THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK OF HIMERA, SOLUNTO AND IATO (PALERMO)
Sicily is a huge open-air museum. There are 14 archaeological parks distributed throughout the region. Together with Sardinia, it represents 30.7% of the archaeological areas of Italy. If you love walking among history and are curious to come in touch with the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean, you are in the right place. In this route, we will explore the Archaeological Park of Himera, Solunto and Iato in the Palermo area.
The first stop is the archaeological area of Himera, in Contrada Buonfornello in Termini Imerese (PA). It is a Greek city (of mixed origin) founded in 648 BC. The area developed quickly in terms of both infrastructure and population. It was involved in battles against the indigenous peoples of the hinterland and the neighbouring Carthaginians. From 480 BC, it came under the influence of the tyrant of Agrigento. It was conquered and definitively destroyed by the Carthaginians in 409 BC. The site extends over a very large area. In the park, we find the archaeological sites of the upper and lower city.
Going westbound, near Santa Flavia, there is another site of the Park: Solunto, one of the three centres where the Phoenicians retreated to Sicily upon the arrival of the Greeks. The archaeological site includes only the inhabited area of the Hellenistic-Roman age, which was rebuilt on the nearby Monte Catalfano after the destruction by Dionysius of Syracuse, at the beginning of the fourth century BC. You can stroll through the ancient streets, and observe the old houses and their architectural refinement, as well as the floor and wall decorations. Do not miss to see the two public cisterns, the shops and the monumental agora (square). In the northwest of the old settlement, in the Campofranco district, there is also a Necropolis that includes 220 burials.
Let’s now enter Palermo, for a stage that is not part of the Park, but is really a must: the Archaeological Museum. Since 1814 it has collected the main archaeological and historical-artistic collections of Sicily (such as the famous metopes of Selinunte) but also finds from Pompeii and Etruscan antiquities. One of the most important acquisitions is the so-called “Palermo Stone“, with hieroglyphic inscriptions of capital importance to Egyptian history.
Let’s move away from Palermo again to go inland, to the Contrada Perciana of San Cipriello (PA): here we are in the Archaeological Area of Monte Iato, one of the largest in Sicily, with an extension of over 200 hectares. On this vast plateau, at about 850 m above sea level on Mount Iato, you can see the remains of a city founded at the beginning of the first millennium BC. by indigenous Sicano- Elymian peoples. Around the middle of the sixth century BC, a nucleus of the Greek population had to settle in the city, as evidenced by the temple of Aphrodite and the numerous Greek-made furnishings found in a large two- storey archaic house with a courtyard. The city was inhabited until medieval times: it became a stronghold of Muslims until Frederick II destroyed it in 1246, deporting its inhabitants to Puglia.
The Archaeological Park also includes the archaeological areas of Monte Maranfusa (Roccamena – PA, further south of Monte Iato), with the remains of an inhabited area. This site dates back to the end of the 7th and 5th centuries BC. We can also visit the archaeological site of Montagnola (Marineo – PA, returning slightly to the east), with the remains of the indigenous city of Makella. On the other hand, if you are in Ustica, do not miss the chance to visit the most remarkable archaeological site on the island: the prehistoric village of the Faraglioni. Thanks to its excellent state of conservation and the enormous amount of material returned, it is a significant example and complete with an inhabited area of the Middle Bronze Age (1400-1200 BC). The variety and the number of domestic furnishings found in several archaeological excavations are extraordinary, and part of them are on display in the local museum.