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Do you wish to see one of the largest and most important cities of the ancient world? Search for cheap air tickets to Syracuse and visit the precious gem of Magna Graecia, a city of enormous historical interest and immense beauty. Historical landmarks, monuments and archaeological sites are everywhere to be found, from Ortygia, Syracuse’s historic core, to the modern side of the city. Within the magnificent setting of the south-eastern coastline of Sicily, Syracuse has a radiant baroque beauty reflecting the majesty of the past and combining it with the lively modern spirit. Your stay in Syracuse becomes even better and more complete with the wealth of restaurants, idyllic cafes and a vast variety of nightlife choices, offering something for everyone. Don’t hesitate; book your flights to Syracuse now, search for cheap hotels in Syracuse and get ready for an outstanding journey!
It might sound strange that Syracuse was once one of the most important cities of the ancient world, even greater than Athens and Corinth of the 5th century.. until you set foot on Syracuse. Upon your arrival, a quick stroll around Ortygia will leave any doubt behind!
Syracuse was founded in 734 BC as a Corinthian colony. It soon grew to be one of the most important trade and municipal centres of Magna Graecia, leading to an extraordinary artistic and cultural bloom.
What’s left today of the historical, artistic and cultural majesty of the past? The traces of Archimedes, Aeschylus and all the other great masters of philosophy and ancient theatre are still evident throughout the city!
Despite the tremendous development of the tourist industry, Syracuse remains an enlightened destination, blessed with heritage, spirit and beauty!
The airport of Catania (Aeroporto di Catania-Fontanarossa Vincenzo Bellini) is located 61 kilometres north of Syracuse and is accessible by bus and train.
Getting around Syracuse
You can get around Syracuse using the city’s bus network; however you will appreciate Syracuse to the most if you explore it on foot.
Your day in Syracuse begins at Ortygia, the Old Town of Syracuse (Città Vecchia). Situated on a small isle connected to the mainland by three bridges – Umbertino, Calatafari and Santa Lucia - Ortygia has a length of 1,5 kilometre and a width half of it. And yet, it encompasses most of Syracuse’s main attractions, historic buildings and churches.
According to the Greek mythology, Ortygia is the mythical Ogygia, the island where Calypso detained Odysseus for seven years during his turbulent journey back to Ithaca.
Crossing the Umbertino Bridge, the oldest of the three, you will come across the monumental Temple of Apollo, the oldest temple in Syracuse, built in 654 BC.
Continue walking across the fish market and you will soon reach the waterfront of Ortygia, crossing many historic baroque buildings and offering great views. Take a pleasant walk, until you find the Byzantine Castle of Maniace, where you can stop for a while and admire the view from the ramparts.
As you’re going back to the promenade, within short distance, you will come across the legendary Fountain of Arethusa, a beautiful fountain inside a natural source of water, with swans swimming by and papyri plants emerging from the water.
According to mythology, when Arethusa, a water nymph, took a bath in the Alpheus River, the river god fell in love with her and tried to seize her. As she refused, he became more and more persistent; such was the fear of Arethusa, that she begged Artemis to help her.
Indeed, Artemis turned Arethusa into a stream and helped her escape through underground paths that connected Arcadia in Greece, to Ortygia, Syracuse. Alpheus did not give up, he came after her, mixing his water with hers to eternity!
The statue in the middle of the fountain depicts Arethusa and Alpheus – now you know the whole story behind it!
Continue to the Piazza del Duomo, one of the most beautiful squares in Italy. The Piazza is the seat of many baroque buildings, but the most impressive one is the Cathedral (Duomo).
In the 5the century BC, a Doric Temple of Athena was built on this location. It was one of the greatest temples of Magna Graecia, housing a gigantic gold statue of Athena which dominated the highest point of Ortygia, acting as a reference point to the sailors.
As expected, the temple was later converted into a Christian basilica, dedicated to Santa Maria delle Colonne. Unlike other temples though, the initial Doric temple was not demolished; instead, it was preserved and used as a basis for the construction of the new church. The basilica was built on the temple, with its structure based upon it.
Nowadays you can still see parts of the original Doric columns embedded into the outer wall, as well at the southern part of the nave!
After you have absorbed all the charm of Syracuse’s old town, you can continue to the modern part of Syracuse, where you can find some of Sicily’s greatest archaeological sites, the Archaeological Park of Neapolis (Parco Archeologico della Neapolis). Highlights there include:
- The Greek Theatre (Teatro Greco), carved into the rocks back in the 5th century BC. With a capacity of 16,000, this is where the last tragedies of Aeschylus were first performed – with him present! You can still catch a play here, during the festival of classical theatre that’s being held annually.
- The Latomia del Paradiso, a limestone quarry which provided the building material for the city of Syracuse, filled with catacombs and covered with a veil of tales from the times of war between Syracuse and Athens.
- The Orecchio di Dionisio (“Dionisius’s Ear”) is an enormous grotto into the cliff, named after the tyrant Dionisius, by Caravaggio. It is said that the tyrant Dionysius used the place’s exquisite acoustics to eavesdrop on the prisoners he kept in the quarry.
Outside the archaeological park, there is another theatre, this time Roman. The Anfiteatro Romano dates back to the 2nd century BC and is one of the three largest amphitheatres in Italy, following the Colosseum and the Amphitheatre of Verona.
If you wish to find out more on the Greek, Roman and Christian era of Syracuse, you can visit the Archaeological Museum of Syracuse (Museo Archeologico Paolo Orsi).
The official language of Syracuse is Italian.