A sing-song at Segesta

Today, dear readers, I proudly offer you a guest post written by an actual, professional journalist!  His own blog, DorsetDaze, features his witty writing and gorgeous photographs.

Here, he describes his trip to the ancient Greek temple at Segesta.  His day involved the classic Sicilian blend of sublime and ridiculous, in equal measure.

*****

ACCORDING to the books, it’s about 80 kilometres from Palermo to Segesta – a bit under an hour even on a bad day.

We did it twice – different days, different routes, same sat-nav, same result: each time it took us twice as far and twice as long.

So near and yet so far.... The Greek temple at Segesta
So near and yet so far…. The Greek temple at Segesta

That’s not Segesta’s fault, of course; blame a bewildered sat-nav, a confused driver and an embarrassed, incompetent navigator.

The journeys were made during our recent nine-day visit to western Sicily when we based ourselves in a rented apartment in the capital Palermo.

The ancient Greek temple at Segesta, along with those at Selinunte and Agrigento, were top of our must-see list and Segesta proved the hardest to track down.

Why two visits? On the first, we put all our trust in the satellite technology and it responded with such an absurd, circuitous route that it was 4.30 when we reached Segesta, where we were confronted by a smugly officious official informing us that the site closed at 4pm.

Naff off! The footballs' on telly in half an hour, and I'm going home.
Naff off! The footballs’ on telly in half an hour and I’m going home.

We drove to a nearby hilltop, parked the car and revelled in the spectacular view of the great temple. It wasn’t enough, it wasn’t up close but it was dramatic and it would have to do.

Two days later, however, while en route to Erice, we spotted a road sign and realised that Segesta was only a kilometre or two away and vowed to call in on the way back.

But after leaving Erice, we found ourselves on another cross-country route along roads that petered out into rutted tracks, sometimes in deep mud, under ever-darkening skies. Nevertheless we arrived at Segesta in good time.

6 view from amphitheatre
One of these roads leads to Segesta. You have to try them all to find out which.

 

And all the miles, all the mud and all the frustration were so worth it: our visit to Segesta was one of the highest of highlights of the entire holiday.

We walked the fairly short distance up the hill to reach the magnificent temple that had so beguiled us when we saw it from afar two days earlier.

The only other visitors on this warm February afternoon were a super-heavyweight middle-aged couple from America’s east coast. He strode on ahead, clicking away furiously with his camera and reading aloud from his guidebook, while she lagged behind, stopping frequently to clutch her chest and fan her face. We presume she must have died up there because we never saw her again.

After the temple we joined a newly arrived group of excitable Italians on the bus that transported us to the amphitheatre and old city ruins high in the hills.

The Greek theatre at Segesta.
The Greek theatre at Segesta. Bring your own cushion.

When we disembarked, our fellow trippers swarmed like children at playtime around the steep tiers of the amphitheatre. The experience and the views were unforgettable.

And then came one of those surreal moments of Italian craziness that we have come to know so well over the years: one of the tourists walked purposefully to the stage down in the bowels of the theatre . . . and burst into song.

Nessun dorma!!!  O sole mio... tra la la laaaa!
Nessun dorma!!! O sole mio… tra la la laaaa!

The strains of ‘Nessun dorma’ rang around the ancient edifice, as sweet a voice as you could imagine, and when he’d finished his impromptu performance, the entire gathering broke into appreciative applause.

Most of the Italians, in fact, seemed far more interested in the singing, debating the various shortcomings and merits of their children or bemoaning the price of fish than ever they were in the awesome chunk of ancient history that enfolded us. Then we all got back on the bus and it was over.

8 In full voice
Encore! Encore!

We shan’t forget Segesta – our memories are a heady mix of magic and, of course, a little dash of slapstick.

5 view from amphitheatre

 

7 A song begins

 

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9 thoughts on “A sing-song at Segesta

  1. The Segesta theatre is amazing: Sitting high on the edge of the mountain it opens widely to the landscape, as the pictures show. You first don’t see it when you arrive at the top and you feel disappointed because at first glance there is not much to see on the hill. And the landscape of Sicily is so nice: Lovely hills all over the horizon …

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  2. Reblogged this on My Sicilian Home and commented:
    I love stories about Sicily, especially stories of people getting lost in Sicily – see my Open Letter To TomTom. It’s just so easy to do! I especially like this one because it ended with such a quintessentially Italian moment. I also am reblogging this so you can also visit two awesome blogs. Hope you enjoy!

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  3. Lovely story and very Sicilian. The penultimate photo shows a viaduct – I noticed them everywhere, especially when driving from Catania to Enna. Why are there so many? Are they for earthquakes?

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    1. I love these almost surreal Sicilian moments!

      No, the viaducts are just the best solution for roads going through all the mountains. It cuts literally hours of journeys making the road fairly level instead of winding roads up and down through the mountains. Sicily is mountainous everywhere – they cut a lot of tunnels through mountains too. The viaducts are much cheaper though!

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  4. Segesta is a beautiful place… what a thing it would be to have an outdoor concert there with numerous performers! I really enjoyed this part of my trip to Sicily in 2006. When we were there, there was a concert performing that night and they had a prop of a giant toilet bowl right in the center of that theater. I didn’t care for it so I took pictures that did not include it! But what a sight. The Temple is situated perfectly for the landscape. The rolling hills, the fact that you can walk in the Temple; all wonderful!

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    1. A giant toilet bowl? The mind boggles!!!
      I understand why you found it unapealing, though it might have made a truly arresting image!!

      I shall have to look into these open air concerts. Maybe they do them each summer. It would be wonderful to attend one.

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