Perched on a hilltop in Western Sicily, the Segesta Archeological Park is home to spectacular ancient ruins dating from Magna Grecia. Highlights include the main temple, built in the fifth century BC and one of the best-preserved examples of Doric architecture in the world, and the fourth-century-BC Greek theater.
Magna Grecia, or the Greek Empire, once covered much of the Mediterranean, lapping at the shores of the Italian peninsula and leaving colonies in Southern Italy and Sicily as far back as eight centuries before Christ; its decline coincided with the rise of Rome in the final centuries BC. Segesta, founded by Sicily’s native Elymian people and conquered by the Greeks, is one of two archaeological parks in Western Sicily (Selinunte is the second) that documents the Greek domination of the island, with a magnificently preserved temple—its 36 Doric columns still standing—and grand open-air amphitheater, which sits atop Mount Barbaro and offers sweeping views over the surrounding valleys.
Segesta is among the most important archaeological sites in Italy, best toured with an archaeological guide who can explain the historical and architectural context of these impressive ruins. Many Segesta tours and shore excursions from Palermo or Trapani also stop at the picturesque hill town of Erice, or you can also join a longer multi-day tour of Western Sicily that includes a stop at Segesta along with the towns of Marsala, Monreale, and Corleone.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Tours of the Segesta Archaeological Park require walking over uneven terrain, so wear sturdy shoes and bring a hat and sunscreen.
- Because of the rough terrain, the park is not accessible to wheelchairs.
- The amphitheater hosts musical performances during the summer; opening hours may vary on performance days.
- There are park shuttles between the parking area and ticket office and between the temple and theater.
- There is a small snack bar and souvenir shops in the parking area.
How to Get There
The Segesta Archaeological Park is located between Palermo and Trapani in the countryside of Western Sicily. Take the A29 highway to the Segesta exit and follow the signs to the parking area.
When to Get There
The archaeological park can get uncomfortably hot under the Sicilian sun in the summer, so plan to visit first thing in the morning or in the late afternoon, or time your trip for spring or fall. The amphitheater is often used during the summer months for classical plays; the park may close earlier than usual on performance days.
Selinunte Archaeological Park
Western Sicily’s second archaeological park containing ruins from Magna Grecia is Selinunte. Here the sixth-century-BC temples are more time-worn from sackings, conquests, and earthquakes, but no less evocative, with towering columns resting on original pavement and topped by fragments of architrave.