|Written by Lois
Most folks think of Sicily as being part of Italy, but that was not always the case. This area has been inhabited for centuries by a variety of people who came here from all parts of the Mediterranean. It's only been "Italy" since the 1860s, when numerous regions were united to form the nation of Italy. Garibaldi was the "father of the country", and there are statues of him in every town. Usually a main street is named after him too. Sicilians have their own language and an ethnic heritage that is more diverse than anywhere else in Europe.
So on Friday Nov. 10 (in sunshine) we were taken by bus to visit two areas where there was a large Greek presence. We first went to a quarry about 45 minutes south of our hotel, called Cave di Cusa (cave is the Italian word for quarry). We had a wonderful guide for the day, named Valentina. During the period of 700-600 BC, the Greeks had arrived, and they erected the town of Selinunte, also building gigantic temples dedicated to a variety of Greek gods. First we toured the area where they were quarrying the huge chunks of limestone about 15 feet in diameter, and perhaps 20 feet high. These pieces were then transported 6 miles closer to the Mediterranean to be used to build the temples near a seaside village.
We then headed over to visit the temples themselves. Over the last 2500 years, much of the structures had collapsed, both from neglect and earthquakes, but one was reconstructed in the 1950s. Selinunte is an archeological site, and the work will continue there for a very long time. The area that the temple covered is larger than a football field! The base of each column is the same size as the rocks we saw earlier. Construction techniques included lots of scaffolding and ropes and pulleys - and a lot of slaves. When armies would conquer their opponents, they got more slaves.
We had a typically large lunch in a restaurant adjacent to a small hotel, which is part of a huge estate that contains 8000 olive trees. So after our meal, we had a tour of the olive mill on site. It is harvest time right now, so we could see the entire process from the tractors bringing the olives in from the field, to the pressing and then, 3 machines later, the finished olive oil coming out of a tap.