC, when it
was destroyed by tyrant Gelon of Syracuse. Rebuilt in 340 BC by
Timoleon, it never regained its former importance. Remains of fortified
walls and a number of sarcophaguses were recovered from the necropolis.
Enclosed within the walls are the remains of two temples; west of
the agorà are those of dwellings and shops.
ruined Heraclea Minoa, between Agrigento and Sciacca, by the Platani
river, has a troubled history since it was located on the border
between a Punic and a Greek area. Believed to be built by Minos,
the town gained its freedom in 339 BC and was abandoned in the 1st
relics by the Platani River apparently refer to a settlement. They
consist of a group of houses, dating from between the 4th and the
3rd century BC spread around a courtyard; a theatre from the second
half of the 4th century BC; remnants of walls from between the late
6th century and the 4th century BC.
Palermo and the Mozia – on the island of the same name –
were the main Phoenician cities in Sicily.
in the province of Palermo, destroyed by the Saracens, was discovered
in the sixteenth century and excavations have continued ever since.
The site is home to ruined houses of different sizes, retaining
decorated pavings, mosaics, walls, floors, and columns. A few dwellings
and public buildings are well enough preserved. There is even a
small odeum (theatre) and a meeting chamber.
now a well-known sea resort, dating from the 7th century BC, is
among the Phoenician settlements in Sicily. It retains remains of
an ancient shrine with three-naves dating back to the 6th century,
a necropolis, a tophet (where children were sacrificed to Gods),
and a house referred to as the casa dei mosaici (the mosaic-house)
for its floor mosaics.
was founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC, who kept close
contacts with other peoples in Sicily, namely Sicels, Elymians and
Greeks. Its harbor played a major role in its social and economic
growth. The city was successively ruled by Carthaginians, Romans,
Vandals, Lombards, Byzantines, Arabs and Normans. This is enough
to explain its variety of architectural and artistic styles. Among
its numerous relics and monuments, worth-mentioning are the remains
of Paleolithic grottoes and a Neolitich village.
d’Ispica is an interesting archaeologic site in the province
of Ragusa. The Cava stretching along a riverbed, in a limestone
valley, has a naturally defended location, with extensive views
over the surrounding countryside. Running north-south over an area
of some 13 kilometres, it can be splitted into two parts. To the
north, stretching across a countryside between today’s Modica
and Ispica, are numerous Paleochristian catacombs (4th-5th century)
with notable inscriptions, traces of ancient cave-homes and oratories,
a church dedicated to St. Mary, two small settlements known as Grotte
Cadute and Castello, an impressing small cave-church dedicated to
St. Nicholas going back to the Byzantine Age and housing well-maintained
frescoes, ruins of the Byzantine church of San Pancrati dating from
between the 4th and the 5th century, the Grotta dei Sant, (The Saints’
Grotto) with numerous frescoes depicting saints referring to Christian-Byzantine
southern side, named Parco Forza, lies in the Ispica territory;
it offers numerous interesting sites such as the Chiesa dell’Annunziata,
where are some sepulchral pits and a grotto-stable. Both were once
connected to the neighboring Palazzo Marchionale, whose ruins retain
some rooms with well-preserved floorings. Worth-mentioning is the
site of Centoscale, consisting of a number of tunnels dug beneath
the river, serving for the collection of water throughout the year.
founded by Greeks in the early 7th century, is one of the best archaeological
resorts in Sicily. Indeed, it was the most powerful of all Greek
colonies in Sicily. The colonists settled on the small Ortygia island
and soon expanded to the surrounding territory. Afterwards, the
city saw the rule of the Romans, the Byzantines and the Arabs, under
whom it became the major city in the Noto Valley. Particularly outstanding
is the Eurialo Castle, built by Dionysius the Elder between 402
and 397 BC to defend against Carthage attacks. Although undergoing
several refurbishments throughout the centuries, the castle is regarded
as a most remarkable specimen of the Greek military architecture.
It is divided into two parts by walls of more recent constrution.
5th century BC theatre, on the Temenite Hill, offering a splendid
view, is one of the best-preserved theatres in all Sicily. It underwent
several changes during the Roman rule. Remarkable are the auditorium,
divided into nine sections, and the semi-circular orchestra, where
the chorus performed. Nearby stands the Latomia del Paradiso (Quarry
of Paradise), a deep stone quarry, where especially noted is the
Ear of Dionysius, an ear-shaped cave so named by painter Caravaggio
because of its extraordinary acoustical properties, that was once
used as a prison. Another cave, dedicated to Santa Venera, was turned
into a garden. The Apollo Temple, the oldest doric temple in Sicily,
was later successively turned into a Byzantine church, an Arab mosque
and a Norman church. Also worth-seeing are the columns of a temple
dedicated to Athena, enclosed within the city Duomo, and the Roman
Gymnasium dating back to the 1st century BC.
Morgantina is a very interesting site in the area of Aidone, Enna.
According to historical sources this small city was an outstanding
commercial post thanks to its central location in the trade routes.
Especially growing during the Greek and Roman periods, it preserves
ancient relics excavated at the Cittadella hill, dating from the
13th century BC. The major remnants consist of the agorà,
built on two levels connected by a staircase. At its centre there
are ruins of shops from the Roman age, kilns, a shrine, remains
of shops-walls and of a market. Most of the site’s relics
are preserved into a Museum in the vicinity of neighboring Aidone.
Villa Romana del Casale, in Piazza Armerina, dating from the 3th-4th
century AD, certainly belonged to some important Roman figure; it
retains such remarkable relics among which are mosaics depicting
hunting scenes and mythologic figures. These are incredibly preserved
in spite of a tremendous flood that devastated the area in the 12th
century, inside a group of rooms and halls. Among them, outstanding
is the Orpheus room, with a mosaic covering the entire room, depicting
the mythologic figure as he entices wild animals with his music.
Probably built on a former rural settlement built in Constantine’s
time, it entered a period of decline at the time of the Vandals
and Visigoths’ invasions.
the best preserved and, certainly, most notorious archaeologic site
in Sicily, was founded by Greek colonists in 580 BC and named Akragas,
after a river flowing nearby. It became one of the most powerful
Greek colonies in Sicily, second only to Syracuse. Led by its earliest
tyrant Phalaris, Agrigento subjugated the neighboring cities, and
was successively conquered and ruled by Romans, Arabs and Normans.
Today the Temples Valley stands as an outstanding and most amazing
archaeologic attraction that, although injured by the passing of
time and natural catastrophes, gloriosly attests to the Greeks’
presence and might in Sicily. The Temple of Zeus Olympian, built
in honour of Zeus after the successful war against Carthage in 480
BC, was originally 113 metres long and 56 metres large. One of the
most impressive of Antiquity. Remains of a group of buildings somehow
related to a shrine dedicated to Demetra and Kore, date from between
the 6th and 5th century BC. The 5th century BC Temple of Dioscuri
(Castor and Pollux to Greeks), largely ruined, now retains four
standing columns. Thought to have been ravaged by Carthaginians
in the 5th century, it was rebuilt, as show some stylistic differences.
The Temple of Concord, by far the best-preserved and attractive
in the area, was built in the 5th century BC. It underwent several
reconstructions and was even turned into a Christian temple as far
as the mid-700s, when it was restored back to its ancient splendor.
It remains as a priceless specimen of the Hellenistic architecture.
Conceived as the habitation of a God, the peripteral temple derives
its name from a latin inscription found nearby, probably having
little to do with the temple itself. The Temple of Hera Lacinia,
similar in shape to that of Concord, has well-preserved columns,
especially on its north side. It was largely ravaged by the Carthaginians
in 406 BC and damaged by an earthquake in the Middle Ages. Few columns
are all that remains of the 6th century BC Hercules’ Temple,
an hexastyle peripteral temple which is a precious specimen of the
Greek architecture. The Hellenistic-Roman quarter, whose history
spans 10 centuries of history – from the 4th century BC onwards
– was laid out according to the hyppodamian urban plan and
shows several noting dwellings such as the so called House of the
Portico and the House of Dionysius. The Shrine of Demetra, set outside
the walls, was built around the 7th century BC. It has a rectangular
shape that recalls the Greek archaic architecture.
Croce Camerina, in the province of Ragusa, is home to remains that
testify to the pre-historic origin of this town built in 589 BC.
After a period of great prosperity under Syracuse, it was razed
by the Romans in 258 BC. Remains preserved into the Archaeologic
Park are evidence of the numerous destructions and reconstructions
that the city underwent throughout the centuries. The site comprises
ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to Athena in the 5th century
BC, three necropolises, and remains of a house. A museum displays
all the relics found at the area.
Naxos, 50 kilometres from Messina, is the most ancient of Sicilian
Greek colonies. Founded by Chalcidians in 734 BC, who successively
expanded into other areas of Sicily, today it is a renowned tourism
resort. It played an important role in the war between Athens and
Siracusa, supporting the former and, for this, eventually destroyed
by Dionysius I in 403 BC. The museum of the city displays innumerable
relics that have been excavated in its territory. Worth-seeing are
the Chalcidian Shrine dating from the 7th century BC, the remains
of two temples, notably that dedicated to Aphrodite dated between
the 7th and the 5th century, remnants of kilns from the 4th-5th
century attesting to the Byzantine presence at the area. The Archaeological
Park is home to relics of an early settlement with an impressive
road-system. A 5th century urban settlement is also enclosed, retaining
relics of quadrangualar houses.
the Palermo area is Hymera. According to historical sources the
city was founded around 649-648 BC and was long disputed by Carthage
and Syracuse, the latter eventually winning led by Tyrant Hielon
II. The Carthaginians would later ravaged the city. Remains of ancient
dwellings dating back to the 5th century BC are scattered across
the area. Also worth-mentioning are the ruins of a doric temple
dating from between 470 and 460 BC.
in the province of Messina, offers numerous interesting sites. Numerous
relics attesting to Greek and Roman settlements have been borught
to light. The earliest reliable data on the city refer to a Norman
settlement in today’s upper side of Patti, where a Benedictin
Abbey was built by Count Roger in 1094. A Roman Villa, on the seaside,
was discovered during the construction works of the highway Catania-Messina.
The building, probably originating from the early 4th century AD,
was later reconstructed due to an earthquake between the 5th and
the 7th century. It has a large peristyle and quadrangular rooms,
a portico and halls with beautiful mosaics depicting animals, geometrical
figures and more. A thermal complex, situated on the eastern side
of the villa, is worth-seeing. Relics of tombs were also recovered
from this side.
ancient Tyndaris (Tindari), in the Messina province, was founded
by Dionysios, tyrant of Syracuse, in 396 BC. It was a Carthage military
outpost during the First Punic War and conquered by the Romans in
257 BC. Located on a highly strategic area, close at hand to the
Messina Strait, it was subject to raids by the Barbarians and ruled
by Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, under whom the city enjoyed
a remarkable prosperity. Under the Byzantines, it became a Bishop’s
seat. Arab incursions, since 827, caused its inhabitant to abandon
it and settle in another area where the city of Patti would be founded.
Numerous historical and sacred relics have been discovered across
the site. Worth-visiting is the Shrine of the Black Virgin, in the
acropolis, well-known for the wooden statue of the Black Virgin,
in the Byzantine style. The statue probably arrived in town around
750 on a vessel that doomed at Tindari harbor because of a storm.
The antiquarium contains plenty of roman and greek remnants such
as a sculpted Emperor Augustus’ head, objects, plates ranging
from the Bronze to the Roman Age.
remnants consist of: a well-maintained Greek Theatre, from the 4th
century BC, that underwent alterations during the Roman rule and
is situated on a slope overlooking a dramatic coastal scenery; a
thermal complex built inside a building of prior construction, consisting
of two rooms with very interesting floor mosaics; the Basilica,
also referred to as the Gymnasium, set by the agorà, dating
from the 4th century BC and flanked by two staircases leading to
its first floor; a settlement, at the very earth of the archaeologic
area, with an octagonal plan, typical of the Greek western colonies.
Thid includes ruins of two houses dating from the 1st century BC.
in the Arapo Valley – Siracusa province –, conserves
the ruins of an ancient settlement, known as Hybla, that flourished
between the 13th and the 8th century BC. The Anaktonon, a monumental
royal construction, is among the site’s major attractions.
Also worth-visiting are a large necropolis carved into the rock
of the valley, a small church dating from the High Middle Ages,
referred to as the Oratory of the Crucifix, remains of Byzantine
interesting archaeologic site is located between the mounts Sabucina
and Capodarso, near Caltanissetta. The earliest relics discovered
date from the Bronze Age; others span three centuries from the 12th
to the 10th century BC. The village was subject to frequent raids
and attacks, the worst occurring around 310 BC by Syracusan tyrant
Agathocles. Worth-visiting are the sanctary and the Antiquarium,
a museum that collects relics from the necropolises, and remains
of an ancient defensive wall provided with towers.
the area of the Jato Mount, is the city of San Cipirello, originating
from the 1st millennium BC. It was successively ruled by Greeks,
Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs and Normans, and eventually destroyed
by Frederick II of Swabia due to religious reasons. It preserves
remains of ceramics, a Greek Temple dedicated to Aphrodite dated
550 BC, a theatre from the 4th century BC altered in the 2nd century
BC, remains of the so-called House of Peristyle, whose ground floor
retains a banquet hall; the Agorà comprising a council-hall
and a temple.
Angelo Muxaro, in the Agrigento area, is a settlement originating
from the Bronze Age. It stands on a hill, where traces of a Sicel
necropolis have been found. Believed to be Kamikos, the capital
of the reign of king Kokalos, the site retains tombs and funeral
outfits ranging from the 8th to the 6th century BC.
relics have been discovered in the Adranone Mount, Agrigento, allegedly
referring to ancient Elym-Greek and Punic settlements destroyed
around 250 BC. There remain the city walls, and remnants of the
necropolis, huts, a 5th century settlement and a more recent religious
area of Monte Lauro, a long-extinct volcano in the province of Ragusa,
has plenty of sites that provide evidence for prehistoric civilizations
in the Hyblean territory. Finds from ancient necropolises, tombs
and other relics spanning centuries of history since the Bronze
Age were recovered from the area. Worth-seeing are several caves,
notably those known as The Lady’s and of The dead’s.
or artificial caves of ancient origin, used as dwellings or burial
places, are scattered across the entire Iblean territory: the grottoes
of Cava d’Ispica, between Modica and Ispica, with symbols
– unfortunately undecipherabled as yet – visible in
the vaults; the Grotta Martello, in Rosolini, Siracusa, dating from
the prehistoric age; the Grotta dei Morti, in Cava d’Aliga,
Ragusa, where remnants of human skulls were discovered.
in the Agrigento district, shows signs referring to Neolithic-Eneolithic
ages, notably the Fazello caves, abandoned in the Bronze Age due
to vapor emissions. Many jars, vases (one was full of children’s
bones) and copper objects were unearthed hereabout.
city of Taormina, now worldwide famous resort, boasts an ancient
history. Founded by the Sikels, it was then a refuge for survivors
from the neighboring Naxos, destroyed by the Syracusans. The city
entered into alliances with king Phyrrus of Epirus and with the
Romans, under whose rule it later enjoyed a remarkable prosperity.
Outstanding relics were recovered from several excavations. The
Greek Theatre, on a hill overlooking a breath-taking landscape,
altered in the Roman age, is a major attraction. It retains the
auditorium divided into nine sections and a double portico with
several niches and columns, typical of the Imperial style; the stairs
originally comprised two orders of columns which are largely ruined
today. The Antiquarium is a small archaeological museum with interesting
marble statues and relics from a Roman Theatre dating from the 2nd
century BC and from a Roman Villa from the 1st century BC.
Imerese, in the province of Palermo, was founded by refugees from
Hymera and later ruled by Punics, Greeks, Romans and Carthaginians.
It is home to few ruins consisting of an amphitheatre, an ancient
portico dating from the 2nd-1st century BC, an aqueduct from the
same period, and a prehistoric settlement of the 6th century BC
near the Castellazzo Mount district.
a village situated south of today’s Lentini, was inhabited
by the Sikels and by the Greeks. Most of the site’s relics
are preserved into the Archeological Park including: walls of the
Necropolis of S. Mauro, remnants of a Prehistoric village, a Greek
Temple and a Swabian fortification.
the vicinity of Palazzolo Acreide, Siracusa, were found relics of
Akrai, a Syracusan colony founded in 664 BC. Most of the site’s
relics are preserved into the Archeological Park including: remains
of a Greek Theatre altered in the Roman age, stone quarries containing
in the province of Siracusa, certainly predated at the Greek colonization;
it had a commercial importance and was inhabited by colonists from
Megara and Athens, and probably by the Phoenicians. The relics consist
of walls probably built in two different periods, and necropolises,
where funeral outfits were found.
antique Noto, destroyed by a terrible earthquake in 1693, was inhabited
by Greeks and Romans. The old town preserves a large number of relics
scattered all around the Alveria district, including sections of
the city walls, the agorà, a temple dedicated to Demetra
and a shrine dedicated to Demetra and Kore dating from between the
6th and the 4th century BC, interesting carved sculptures contained
into caves and grottoes, relics from a gymnasium, dating from the
3rd century BC. Necropolises and remnants dating prior to the hellenization
are located in the area of the Castelluccio.
is a small settlement that Syracusans established in the 7th century
BC by the mouth of the Tellaro river. Remnants include: sections
of 6th century BC walls refurbished in the 4th century and comprising
two lateral gates; the agorà, a shrine dedicated to Demetra,
a theatre and a funerary monument probably dating from the Hellenistic
in the province of Enna, was colonized by the Greeks in the 4th
century BC and later ruled by the Romans. It preserves a ruined
castle, remnants of a Roman mausoleum and forum, a thermal plant,
a hellenistic house and a Roman cistern.
the vicinity of Castroreale, Messina, are the remains of a 1st century
Roman villa with beautiful floor mosaics and a thermal plant. The
city preserves numerous other relics.
ruins of Halaesa, a Greek colony founded in the 5th century BC,
afterwards destroyed by the Arabs, are scattered throughout the
territory of Santo Stefano di Camastra. The walls, the basement
of a temple, the agorà is all that remain of the ancient
settlement that enjoyed a notable prosperity under the Roman rule,
even becoming a Roman municipium. Its decline started with the Arab
Archaeological Park in the Morello Valley, in the province of Enna
between the cities of Villarosa and Calascibetta, contains ancient
relics spanning a period from the Neolithic to the Copper and Roman
Ages. It is home to seven different cave-settlements, funerary places,
sanctuaries and necropolises, that attest to the historical and
scientific importance of this area.
The Holy Places
The Reserves and Parks
Guide of Sicily
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