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Review: Selinunte


Selinunte, Italy

A cultural stop on the trail of Montalbano

  • By SilverTraveller JohnP

    243 reviews

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  • Oct 2013
  • Wife

40 people found this review helpful

Tracking down the popular detective is as tricky as one of his cases – not to mention his relationships. "Vigata" is actually Ragusa in Eastern Sicily, too far for Livia to make a quick trip to Agrigento for solace but a splendid film set. Her journey is only possible from scruffy Porto Empedocle, the author's birthplace.

She would have to drive for a couple of hours to reach Selinunte, also famous for Greek ruins including a substantial settlement with a Carthaginian quarter and sturdy defences. The small town of Marinella, which has a distant resemblance to Montalbano's home, is nearby and very photogenic.

There are buggy trains to travel around the extensive site, once you've gloried in the splendour of the standing temple attributed to Hera. Such construction achieved by manual and animal labour is astounding, as is the destruction wrought on its neighbours by the Carthaginians. This at least allows an appreciation of the detail and engineering. Remarkably, in my experience of Italy, these are the only sites that can be entered for an appreciation of their scale.

From within the temple of Hera its neighbours seem all the more evocative of the savagery they symbolise. One column stands as a melancholy landmark of the temple of Athena or Dionysus. Another was raised on the temple of Zeus in 1837.

The acropolis is half a mile away. There are four more temple ruins and one "tempietto" or little temple. On the seaward side are the small homes built by the Carthaginians, appropriate to a trading people without deep roots.

A pleasant walk allows visitors to appreciate the grid pattern of the town, with one main street running south to north (from the sea) and smaller roads east to west. Beyond the northern defence works was another settlement with, westward, a mystery cult temple and burial grounds to south and east. Carthaginian memorial figures are set into some of the stones, apparently over burials in the acropolis.

The train is available for return to the entrance and exit and another worthwhile visit to the temple of Hera. Cafes, toilets and shops are outside though there is another near the acropolis.

Unfortunately for the site but perhaps as well for their conservation, the sculptures of the Greek temples are kept in the museum at Palermo. This is closed for reconstruction but may reopen in 2014, when a long weekend in Sicily could include visits to the capital and the contrasting and once rival sites of Segesta and Selinunte. An extra day would give time for the delightful small town of Mazaro del Valle with its astounding "Dancing Satyr" that was a highlight of the "Bronze" exhibition at the Royal Academy.

For Montalbano, however, there remains only the imagination or an extra day or two including the long drive to Ragusa. That is well worth the effort though.

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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