Syracuse is a wonderful blast from the past. Rent charming villas in Sicily and enjoy this town and its rich Greek history, culture, and architecture
Today Syracuse is a large town, including island and mainland districts, and in the past was the most important city of Magna Graecia: it defeated the Athens in 413 and it was the hometown of Archimedes. As Cicero stated, Syracuse was “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all”. After centuries, its charm remains intact: this ancient city will amaze you. We suggest you visit the mainland, with the Archaeological Park, and the Island of Ortygia. The most charming villas in Sicily await for you: rent your magical place and enjoy Syracuse.
The Archaeological Park hosts a great number of wonderfully preserved Greek and Roman remains. It’s divided into three main sections: the Greek theater, the Latomie (stone quarries), and the Roman amphitheater. The Greek theatre dates until the 5th Century BC and nowadays it houses an interesting theatre festival, from the middle of May to the end of June. It is one of the largest in the world at 138 meters in diameter.
Near the theatre you will find the old stone quarries, like the deep quarry called the Latomia del Paradiso (Paradise Quarry): today it’s a peaceful and green spot, occupied by lemon orchards, but in the Greek period was supposed to be the place where thousands Athenian prisoners were kept after the Sicilian Expedition (415-413 BC). Have you ever heard of the “Ear of Dionysius”? It’s a limestone cave carved out of the Temenites hill: the suggestive name was given by Caravaggio during his visit in 1608 and, according to the legend, it was used by Dionysius the Tyrant as a prison for his enemies. Here, thanks to the acoustics, he could hear their conversations also from outside.
The Roman amphitheatre, built in the 3rd Century AD, is not to be missed. Here people used to see gladiators and wild animals bloody fights. The hole in the centre might have used as a space for scenic machinery or as drain for the blood…
The island of Ortigia is the historical heart of Syracuse. Do not miss the oddly fascinating Palazzo Impellizzeri, and have fun wandering without a precise goal: you might able to find picturesque, solitary buildings, beautiful seafront churches, wonderful alleys and so on. The ruines of the Greek Temple of Apollo are worth the visit, together with the lovely (despite the stream of cars) Piazza Archimede, with the majestic Fountain of Diana, Goddess of The Hunt. The most renown attraction is probably the wonderful Fountain of Arethusa: an impressive natural spring which feeds a small lagoon, filled with papyrus plants and swans.
Piazza Duomo is also a focal point: you can have a drink in an outdoors cafe table and see the delightful view of the elegant buildings. The Duomo, one of the town’s most celebrated sights, was the Greek Temple of Athena and featured a gold statue of the goddess on its roof. Also inside the church it is possible to see evidence of the temple origins. If you get lucky, you can see a shrine (not always open) dedicated to Santa Lucia, the beloved patron saint of Syracuse. The inhabitants show their devotion during two spectacular festivals, one in May and one in December: colourful processions and fireworks are just some features of these ceremonies.
Find also time for a pleasant stroll, maybe during the evening: go see the thirteenth-century Castello Maniace, one of the most important and gorgeous monuments of the Suevian period.
If you like markets, visit the hectic one that takes place on Ortygia, close to the mainland and fishing port, on and around Via de Benedictis. The heart of the market is the local food: feast your eyes on prawns, swordfish, lemons, oranges, spices, pistachios… a paradise for those who love typical, genuine flavours.