I confess, the first time I went to Agrigento I wasn’t very impressed. I’m not talking about the Valley of the Temples, that is amazing— Ancient Greek Temples, what’s not to like? But the first time I ventured into Agrigento I was a little underwhelmed. Not so this time when I went to see their spectacular Festival of the Mandorlo in Fiore (Almond Tree in Bloom). This time I found it charming, and full of unexpected gems!
The Festival of the Mandorlo in Fiore
Every year the town of Agrigento holds a spectacular festival dedicated to the blossoming almond trees which spring into life with delicate white flowers between February and March. This year was the 72nd edition of the Mandorlo in Fiore.
The Festival lasts 9 days, but the main event is always the final Sunday of the festival. This is because over the last weekend the Mandorlo in Fiore holds an international folklore festival. Dancers, singers and musicians come from all over the world to compete at the festival.
On the final Sunday there is a procession of the folklore groups along the main street in the old town. Starting out at Piazza Pirandello and travelling the length of Via Atenea. They are accompanied by marching bands, and the quintessentially Sicilian spectacle of horses bedecked with traditional Sicilian finery, pulling the highly colourful Sicilian carts.
In the afternoon the performers then make their way to the Valley of the Temples. Here, they give a final performance on a stage constructed in front of the breathtaking Temple of Concordia.
Coinciding with Agrigento’s proud UNESCO heritage of the Valley of the Temples, some of the performances on offer in the competition had been awarded UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage status.
It truly was a sight to behold.
The Festival Atmosphere
As we emerged from our B&B the rest of the city was congregating with us. We set off down Via Atenea towards Piazza Pirandello. The crowd was already gathering, and there was that heady hubbub of anticipation.
Sicily has so many of these types of events where whole towns and cities turn out to participate, and the party atmosphere that erupts is always striking. In a couple of weeks my home town of Trapani will be holding theirs and I can’t wait.
The crowds were forming thick and fast and we found an excellent spot just up from Piazza Pirandello to observe all the action.
The procession kicked off with a military marching band and behind followed the performing groups of the various nations taking part.
This year there were entrants from: South Korea, Jordan, Iran, Latvia, India, Israel and, obviously, Italy.
There was music and dancing and an extremely jubilant crowd. Everyone was really getting into it and cheering and interacting with the performers. There were numerous selfie opportunities and the performers were really hamming it up at times!
The Valley of the Temples
After the procession reached its climax at Piazza Aldo Moro we headed down the hill to the Valley of the Temples.
The Valley of the Temples is a UNESCO world heritage site, and is the site of the ancient Greek city of Akragas. It contains the remains of 6 ancient Greek temples in various states of repair. The most intact is the majestic Temple of Concordia, and this is where we headed for the final performance.
I may be alone in this, but I always find it kind of magical when people join to together and pay homage to their heritage. There was something so incredibly endearing about people dressed in traditional clothing wandering around ancient Greek ruins. I mean, you don’t see that kind of thing everyday!
If you are thinking of heading to Sicily around February/ March then look out for this festival. It truly is a joyous occasion.