I am a huge fan of UNESCO. I know the great work they do around the world and for many, many years, wherever we have traveled in the world as a family, UNESCO sites have been on the itinerary, which might I guess go some way to explaining why my children ended up reading history and conservation at university!
It has been a silly little personal ambition, I know, to visit the site that inspired the UNESCO logo - those Doric temple columns. Today, glimpsing the inspiring columns towering on the cliff top through the branches of an 800 year old olive tree planted in early medieval times, it was everything I had hoped for.
The columns stood proudly above the plains on the edge of the golden sandstone bluff, the ancient rocky layers a mixture of browns, yellows and oranges in the early morning sun. Once upon a time, a very long time ago, these worn and faded sculpted columns would have glistened blindingly in the sun, their outer layers covered in white marble and alabaster. Approaching invading armies from the seas would have seen these temples on their high cliff line across the fertile coastal plains and quaked, for these divine palaces of worship and meeting would have been majestic, flaunting their builders wealth, engineering skills and strong relationships with their deities.
Across the plains below, the city inhabitants would toil in the sun, tilling the soil, tending the olive trees, cutting the wheat and pruning vines. Children would have played in the citrus groves and tended the goats and sheep.
The Concordia Temple, is in the Valle del Tempi, south of the city of Agrigento. It is the inspiration for the UNESCO logo and it stands proudly on the top of a three kilometre long sandstone cliff line along with two other magnificent temple ruins.
Starting at the top with the temple of Juno, we walked down the slight incline along the stone paved road admiring the ancient city walls of former Akragas.
To the north across the rising hill slopes towards where modern Agrigento is today, was where the ancient city grew. Roads, houses, shops, bars and bakeries; workshops, forges and more; all south facing to make the most of the Mediterranean sun and breezes.
Within the walls of this once great city can still be found the carved large semi-circular indentations, each with a deeply carved base......the necropoli. Tradition had it that the dead were buried in these tombs within the city walls. I've seen something similar in Roman Pompeii. Seeing one mid-twenties Italian guy climbing into one to show off to his girlfriend was I feel taking matters a little too far and for a few minutes ruined my sense of history that was developing but it soon recovered.
To wander among the scattered fallen columns and blocks from the temple of Hercules was to wonder about the ancient building techniques, craftsmen and slaves working to create buildings that have withstood the test of time. And yes, it was hot, another searing 36C with scant shade, especially on the lower site. But it was worth it and if clever, you dart between the shadows of walls, bushes and olive trees. In fact I am quite taken aback at how much temperature difference there is between out in the sun and under the shade of a densely branched olive tree. It is substantial!