Although I have visited the Valley of the Temples several times since moving to Sicily, I have never managed to the visit the Colimbetra Garden. That is until now.
The Giardino della Kolymbethra (Colimbetra Garden) is in the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Sicily. Dating back to the time of the Ancient Greeks, it is a lush garden located in a large opening in the rocks where three valleys converge. It covers 5 hectares and contains an abundance of citrus and fruit trees, and other Mediterranean flora. The famous Sicilian writer Luigi Pirandello describes it so:
The famous Akragantine Colimbetra of antiquity was actually much farther down, at the lowest point of the plain, where three valleys meet and the rocks divide and the line of the rugged brow, upon which the Temples stand, is broken by a wide gap. At this spot, now known as the Abbadia Bassa, the Akragantines, a century after the foundation of their city, had formed their fishpond, a great basin of water extending to the Hypsas, its bank combining with the river to form part of the fortifications of the city.
–The Old and the Young
Ancient Greek Engineering
As Pirandello describes above the ancient Greeks of Akragas (modern day Agrigento) were the first use this land. The great architect Feace was charged with providing an irrigation system for the city by the tyrant Terone. The final catchment basin of this system was known as the Kolymbethra (Colimbetra).
This system allowed the Greeks to cultivate the once arid land.
In the first century A.D. the pool was filled in and the land used for agriculture. There is reference to it as a place for growing sugar cane in the 12th century. It is only from that point that it became known as a garden. In the 19th century the garden became a must see on the Grand Tour, with poets and writers visiting. However it since fell into disrepair with the plants left to grow wild. That is until FAI stepped in.
Visiting the Garden
With FAI taking charge, they returned the terraced citrus groves to their previous splendour.
You can stroll through the endless terraces of lemon, orange, and mandarin trees. From the valley floor you can see the temples up on the ridge.
There is even a picnic area if you fancy a picturesque spot in a lemon grove. It is a quite a unique location looking across the valley to the rock cliffs on the other side.
We stumbled upon peach trees in blossom, and some of the most impressively old Olive trees. This one was a real beast. Anyone sitting on that bench below melted into insignificance!
We also came across the infamous Mandorlo in Fiore (Almond Tree in Bloom).
Evidence of the old ways of irrigation is still very much present in the garden with most trees being situated in basins formed from the earth. Water is still running in from the stream that runs through the bed of the garden. This provides irrigation for a thriving vegetable patch as well.
If you are visiting the Valley of the Temples, then why not check out this stunning Sicilian garden.
How to Visit
You can find the Giardino della Kolymbethra within the Valley of the Temples at the entrance of the Tempio Giunone (the Temple of Juno). To enter via the Archaelogical park you will need to buy an entrance ticket to the park as well.
Combined tickets for the Archaeological Park of the Valley of the Temples, Giardino della Kolymbethra, the Feaci aquaducts and the Temple of Vulcano cost: €14 adults, €9 concessions
If you arrive by train getting off at the Giardino della Kolymbethra stop, then tickets for accessing only the Garden cost: €6 adults, €2 children, students and Sicilian residents: €4.
FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano) is the Italian equivalent of the British National Trust. It is also a member of INTO (the International National Trusts Organisation), so if you are a National Trust member be sure to take your membership card as entrance to the Garden for you is FREE!
February, November, December: 10.00am- 2.00pm
March, April, October: 9.30am -5.30pm
May, June, Spetember: 9.30am-6.30pm
July, August: 9.30am- 7.30pm
Valle dei Templi (Agrigento)
Tel. 335 1229042 – Fax 0922 416787