Visit Gardens of the Kolymbethra
The Gardens of the Kolymbethra are historic gardens in the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, south-west Sicily.
Explore the Gardens of the Kolymbethra
Italy This Way comment: although the history of the gardens makes them interesting, the gardens themselves are more of an "pretty environment with citrus and olive trees" than a garden, so we were rather disappointed by a visit
Note that the gardens of the Kolymbethra can only be accessed as part of a visit to the Valley of the Temples and a small supplement is payable. The entry to the gardens is near the Temple of Castor and Pollux, at the lower end of the row of the valley of temples (and close to the lower entrance).
History of the Gardens of the Kolymbethra
After Greece had conquered Sicily 2500 years ago, Akragas was a rapidly growing town in this location. It was a vibrant and large city, populated by many of the Greek intellectuals of the time. After becoming rich from defeating Cathage in battle, Akragas determined to design an efficient water storage and supply system to meet the town's growing needs.
This design included various irrigation channels leading to a large reservoir below the city, called the Colimbetra and the site of the current gardens of the Koymbethra. At that time it also formed part of the city fortifications, together with about 12 kilometres of defensive walls.
In the Roman era the reservoir was filled in and the land used for agriculture, a usage which contiued for almost 200 years ago. In the early middle ages it is believed sugar cane was the main crop, later giving way to fruit and vegetables.
During the 19th and early 20th century the gardens were very highly regarded, becoming a part of the Grand Tour of Europe that young aristocrats would often undertake. However, in the second half of the 20th century the gardens became neglected. Towards the end of the 20th century the FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano: National Trust for Italy) took control of the gardens and have worked to restore them.
Visiting the Gardens of the Kolymbethra
The gardens now cover around five hectares to the side of the Valley of the Temples. The steep sides of the gardens are partly cliff with various succulents and prickly pears, and partly terraced, a more recent restoration in the gardens. The main gardens have four separate environments: Mediterranean maquis, almond and olive groves, the citrus orchard and the riverbank areas
The range of citrus trees in the lower part of the gardens is remarkable, with lemons, clementines, oranges limes and grapefruits as well as others, although these all look rather similar apart from the fruit! As you follow the path you will also see many other types of tree, including almonds, pomegranates, olives and figs, and also some apples and pears.
Irrigation of the gardens is by a stream that flows through the gardens of the Kolymbethra from end to end, and near the stream are trees that prefer water, such as poplars and willows.
There is also an ancient rock chapel in the gardens - although it is really more of a small cave than a chapel - a relic of the medieval era when a religious organisation controlled the valley - in which you can see two columns carved in the rock.
See our guide to the Agrigento valley of the Temples for information about the main visit to the site.
On the coast of Sicily to the south-west of Agrigento, many visitors like to see the Scala dei Turchi, a steep white cliff above the sea that has formed into enormous natural stairs.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.