Hidden among the ruins of Greek structures in the Valley of the Temples is the Kolymbetra Garden. This under-appreciated oasis is within sight of some of the temple ruins.
The Kolymbetra Garden (Il Giardino della Kolymbetra) is an archaeological site as well as a garden. The area started as a large pool that was used as a water reserve for the nearby city. Paths were dug in the area to divert rainfall into rivers that would keep the pool full. References to this pool date back to the 1st century AD, though it’s likely it was dug as far back as the 5th century BC.
When the Moors arrived around the 9th century, they planted a garden in this lush area, digging irrigation channels to funnel the former Kolymbetra pool waters to their garden. Today, the Kolymbetra Garden is a peaceful and shady grove of citrus and other fruit trees, olive trees, palms, almonds trees, as well as many other plants. Parts of the original Kolymbetra pool are still visible, too.
December and January are prime citrus season in Sicily, when the citrus trees in the garden will be at their peak. Fresh fruit, vegetables, and food products made from both are available for sale at the garden, depending on the season.