Syracuse is a city that encapsulates the essence of Sicily like no other. Located in the south-east of the island, this town was created in 734 BC and thrived for centuries as a metropolis of Ancient Greece. Intellectuals like the famous Hippocrates flocked to its gates and there was a time this city was more powerful than Athens.
The city came under Roman rule thanks to Archimedes, the inventor and mathematician who devised ingenious technology to aid the conquest, but then began its decline. After many years marred by earthquakes and famine, Syracuse experienced a surge in development as architects sought to restore damaged parts of the city in a Baroque style. As a result, the mark of the diverse cultures that have contributed to Sicilian history, from the Ancient Greeks and Romans to the Arabs, Normans and Bourbons, can be discovered throughout the city streets.
As well as this astonishing historical legacy, the surrounding region reveals a timeless landscape containing wonderfully preserved ruins, colourful citrus groves and the glorious Syracuse coastline kissing the glittering sea.
Syracuse may be a bustling tourist town during peak season but the rich history and natural beauty of the region means it is more than capable of capturing your heart.
There are a range of fascinating things to do in Syracuse, guaranteed to keep all the family happy. The attractive city promenade, the Foro Italico, with its picturesque benches and leafy trees, makes for a wonderful stroll to the port and has been in action since the 19th century. You can take a larger leap back in time and explore the archaeological treasure of the region with temples, museums, ruins and catacombs on offer or visit the island of Ortygia’s historic old town with its plentiful shopping and authentic places to eat.
Without a doubt one of the finest archaeological parks in Sicily, Neapolis features a variety of impressive historical monuments including a Greek theatre carved out of the surrounding rock. You can catch classical Greek performances here in the spring.
The quarry to the east of the park is an Eden of citrus trees and greenery, living up to its moniker of ‘Paradise Quarry’, whilst the cavernous Ear of Dionysus is also situated nearby. Another highlight includes the necropolis, a burial ground where Archimedes himself was supposedly laid to rest and the Roman amphitheatre, reclaimed by grass and flowers, is a tranquil spot away from the crowds that can frequent the main site.
Rarely top of the list in a Syracuse guide, this quarry is well worth a visit. Hop on a bus to the far end of Riviera Dionisio il Grande to visit these sombre quarries and their lush Mediterranean gardens. This ancient spot has a sombre past – prisoners of war were trapped here and left to meet a grisly death by starvation. However, in recent years the gardens have been used as a citrus orchard and are home to two elegant, open air theatres.
Explore beneath the city and visit the San Giovanni catacombs, constructed as a Christian burial chamber and thought to house 10,000 burials entombed in its depths. From modest niches to ostentatious chambers, a guided tour will showcase the most interesting sights as well as the lovely ruins of the church above.
This quirky island is considered one of the top Syracuse attractions and you can easily spend a day out on its picturesque shores. The island is reached by one of three bridges where the ruined Greek temple of Apollo greets visitors, leading the way to desperately romantic streets, crumbling alleyways and elegant Baroque churches, balconies and palaces decorated with ornate carvings. The central Piazza Archimede is dominated by a fountain featuring the nympth, Arethusa, whilst the livelier Piazza Duomo sits in front of the awesome cathedral.
The island is also famous for its colourful market filled with local produce. Fresh off the boat seafood, exotic spices, creamy cheeses and all manner of Sicilian treats are available.
Syracuse is within close proximity of some of the most beautiful towns in Sicily. A group of eight of these honey-coloured towns can be found in this region and the cream of the crop is considered to be Noto, an elegant landscape of ornate balconies, palazzos, churches and the picturesque Duomo towering over all. Modica and Ragusa also make excellent day trips from Syracuse.
Flights to Syracuse arrive at Catania airport, located an hour’s drive from the city. It is also possible to arrive by train – the local station is on Via Crispi, near to Ortygia, and the connection to Rome is just over 10 hours. Additionally, a slow train meanders its way from Syracuse to the Baroque towns of Noto, Ragusa, Modica and Scicli.
Companies such as AST and Interbus run buses between Syracuse and other key towns in this region. In terms of navigating the city, travelling on foot allows you to truly soak up the scenery, but there is an AST shuttle bus that ferries passengers between the mainland and Ortygia.
The Syracuse tourist information offices can be found on Via Roma and Vi San Sebastiano where you can seek further information and pick up a map of Syracuse.
The aficionado of Sicilian food will find plenty to keep them happy in Syracuse and Ortygia. Syracuse food includes tasty Italian classics such as gnocchi, soaked in spicy tomato or seafood gravies whilst the Sicilian cucina povera dishes, the simple food of the agricultural classes, feature mouth-watering seasonal produce. Specialities of the region include pistachio covered ricotta and fresh pasta sprinkled with almonds.
The Syracuse restaurant scene is not lacking for options. Pick up authentic, creative and freshly made baguettes from the Ortygia market stall, Caseificio Borderi; eat authentically Sicilian dishes at Mamma Labica; or push the boat out and dine in Mediterranean style at Retroscena with its attractive courtyard and cosy interior.
Choosing to base your Sicilian holiday in Syracuse means you will have access to the historical and cultural sites the regions is renowned for, as well as enjoying a convenient location a short drive from ribbons of captivating coastline and traditional countryside.
Whether you are seeking a luxury villa or a cosy apartment, our range of Syracuse villas and apartments offer you the opportunity to indulge in your own space and set your own personal timetable for your trip.
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