Segesta trip planner

An ancient Greek temple and theater gloriously isolated amid the hills of western Sicily

The temple and theater of ancient Egesta are two of the most beautifully sited classical monuments in the world.

Swallows wheel between the columns of a squat, pale honey–colored 5th-century BC Doric temple perched at the lip of a gorge surrounded by a high natural amphitheater of verdant hills.

Tiny snails clinging to stalks of marigold and wild fennel clatter against each other in the breeze as you scale the hillside to the ancient Greek theater chipped from the 1,370 foot summit. A patchwork Sicilian countryside stretching to the Gulf of Castellammare serves as the stage's panoramic backdrop, and classical plays are still performed summer evenings

Even with the tour-bus crowds and modern highways nearby, Segesta remains one of the most magical, romantic corners of Italy.

Exploring the site

Ancient Egesta (the “S” was tacked on by the Romans) was one of two cities founded in the 12th century BC by the Elymnians (Erice is the other), who claimed they descended from the defeated Trojans.

Egesta adapted Greek ways early on, using the ★★ Doric temple design to build a house of worship in the 5th century BC. The temple's dedication remains a mystery. Although it is spectacularly intact with a full set of 36 columns, steps, and entablature, the temple was never finished.

The columns remain un-fluted, the knobs protruding from the steps to haul them from the quarry were never sawed off, a cella was never built, and, oddly, they never bored holes in the architrave to support roof rafters (this last has led some to theorize that the temple was in fact dedicated to some preclassical open-air cult).

Most of the surrounding city remains unexcavated, but from the temple you can climb a unshaded road in 20 minutes (or take the half-hourly bus) up to the excavated Greek Theater, built in the 3rd century BC. The cavea held about 3,200 people—who probably had a hard time concentrating on the play, what with the killer views beyond the stage of patchwork fields (today slashed by some of Sicily's flying highway bridges) from this 1370-foot perch.

The theater is perhaps best appreciated on a balmy summer night when they stage classical plays almost daily around 8:45pm; call tel. 0924-951-131 for information.

They also set up a stage next to the temple so it can serve as a floodlit backdrop to performances ranging from the Bolshoi ballet to tenor Andrea Bocelli to operas by Bellini. Call tel. toll-free 167-119-114 for information; 090-34-818 to buy tickets.

The site is open from 9am to 7pm (until 5pm in winter). (Adm)

Tips & links

Details

Parco Archeologico di Segesta
Segesta
tel. +39-0924-952-356 or +39-0924-955-841
Open daily 9am–7pm
Adm: €6

Segesta tourist info:

Pro Loco Calatafimi-Segesta
Via Vittorio Emanuele 16, Caltafimi
tel. +39-0924-954-680
www.proloco-calatafimisegesta.it

How to get to Segesta

The site is wedged between the A29dir autostrada from Palermo to Trapani and the old SS113 road (exits from both). Both the train (4 daily; 2 hr.) and the hourly bus (75 min.) from Palermo stop at the train station Segesta Tempio, about a 1km (0.6 mile) walk from the site.

Tarantola (tel. 0924-31-020) runs 4 direct buses daily (1 Sunday) from Trapani (60 min.) direct to the site entrance. There's a cafe/ticket office/souvenir stand at the entrance (tel. 0924-952-356).

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Details

Parco Archeologico di Segesta
Segesta
tel. +39-0924-952-356 or +39-0924-955-841
Open daily 9am–7pm
Adm: €6

Segesta tourist info:

Pro Loco Calatafimi-Segesta
Via Vittorio Emanuele 16, Caltafimi
tel. +39-0924-954-680
www.proloco-calatafimisegesta.it

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