Visiting Segesta: history, culture and relax
Segesta was the name of an ancient town founded by the Elymian people on mount Barbaro, near Calatafimi Segesta, just ten kilometers far from Alcamo and Castellammare del Golfo. The legend says it was built by Acestes, son of Egesta from Troy and Crinisus, God of the rivers. Back in 580 b.C. the war started between Segesta and the nearby Selinunte; the fight eventually ended in 209 b.C. when Carthaginians destroyed the rival city. This Greek centre was also involved in the first Punic War as a Roman allied: the two cities always showed mutual respect because of their common origins (their founders both came from the ancient Troy). This is why Segesta, unlike all the other Sicilian towns, was entitled to not pay taxes and granted with all the privileges that came with the status of “free city”.
This wonderful town was eventually destroyed by the Vandals during the 5th Century and was then never re-built; nevertheless, a small settlement remained, and the Normans built a castle that was later enlarged by the Svevians.
The archaeological site of Segesta is one of the most interesting in North-Western Sicily. Built in the 5th Century b.C. on the top of a hill out of the city walls, the Segesta temple is one of the most perfectly-preserved ancient monuments in the whole land. An elegant Doric building in which proportions find a really rare balance : 36 majestic columns built in golden limestone are still completely undamaged. The temple was probably never finished; anyway, some experts think it might have been left without a roof on purpose, since the inhabitants of the nearby city were not Greeks and used to practice their religious rites in the open air.
The street that separates the Segesta temple from the acropolis stretches among quiet, pleasant hills, with an enchanting panorama; on those hills, some fortifications can be found as well – such as Porta di Valle and other residential districts. On the highest mount, in a silent and raw natural context, lies the Theatre, that was partially carved into the rocks during the 3rd Century b.C., and then heavily modified by both Greeks and Romans.
The area of the Segesta temple and theatre is wonderful indeed, but after a walk under the Sicilian warm sun you may need some time to relax and take some rest, enjoying the quiet atmosphere of the up-country, surrounded by hills. Luckily, this site is famous for its thermal waters: you can choose between Terme Segestane and Terme Gorga – the former located near Castellammare del Golfo, and the latter in Calatafimi Segesta, near the town of Alcamo (known as a “city of wine”). You can also choose to spend an entire day enjoying healthy and beauty treatments: both thermal establishments won’t be far from your Castellammare del Golfo villas!