Friday, April 16, 2010

Selinunte, Cave di Cusa, and Mazara del Vallo

We started our second day of vacation at the ancient Greek ruins of Selinunte.
"The ruins of Selinunte are some of the most impressive of the ancient Greek world and the site is one of the most captivating in Sicily. In its heyday (the 6th and 5th centuries), the huge city had over 100,000 inhabitants and for two centuries it was one of the riches and most powerful in the world. The spectacular remains of its many temples are proof of its influence." (Sicily, Lonley Planet)
Temple E
Reconstructed in 1958, Built in the 5th Century B.C.
We were blessed with a gorgeous day.  Not too hot with a brilliant blue sky and puffy white clouds. The archeological park is huge, but lucky for us it was a great day to be outdoors and walk.

Standing in Temple E, Looking out toward Temple G
Temple G was built in the 6th century B.C. It was never completed but was one of the largest in the Greek world.
Temple G
Temple E

Temple G

Standing on the rubble of Temple G, looking towards Temple E

Les in Temple G 

From the walls of the Acropolis, looking east toward Temple E

The walk around the Selinunte Archeological Park helped us work up an appetite.  As we walked to our car a gentleman approached us with a flyer for a local restaurant and an offer of a 5% discount.  Always ready for a bargain Les & I decided to check it out.  The restaurant, Pierrot, was only a few doors away from our hotel. We sat on their terrace overlooking the sea and enjoyed a delicious lunch.

After lunch we headed to the Cave di Cusa, an ancient quarry where most of the stones for Selinunte were hewn.  On the drive there the weather changed and we got a bit of rain.  By the time we reached the park of Cave di Cusa the rain had slowed to a gentle sprinkle.  I wrapped my camera up in a grocery bag and off we went.

The park was lovely!  Winding paths, tall spring grass, tons of wildflowers, and even a heard of goats and sheep with their bells that echoed off of the ancient stones.

Throughout the park there are huge stone pieces that were in the process of being hewn for the temples at Selinunte. Each massive round piece is in a varying state of readiness for transport. Some were hardly cut, others were hewn so precisely and thoroughly that there was enough room for a person to walk around them.

On our way out of the park we met up with the herd of goats and sheep that we had seen on our way into the park and whose bells we had heard as we explored.  The look on this sheep's face was hilarious.  As we came over a little hill he saw us and stopped dead in his tracks causing the sheep behind him to pile up in a woolly traffic jam.  He just stared at us as if our presence in his path had totally rocked his world and he had no idea what to do next. It cracked me up!

After a moment the sheep and goats behind him decided to veer off another direction and then he followed as well, leaving the path clear for us.

It was still too early in the afternoon to go back to the hotel after visiting the Cave di Cusa so we decided to go into Mazara del Vallo.  There was a museum I wanted to visit that was mentioned in my Sicily Lonely Planet book, the Museo del Satiro.  Unfortunately photos were not allowed inside the museum, but it was definitely worth the visit.  The museum is dedicated to items found in the waters around Mazara del Vallo and their star piece is Il Satiro Danzante, The Dancing Satyr.  This bronze sculpture was found by a group of local fisherman off of the coast of Tunisia in 1998.  The sculpture was restored and returned to Mazara del Vallo in 2003.
"[The sculpture] is believed to be a rare original casting and the only statue of its kind depicting a bacchanalian satyr, dancing wildly like a whirling dervish, arms outstretched, head flung back, the centrifugal force evident in his flowing hair." (Sicily, Lonely Planet)
For a couple of pictures and more history visit the wikipedia page about The Dancing Satyr.

Once we were finished at the museum we walked a bit near the waterfront.  The Cattedrale del San Salvatore caught my attention.  At first glance it is a lovely building, originally from the 11th century, and then rebuilt in the 17th century.  I didn't realize what was happening in the relief over the massive doors until I got back to my computer and took a closer look at my photos.

Yes, that would be a guy getting trampled! Count Roger trampling a Saracen
Beautiful red and purple stained glass on the front of the Cattedrale del San Salvatore

A rather spooky face on a door
I don't think the lanes are open anymore.
From Mazara del Vallo we headed back for our last night in Marinella di Selinunte at the Hotel Garzia. I was a bit sad to leave that little beach town.  There is nothing like sleeping with the windows open and hearing the waves crashing on the beach.

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