Did you know?
Syracuse was Sicily's most powerful Greek city and for its archaeological, artistic and environmental peculiarities it's listed as a UNESCO's World Heritage Site.. The Neapolis Archaeological Park retains considerable evidence of its heyday, such as the huge 5th century BC Greek Theater, Greater Greece's most imposing monument, nowadays hosting Greek authors' famous tragedies and comedies.
More About Syracuse
Very impressive are also the Roman amphitheater, almost entirely carved from the rock, and the Altar of Hieron II, used for public sacrifices to gods. The stone needed for their construction was extracted from the Latomies, a system of caves and tunnels used as quarries and later on as a prison. Among them is the Orecchio di Dionigi (Ear of Dionysius), so named for its human ear-shaped entrance and its dramatic acoustics.
The Temple of Apollo, considered the oldest Doric monument in Sicily, stands on the islet of Ortygia, the site of the Greeks' first settlement. Nowadays, some of the Doric columns of the 5th century temple of Athena, commissioned by tyrant Gelone, are embedded in the baroque cathedral built after the 1693 Sicily's earthquake.
Magnificent baroque palaces overlook Piazza Duomo, boasting a quite particular elliptical shape. Among them, the 17th century Palazzo del Senato with its unmistakably Spanish style given by architect Vermexio, housing the Town Hall, the sumptuous rococo Palazzo Beneventano del Bosco and the imposing Palazzo Arcivescovile (Archbishop's Palace).
On the waterfront stands the Fountain of Arethusa, where according to a legend nymph Arethusa turned into a fresh water spring in order to escape god Alpheus.
Syracuse's craftsmen handed down through generations the art of making papyrus from the plant thriving on the banks of Fonte Ciane. Papyrus cards decorated by local artists with views of Ortygia and of ancient archeological monuments make for a nice souvenir.
A must try is the typical almond paste, Syracuse's most renowned sweet, made with famous Avola almonds, giving it its delicious flavor. The same ingredient is also used to make almonds' granita, preferably consumed at breakfast with brioche, and Occhi ri Santa Lucia (Eyes of Saint Lucia), eyes-shaped cookies prepared for Santa Lucia's feast, Syracuse's patron saint, celebrated with two processions held on December 13th and 20th
from the Cathedral to the Basilica of Santa Lucia and to the saint's tomb and back.