ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARKS OF GELA, MORGANTINA AND VILLA DEL CASALE
On this tour, we will learn about history by admiring its finds: let’s go to discover ancient walls, ceramics and perfectly preserved mosaics. A journey through time that requires no effort of imagination: simply have a look!
We start at the Archaeological Park of Gela. The city was the first Rhodocretan colony founded in Sicily in 689-688 BC. It soon became one of the most important on the island, rivalling Syracuse. In 581 B.C. Akragas (Agrigento) was founded. Later the colony extended its dominion even further until it was conquered and destroyed by the Carthaginians in 405 BC. Gela was rebuilt in the 4th century B.C. and was attacked several times by Syracuse. In 282 B.C., The tyrant Phintias destroyed it. From the ancient past, it is still possible to see the Mura Timoleontee. They are in Viale Indipendenza and are a section of the old fortification (4th century B.C.) in an excellent state of preservation. It is an extraordinary example of a mixed technique structure.
If you continue along Corso Vittorio Emanuele, you will reach the Acropolis of Molino a Vento. This archaeological site was already inhabited in prehistoric times and was then modified over the centuries. In this area, there were three temples and, from the 4th century B.C., artisan quarters. The foundations, the remains of dwellings and a Doric column are visible. Also worth visiting is the archaeological area of the Greek Baths. Here we admire 12 of the 14 baths. It is the only thermal complex in Sicily and dates from the 4th century B.C. Let’s not miss the Bosco Littorio, the emporium of ancient Gela. Here we see structures in an exceptional state of preservation. Before leaving, an obligatory stop is the Regional Archaeological Museum of Gela. Here you will find ceramic, bronze and numismatic exhibits. There are also beautiful Corinthian and Attic vases with black and red figures.
The park also includes the Archaeological Museum of Marianopoli. We can learn about the civilisation of the Marianopoli area from prehistoric times to the Hellenistic period. To complete the visit, after the Museum, we can go to the archaeological sites of Monte Castellazzo and Balate-Valle Oscura. Don’t miss the Interdisciplinary Museum in Caltanissetta. Here, the history of the ancient settlements in the urban and suburban areas of the capital and neighbouring territories is on display.
From Caltanissetta, we are on our way to the Archaeological Park of Morgantina and the Villa Romana del Casale (EN). The visit begins at the archaeological area of Villa del Casale. It is a perfect example of a luxurious Roman villa. The villa is rich in mosaics, perfectly preserved, and it is also one of the most visited UNESCO sites in Sicily. We are inside a real miracle of historic conservation. Further south of the villa is the archaeological area of Sofiana, in the territory of Mazzarino (CL). The Villa del Casale was a pars dominica (i.e. the owner’s official residence). Sophiana, on the other hand, was the centre of productive and commercial activities. Passengers travelling along the Catania-Agrigento road could stop here and shelter for the night.
We arrive at the Morgantina Archaeological Park in Aidone (EN). Morgantina is an abandoned city (life ended in the first century AD) that has arrived at the present day almost intact. The archaeological excavations are still in progress, but we can visit the public area. Here we can see monuments from the Hellenistic period. In particular, don’t miss the splendid theatre and the dwellings. The thermal buildings predate the Roman era. To learn more about the history of this abandoned site, we must stop at the Archaeological Museum of Aidone. In addition to the site visit, we can also admire several masterpieces returned from international museums. On display are the pair of Acroliths (marble heads, hands and feet of a group of Demeter and Kre) and the imposing statue of a goddess from the end of the 5th century BC. Don’t miss the Hellenistic silverware treasure, the terracotta head of Hades from the 4th century BC.
A must is the Interdisciplinary Museum of Enna. Here we can admire finds from the city and its lands from the Bronze and Iron Ages. We also see a series of terracottas of Demeter and Kore (confirming the role of this cult in the Greek-Roman period, as described by Diodoro and Cicerone.) Moreover, there are items dating back to medieval times from the castle area.