Fashion and Sicily’s Ancient Greek Temples

Italian designers are going crazy for Sicily’s Ancient Greek temples in Selinunte and Agrigento. In a report that interweaves her personal story, Italian fashion writer Serena Buccoliero explains what makes these locations so special

From Gucci to Dolce & Gabbana, Italian designers are celebrating the wonders of Sicily’s Ancient Greek heritage. The temple complex of Selinunte is the setting for Gucci’s Pre-Fall 2019 collection film by Glen Luchford. And Dolce & Gabbana chose the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento for the designers’ annual Alta Moda show on July 5.

Forgotten and rediscovered throughout history, the Valley of the Temples is an enchanted space that blends natural beauty and archeological remains. For us Sicilians, it is much more than an ancient complex of decaying ruins. Today’s Sicilian culture is still linked to the magic of the Valley. There’s a desire to keep the Temples alive and thriving, a desire that added a special frisson to the Dolce & Gabbana event in July, making it dynamically relevant.

Dolce & Gabbana have a history of hosting shows in monumental locations in Sicily, reflecting Domenico Dolce’s own upbringing on the island. In 2017, for example, they chose the Palazzo Gani, in Palermo, to recreate scenes from Il Gattopardo, the legendary Italian novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (translated in English as The Leopard and turned into a luscious film by Visconti).

But an Alta Moda event in the heart of the Valley of Temples seemed a far-fetched possibility, given long-running concerns over the preservation of the monuments, and bearing in mind Greece’s refusal to host fashion shows at the Parthenon.

And yet, after two years of negotiations, il Tempio della Concordia (the Temple of Harmony) was indeed transformed into a catwalk – a sacred one, complete with fashion guardians patrolling between columns.

Photo: Dolce & Gabbana

The temple is the best preserved in the Valley. In this setting, fashion becomes a means of creating harmony, merging the two aesthetics of Ancient Greece and modern Sicilian fashion style. Themes of Sicilian art were subtly woven into a collection with numerous references to Ancient Greek mythology and dress. Jewellery referenced Sicilian gold and mosaic imagery, while typical Greek cut gowns were embroidered with Baroque motifs.

Fashion emerges in such a location as Sicily’s favoured modern form of art, able to merge its past and present. Most importantly, in the eyes of Sicilians, who often struggle in a harsh economic environment with high unemployment, fashion offers hope. Bringing il Tempio della Concordia to life is a statement of faith – suggesting that it is never too late for rebirth.

Photo: Gucci

For Gucci, the Sicilian location that has a special magic is Selinunte, an Ancient Greek colony situated not far from Agrigento. Hosting its own complex of temples, Selinunte overlooks the Mediterranean, from which it endured waves of attacks from the Carthaginians in 409 BC, only to be taken after nine days of resistance.

As a Sicilian, I think of Selinunte as a reflection of our craving for freedom. I asked my mother what she thought was the difference between the Valley of the Temples and the Complex of Selinunte. “Walking in the Valley of the Temples is like travelling in time,” she said. “Selinunte is an illusion of space.” Sometimes, they say, you can see the African coast.

Photo: Gucci


In line with Gucci’s inspiration for the Pre-Fall 2019 collection, a spirit of youthful rebellion and resistance attracted the fashion house to the Complex of Selinunte. Glen Luchford’s film creates a utopian scenario inhabited by characters that one might more typically associate with somewhere like Venice Beach, California. The aesthetic plays with these contrasts and explores both beach and classical references.

An aura of recklessness and adventure is subtly contextualised with the history of Selinunte. When the characters in the Luchford film are playing basketball, a close look at the weave of the basket shows that it is actually made from chains, referring to the period of the Carthagenian siege. There’s also a mischievously misplaced Trojan Horse (mischievous because mythology does not locate Troy in Sicily).


Photo: Serena Buccoliero

The relationship between Sicily’s heritage and fashion is something I have long pondered, particularly when looking at family pictures. When my parents were newly weds, their jobs involved travelling all over the island, allowing them to stop and explore its wonders. My father’s suit, my mother’s red coat, the breathaking landscape, the backdrop of Ancient Greek columns: all these merge in my memory.

As for me, I was posing at age twelve before the ruins, a veritable Instagram influencer in the making – already channelling my fashion sense. Gucci? Dolce & Gabbana? I, Serena Buccoliero, beat you to it…

Photo: Serena Buccoliero

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