Selinunte is a vast site, once a major city on Sicily's southern coast. Forty hectares have already been excavated, but a lot of the ancient city is still buried. The more recently discovered ancient "industrial" area is currently causing great excitement among archaeologists.
For holiday makers in Sicily, the most interesting parts of Selinunte will be the ancient temples and the Acropolis. Selinunte was a huge metropolis and its temples were cathedral-sized.
Acropolis means "highest point of the city" and, since it was the most easily defended part of the site, it was home to the most important buildings for the community: the temples, the granaries, the mint and the market place.
Selinunte was founded by Greek settlers but, being on Sicily's south coast facing Africa, it was dangerously close to the Carthaginian sphere of influence. The Carthaginians and Greeks occupied Sicily at the same time and alternated between uneasy alliances and battles for power.
When Selinunte was excavated, every one of the temples lay in ruins on the ground. Some tour guides claim the city was swept away by a massive tsunami, but there is no direct evidence of this.
Several ancient sources wrote about the devastating war in which Phoenicians demolished the town and killed thousands of its citizens. Long keen to wipe out this massive centre of Greek power, they chose their moment wisely and took advantage of a conflict between the Greeks and the indigenous Elymians.
The ancient city of Selinunte is only 10 km away from a new motorway - the A29 Palermo-Mazara del Vallo. Just before the western end of the A29, take the "Castelvetrano" motorway exit and then go straight ahead to the Selinunte car park (marker 1 on the map above).
Selinunte is about 100 km from Palermo on the A29.
From Trapani, you can take the strada statale SS115 instead, which offers a beautiful scenic route. It will lead you along the coast to Campobello di Mazara (left of the map) for the first 70 km. From there you will need to cover another 15 km on the road marked in green on the map. If you do choose to take the A29 motorway instead, it is about 10 km longer but probably quicker.
The SS115 is definitely the best choice if you are approaching from the south-east. The motorway would not only lead you on a major detour to the north, but also force you through the bottleneck of Palermo's nightmarish ring road.
For holiday-makers based to the north-east, however, the motorway is your best option. Time your journey to avoid Palermo during rush hours.
We strongly recommend giving yourself an hour's stop-off to see the Cave di Cusa (marker 21 on the map). This old quarry was abandoned in haste by the ancient stone masons, and gives you a unique opportunity to walk among all kinds of half-carved or even finished columns, pediments and other "components" of ancient buildings.