Friday, 12 February 2016

Agrigento accidently.

Wednesday 10th February, 2016

Our original plan had been to find a free or inexpensive place to park overnight so we could visit the archaeological park at the Valli di Templi near Agrigento. Problems with the leisure batteries scuppered that plan, so we headed for the nearby campsite where we could use ECU. The Valli di Templi site is not ACSI, but a promotional map given to us by Angela at Scarabeo promised to enable us to stay as a discount rate of  17 euros per night - though that, as yet, remains to be seen. The site itself is OK, a bit ramshackle, but the facilities are decent enough, though there is only cold water at the washing-up sinks, which is not great. The pitches too are only 7m long so the bike rack is overhanging into the service road. Luckily the place is not busy, so it should not be a problem. The pitches are divided by chain link fencing, that, and the odd awkwardly positioned olive tree makes manoeuvring tricky. Since I am on a bit of a rant, then a short acerbic comment concerning the wifi might not go amiss. It's free (good) but is so weak the only way to access it is by sitting outside, fine in the summer, but today it was 14 degrees and drizzling. 

There are some upsides. There is a well stocked Carrefour market across the road, and next to it a fantastic fruit and veg stall selling superb local produce. The  bus stop right outside the gate had a regular service to the temples and the bus tickets (single, 1 euro) are for sale at reception.

Goodies from the veg store - the young man kindly wrote down 'parsley' in Italian so we would know next time.
After a drizzly morning we headed off for the temples. Bus number two arrived at 13.05 on schedule, we hopped aboard, to the archeological park approached, we pressed the stop button, nothing happened and the bus carried on its merry way. Five minutes later we were deposited in Agrigento bus station. 

Though our visit was accidental we decided to make the most of it. At first glance Agrigento did not look too prepossessing. But then, where does when viewed from the bus station? Central casting was out in force, ill-looking stray dogs splayed on the pavement, the expected multi-cultural ensemble holding out their hats, gaggles of old guys gathered by the cafe. The town is thousands of years old, its ancient  quarter straggles along a ridge above the coastal plain. This is hidden from below by a wall of tall concrete apartment blocks that rise from the lower slopes. 

Eventually we found the main street - Via Aetana - it was lunch time so shops were closed and it felt half deserted. Alleys led off from the shopping street up winding steps and laundry wafted between the buildings - cue the theme from The Godfather! Although the place seemed down at heel, the shops were stylish. I think the town is more prosperous than it first looks. We bought a bag of pastries from a bakery, they looked very appetising but we decided to keep them for later. If anything, the town had a slightly grungy feel, with interesting street art.

Via Aetana

Steep alleyways lead-off the main thoroughfare.

Street art - prickly pear steps

street art -Agrigento re-im,agined as a monster

More picturesque narrow alleys
We stopped in a small square next to the famous Theatre Pirandello, named after the town's most illustrious son, A small cafe next to it had yet more delicious looking pastries in the window. As we stood admiring them a customer leaving the place smiled at us, kissed the end of his fingers, "Bueno, bueno" he exclaimed. We were sold, and he was right, the coffees  were fabulous and the little cakes even more so. Gill persuaded the owner to pose for photo, actually he took no persuasion whatsoever!

too much choice!

small pleasures - 3 euros for two machiatta, and cakes - how good is that!

The baker!
We wandered back to the bus station. Agrigento town centre may not overwhelm you with an assemblage of stunning architecture but it is full of quirky little details.

Art nouveau lampposts

Why did the ceramic plaque on the wall of the tourist information depict the town supported by three naked men?

A somewhat grandiose post office dominated the area next to the bus station. It is quite obviously from the 30s and reflects the taste and outlook of Il Ducio.

Stoicism, power, obedience and order - the joylessness of Facism!

I reflected that even eighty years on, our attitude to the architecture and decorative arts of the inter-war period remains somewhat ambivalent. American inspired Art Deco and the jazz age is celebrated - who cannot be uplifted by the soaring grandeur of the Chrysler Building?  Monuments and artefacts from the Russia, Germany, Italy and Iberia are largely ignored, because of their fascist or totalitarian connotations. Yet eugenics were taken seriously in liberal democracies too. The objectiviism of Ayn Rand, and the modernism of Le Corbusier - each strived to make the world anew, the shadow of Übermensch haunts both, despite their political differences... Hmm, where did all that come from? I was only looking at Agrigento Post Office! Time to brave the stray dogs and  picturesque beggars and catch the bus back to the camp-site.


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