I hadn’t heard of the historical site of Segesta until my husband took me there as a surprise when we were staying in nearby Castellammare del Golfo, and I’m delighted he took me as it’s absolutely phenomenal and a must-see if you’re in north-west Sicily.
How to get to Segesta
Segesta is less than 20 km from Castellammare del Golfo, so it was a very easy trip to make for us. Apparently Castellammare del Golfo sits where the ancient port of Segesta was!
We had our own transport, however there is a bus service (Tarantola) that goes from Castellammare del Golfo to Segesta for just €4.20 each way. The same bus company travels from Trapani to Segesta in around 40 mins, and costs €4 one way, and from Palermo to Segesta in around 90 mins at €7 one way.
If you don’t fancy public transport and would prefer more of a guided tour, there are many companies who do day excursions to Segesta as well as the stunning nearby Medieval town of Erice from Palermo and Trapani.
Tips for visiting Segesta
Note that if you are driving yourself to Segesta, you will need to park your car in the parking lot that is about 1 km away from the entrance. As we had a scooter, we were allowed to park much closer to the entrance and the ticket office.
Once a thriving, important city, there are only two remaining historical sites to see – the Doric Temple of Segesta and the Amphitheater – and your ticket includes both. It is not possible to just pay to visit the temple, which is just 250 meters from the entrance and an easy walk.
The Amphitheater is around 1.5 km up Mount Barbaro so you can choose to pay a bit extra to get the shuttle bus or you can walk. We decided to walk so our ticket excluded the bus and cost us around €20. We chose to walk because we wanted a bit of a hike, not because of the cost. Adding the bus on is quite minimal.
If you do decide to walk though, make sure you have water and sunscreen – it was about 34 degrees when we visited! As I didn’t know we were visiting Segesta, I only had sandals on and it was fine to walk in them but trainers definitely would have been more comfortable as it took around an hour to climb up. The walking route is along the road in parts, with some clear short cuts where you walk through the terrain. Going down was quicker and easier!
One of the nice things about walking up to the Amphitheater is that you get some great photo opportunities, as well as being able to stop from time to time to admire the stunning scenery of the rolling green hills and the sea in the distance.
Eating and drinking
There is a cafe on the site, at the bottom of the hill, where you can purchase drinks, coffee, food and souvenirs. There are also picnic tables outside the cafe where you can enjoy your own food, or food purchased from the cafe. Most of the tables are under the shade of the trees but beware of the bees!
The history of Segesta
Segesta was once a major city of the Elymians, who were one of the three indigenous peoples of Sicily. The exact origins of Segesta are not entirely clear but one version is that it was founded by Greek Trojan settlers who were escaping the destruction of their city and who were welcomed by the Romans.
The Temple of Segesta
The Temple of Segesta is a Doric temple that is believed to have been constructed between 420 and 430 BC. It’s made of 6 columns on the short side and 14 on the long side and they are just over 9 meters tall. It blows my mind how people made this back when there were just simple tools and no mechanical tools, such as the cranes that we have today. The columns seem enormous and must have been so heavy!
The temple was never completed as it’s believed that the city became occupied by the Carthaginians in 409 BC and war broke out. There is further evidence that it wasn’t completed as there is no roof or floor, and there are traces of a cell’s foundations but no trace of the cell itself. Also there are tabs left on the stairs and columns, which would have been removed during completion.
Regardless of it being incomplete, it’s so well preserved and is considered one of Sicily’s most important historical sites. There are information points around the temple where you can read more about the history.
Once you’ve marveled at the wonder of the temple, it’s time to visit the Greek Amphitheater at the top of Mount Barbaro. As mentioned, you can get the shuttle bus up or you can walk. The bus only leaves every 15 to 20 minutes so make sure you time it well. Where it drops you off, note that there is still a bit of a walk to then reach the Amphitheater itself.
The Amphitheater is typically Greek in its architecture, although it has changed a bit over the centuries with some reconstruction. To give you a sense of how big Segesta must have been as a city at the time, the Amphitheater could seat 4,000 people! Take a look at my video below to see the scale of the Amphitheater.
If you want to witness not only a historical site but magnificent feats of architecture, I highly recommend a visit to Segesta. You only need around 2 to 3 hours to visit it so it can easily be combined with a visit to nearby Castellammare del Golfo, Trapani or Erice.