Selinunte, a Sicilian treasure

Temple of Hera, Selinunte, Sicily
Temple of Hera, Selinunte, Sicily

The Parthenon gets all the press, but did you know some of the most impressive ruins of ancient Greece are in Sicily? The site is called Selinunte (Sel-ih-nun-tay) and is reachable from the regional capital of Palermo, so well worth a visit if you happen to find yourself in the area.

The ruins are set on a spectacular stretch of coast and in spring, when I visited, the grounds are blooming with poppies and other wild flowers including the wild parsley (selinon) which gives the site its name. There are five temples, although only one, the Temple of Hera has been reconstructed. Here‘s the official site with more information.

Poppies growing at Selinunte
Poppies growing at Selinunte. The yellow flowers are the wild parsley (selinon) that give the site its name

Selinunte was founded by the Greeks around 600 BC and was sacked by the Carthaginians in 409 BC. A major earthquake in the Middle Ages reduced the remains of the site to rubble. In the 18th century, archeologists took interest in the site and began working on reconstruction. With the economic crisis, there’s not much money to continue the work, although efforts are being made.

1One of the interesting things our guide told us was that the Doric columns were carved in sections and put together on a reinforcing bar. Initially, the bar was round, which meant that when earthquake tremors hit the site, which was not uncommon, the sections would jostle around and the fluting on the columns would get off-center. So, they started making the inner bar square, you can see the square hole in one of the sections below. Smart!


GETTING THERE: If you have a car, Selinunte is about a 90-minute drive from Palermo on A29, take the Castelvetrano exit and follow the signs to Selinunte. For a stress free, but somewhat pricey option, you can book a one-day excursion, try the Think Sicily page for that. It’s also possible to get to Selinunte by taking a train to Castelvetrano and then a bus to the ruins. More info on that here.

THINGS TO KNOW: Admission is 9 euros. Wear comfortable shoes! The site is large and rambling.For 6 euros you can ride a little golf cart shuttle but even with that you will be doing a lot of walking. Plan to spend at least two hours here and bring your own water; there’s not much in the way of things to eat or drink at the site.