As you approach the archeological area from the main highway between Palermo and Trapani, you will catch out of the corner of your eye, little flashes of gold in the midst of splendid green.
You cannot but quickly realize that there is something different here, something special.
The color is out of place with its natural surroundings. It’s not quite a building, a castle, what is it?
As you get closer, the scale of what you see somehow becomes amplified.
Like a slow zoom in a powerful camera lens, the doric temple seems to grow right out of the hill, somehow becoming enormous and overwhelming as the road curves into the hill and just as quickly as it appeared, it completely disappears.
It isn’t until you begin the trek on foot up the hill that you will see it again. But before you do, you will take a beautiful walk that, seems like a Hollywood creation.
A somewhat steep, stepped path bordered by rows of agave, leads you up and up… and it’s not until the last few steps does the temple cornice appear again, like on the road leading here, the temple seems to magically appear, beyond its actual dimensions.
Another stunning example of the Classical heritage of Sicily
In reality this marvel of the ancient world isn’t as large as similar temples, but it’s one of the most intact, and certainly one of the most beautiful .
Here, it’s best to just slowly circle the temple a few times, take your time to look through its 36 almost perfectly intact columns, also to look around you in all directions.
The mysteries that shroud this temple are almost palpable. The reason for its strange roofless construction, unique in all the ancient world, and to which god it was dedicated have never been solved. No clues have been unearthed, which is also very unusual considering the almost perfect state of conservation.
Because of this combination of architectural masterpiece, mystery, and location, it’s impossible to have a view that isn’t breathtaking.
But the temple is only the beginning. The actual city of Segesta is located on the opposite taller hill. For reasons still mysterious today, the temple was built outside the city walls.
If you’re feeling athletic, instead of taking the shuttle bus, you can hike up to the top of the hill of the archaeological area … it’s a fairly steep 4km which in the hot Sicilian summer sun can be a challenge.
On the way up you will pass some interesting excavations, but the real treasure is at the top – the ancient amphitheater with the most breathtaking view in the world.
The green rolling hills of vineyards and olive trees, and the magnificent mountains further back, do not form a backdrop, instead, they become an integral part of the spectacle. This place that was and still is, tied intricately to the fertile earth that surrounds it, celebrates this relationship.
From late spring to early autumn, the theater of Segesta, built in the 3rd century BC, continues to host ancient plays, as well as concerts, and all forms of special events. From July to August every few weekends, the theater is host to “the Dawn of Segesta”.
Quite possibly one of the most romantic things you can do in Sicily.
Go to this place in the early morning, usually around 4:00 am. Then, in the midst of music, or poetry, you will see the Spectacle most valued by the ancients of Segesta: the sun rising over the mist-shrouded hills of the interior of Sicily.
Tips for travelers ABOUT SEGESTA SICILY
– Segesta is located in the territory of the modern city of Calatafimi-Segesta, about 75km west of Palermo. It can be reached from Palermo or Trapani by way of highway A29. From either direction take the Segesta exit and just follow the brown “Segesta” signs for the final 2km to the parking lot.
– There is a bus service to Segesta from Trapani
All info on buses here
– Parking is free but there is a fee for visiting the temple and theater areas
– A small fee for the shuttle bus to the theater is paid separately
– There is a cafe and gift shop, as well as public toilets and picnic tables near the parking lot and park entrance
– All tourist info
– Official site for events at the theater including the Dawn of Segesta
Article kindly presented by an experienced traveler around southern Italy – Alice Poma