Syracuse, founded in 8th century BC by Greeks at the time of the peak of prosperity was one of the biggest and most important cities of Greater Greece equaling the power and fame of Athens....
This walking tour has an advantage of not having any particular order. Obviously, comfortably sitting in front of the computer you can select sites depending on your area of interests. However, if you are already on the streets of Syracuse (I wouldn’t blame you for that decision given the fact that Syracuse is one of the brightest spots on the “Map of the history of humanity”) then you will start the tour from the closest area of interest. We start our presentation from the times of ancient Greek and Roman Empires but we will be "jumping" back and forth in time during this guided tour.
If you wold like first to get familiar with Syracuse historical past, walk on the streets to "catch" the vibes and atmosphere of the old town, we suggest you to start from: --> Discovering Syracuse
Greek amphitheater lost most of its once upon a time imposing structure, only carved in the rock section survived as it was impossible to take it away.....
The first theater on the southern side of the Temenite hill was built by Greeks in 5th century BC. Two centuries later major reconstruction works were carried out to enlarge and beautify this important place of public gatherings. Although later Romans made some modifications to answer their less “poetic” needs, its original shape from the 3rd century BC together with impressive acoustics and panoramic views on the sea can be still seen and felt in our times...
Continue at: --> Syracuse: Greek Amphitheater
Not much survived from colossal structure of Roman Amphitheater
The roots of the Roman Theater probably date back to the 3rd century BC, but it took its final form at the “peak” of Roman Empire somewhere during the 2nd -3rd century AC. At the time it was one of the largest Roman amphitheaters in Italy with the elliptical diameters of 460 x 390 feet (140 x 119 meters). The whole complex extended to the area of the church of San Nicola at the entrance to the Archeological Park where are still visible water tanks used to feed the amphitheater.
Apparently this amphitheater complex could rival Rome’s Coliseum....
Continue at: --> Syracuse: Roman Amphitheater
Latomia del Paradaiso and Dionysus Ear
Latomia del Paradiso: Grotta dei Cordari
Construction of Greek and Roman theaters as well as numerous temples required a lot of limestone blocks. Most of them were cut in the local quarry called Latomia (from Greek – “cut in the rock”), located on the side of the Temenite hill. Centuries of digging, cutting and removing stone created huge abyss with surprising shapes and left several artificial caves. Today, the ancient quarry poetically called “Latomia del Paradiso” is one of attractions of the Archeological Park of Neapolis. Indeed with its palms, orange and cedar trees, magnolias, lush vegetation and strange forms of rock formations shaped by human hands but also by the touch of Mother Nature, the Latomia seems to be....
Continue at: --> Latomia del Paradaiso
Church of Madonna della Lacrime
Modern silhouette of the Church of Madonna della Lacrime
The church of Madonna della Lacrime was erected as a shrine to commemorate the miracle of Weeping Madonna. It is believed that on August 29, 1953 the sight of Antonina Iannuso (blind after an attack of epilepsy) was miraculously restored. The moment she was able to see again, she saw the image of Madonna that she and her husband Angelo received as the wedding gift – all in tears. The rest is history witnessed by large crowds of faithful…
In 1957 the project of Sanctuary presented by two French architects – M. Andrault and P. Parat was accepted by the church’s authority....
Continue at: --> Church Madonna della Lacrime
Church and Catacombs of San Giovanni
Beautiful rose window in surviving wall in the church of St. John
The church of St. John the Evangelist was built in 6th century on the site of an underground City of Dead – catacombs from Roman times created after the recognition of Christianity. The legend has it that this was the burial site of the first bishop of Syracuse – Marciano, the martyr of Roman prosecution. And although there is no evidence of this fact, usually most legends reflect some historical events that in fact took place......
The church was abandoned and then knocked-down during the period when Sicily was under the control of Saracens. Its golden times came with the conquest of Sicily by Normans. The church was re-built at the end of 11th century gaining the beautiful Gothic form….
Continue at: --> Church San Giovanni
Do not miss the underground world of first Christians located just below the ruins of the Church: --> Catacombs San Giovanni
Underground Archeological Museum with the traces of the Church San Sebastianello
Almost every stone in Ortigia have some historical value accumulated during nearly three millennia of uninterrupted and mostly glorious time. It is then nothing surprising that under great architectural monuments you can find an older layer of remarkable history.
This is the case of Palazzo Senatorio (City Hall). Build in 1633 and itself a great example of Sicilian architecture it covers the area where few meters below the ground level was the center of ancient Greek’s Syracuse. For centuries, standing side by side,
Continue at: --> Artemision
Beautiful baroque facade hides behind remains of earlier, millennia old temples
The Cathedral of Syracuse (Duomo) is one of the best examples of profound but fortunately “smooth” changes continuously taking place in the surrounding us World. Once upon the time (starting from the 5th century BC) on the place of today’s cathedral stood the magnificent Doric Temple of Athena dominating the tiny island of Oritiga. But archeological excavations revealed that even Athena’s Temple was not the first “Light of Civilization” built on this place, it was erected on the “footprints” of two earlier structures. The oldest one was Sikels’ Temple from around 11th century BC ....
Continue at: --> Syracuse Cathedral
Castello Maniace is a medieval fortress situated at the tip of the island of Ortigia. Erected in the early 13th century by Normans it was a perfect defense spot protecting the entrance to the Syracuse’s harbor known as Porto Grande. Protected from the land by a moat (now filled with earth) and connected to the rest of the Ortigia Island by the drawbridge, flanked by thick walls with four imposing towers at each corner it seemed to be unconquerable.....
Continue at: --> Maniace Castle
Fountains of Diane and Arethusa
Nymph Arethusa escaping Alpheus
The fountain of Diana standing at the most prestigious place in Syracuse – Plaza of Archimedes, illustrates the myth of a nymph Arethusa – a maid of the goddess Artemis (Roman’s Diana). One day when bathing in a river on the Peloponnese Peninsula (Greece), she was spotted by god Alpheus. He instantly fell in love with the beautiful nymph. Unmoved by his feelings, Arethusa sought protection of Artemis. She transformed the young nymph into ...
Temple of Apollo
Surviving fragments of the Apollo Temple
The Temple of Apollo was one of the most important Doric structures in Ortigia. Located in front of the Piazza Pancali right after crossing the bridge Umbertino it was erected in early 6th century BC. It was the first monumental structure of such dimensions erected in Syracuse and one of the first in Greek World made completely out of stone (only roof’s structure was still based on wood). The scale of difficulties faced during this pioneering works is underlined by the original inscriptions on the temple’s steps praising the exceptional beauty of the temple and titanic efforts of builders and architect....
Continue at: --> Syracuse: Temple of Apollo
For obvious reasons it is not possible to present here all touristic attractions in Syracuse. We focused on most important ones, but we would like to encourage you to also visit other sites as suggested by the local Tourist Office (see map below).
Ortigia: Map to tourist attractions
Walk along the fortification walls exposes you to fresh breeze coming from the sea
Sea is omnipresent....
And whenever is sea there may be sirens (so be aware!)
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