Siracusa – Sicily

Probably the most beautiful of all Sicilian cities and one of the finest in Europe, Siracusa has been recently included in the list of Unesco World Heritage sites. Siracusa was a political and commercial power, which charm derived from the incredible fusion of architectonic styles, from the Hellenistic to the Baroque one. Despite its urban development, the city has managed to preserve the intimacy of a small centre. The urban structure is particularly fascinating, with the old town lying on the little island Ortigia, and the remaining 4 boroughs situated on the dry land: Acradina, Tyche, Neapolis and Epipoli.

Ortigia , with a prevailing medieval and baroque look, is a nice place to go for a walk and stroll around the streets, lanes and squares. In Piazza Pancali lies the Doric temple of Apollo, dating back from the VII-VI century b.C., of which remain the base, the columns and the south wall. Piazza Archimede is the main square of Ortigia, with a beautiful mountain representing the goddess Artemisia, symbol of Ortigia; the square lies a few minutes walk from Palazzo Montalto, dating from 1397.

Piazza del Duomo shows the best concentration of Baroque buildings of the city: a complex of 16-17th century palaces, among which are Palazzo Vermexio (the current town hall), Palazzo Beneventano, with a beautiful late 18th century facade; the church of Santa Lucia alla Badia, (1695).

Above all this stands out the Duomo, raised up in the VII century from a pre existing Doric temple. On the west side a Norman wall is visible, as well as some columns, capitals and an architrave. The earthquake of 1963 destroyed the Norman façade, which was rebuilt following Baroque canons, something which creates quite a contrast with the sobriety of the inside. The south aisle is made up of small decorated chapels, all in Baroque style except the first one, which evidently belongs to the Norman period.

Palazzo Bellomo and Palazzo Parisio host the Regional Museum of Medieval and Modern Art, a notable collection which is currently under maintenance. In Largo Aretusa lies the Fonte Aretusa, a sweet water pond around which the citizens of Siracusa love to gather at evening for a promenade. South of the mountain, on the rocky spur at the southernmost ledge of the Island lies the Maniace Castle, a square Swabian fortress with 4 towers at each corner, named after the Byzantine admiral who in 1038 defeated the Arabs and won back Sicily, though only for a short period.

Momentarily the tower is closed to visitors.
The promenade along Foro Vittorio Emanuele II, overlooking Porto Grande, is a nice place to end an evening. On the opposite end of Ponte Nuovo, the main bridge connecting Ortigia with dry land, lies Acradina, historically the centre of all trade and commercial activities of Siracusa, with the large boulevard Corso Gelone crossing it.

North of Acradina stretches out the borough of Tyche , with the Basilica of San Giovanni, in which subterranean lie the catacombs, and the Archeologic Museum, absolutely not to miss. Inside one can admire the largest collection of antiquities of Sicily, coming from the main archaeological sites of the area and the entire island. The collection is divided into three big sections: prehistoric age, Greek colonies of Siracusa, Megara Hyblaea and Chalcidice, and colonies of Gela and Agrigento, including the Sicilian settlements of Pantalica and Castelluccio. Neapolis

This used to be the borough that included the majority of social and religious structures of the city, which hosts today the Archaeological Park. Inside are the ruins of the Ara di Ierone II,a Mammoth 200 m long altar, ordered by Ierone II toward the second half of the III century b.C. Also worth of admiration is the amazing Greek Theatre, semicircular and completely embedded in the rock, and the Roman Amphitheatre, one of the biggest in the world.

The borough of Epipoli, in the suburban area of the city, hosts the defence walls and the ruins of the Eurialo Castle, a huge rock representing one of the finest Greek fortifications of the Mediterranean. Built in the second half of the III century b.C., the Castle is surrounded by three defence channels, the first of which is provided with catapults mounted on each of the 5 towers (the best preserved part of the building). Numerous excursions and daily trips can be made just outside Siracusa: one of these places is Capo Murro di Porco, that can be reached either by car or on foot. Or Fonte Ciane, about 10 km from the city, reachable by bus (n. 21, 22, 23 from Piazza della Posta). The journey takes one hour, on a winding road which follows the banks of river Ciane filled with papyrus plants. If you choose to go on foot you will have the chance to admire the suggestive ruins of the Olympieion along the path, a Doric temple dedicated to Jupiter, dating back to the first half of the VI century b.C. Alternatively, you may choose to arrive by boat, joining one of the daily excursions which depart from the pier next to the Ponte Grande, crossing the river until its mouth.

Half an hour drive from Siracusa, on the north shore, lies the archaeological site of Megara Hyblaea (o Megara Iblea), first a Greek then a roman town, which ruins represent the most well preserved model of ancient town. As for the sea, the leg of shore north of Siracusa is pretty ugly and spoilt by the chemical plants installed in the area. Nonetheless, there are some very beautiful beaches toward south: the Arenella and Fontane Bianche, with very clean waters. The Arenella is always very crowded, as it is provided with beach facilities (beach umbrellas, chairs, toilets). If you look for a quieter place, then you should walk a little further to reach one of the numerous lonely rocky coves. Fontane Bianche is a paradise place, with fine sandy beach and incredibly clear waters.

Galleria Regionale di Palazzo Bellomo – Museo Regionale d’Arte Medievale e Moderna
  • Via Capodieci, 16
  • Summertime:Tuesday to Saturday: 09:00-19:00 Sunday and bank holidays.: 09:00-13:00
  • Winter time:Tuesday to Saturday: 09:00-17:00 Sunday and bank holidays.: 09:00-13:00
  • Closed on Mondays.

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