What to See in Ortigia
The islet of Ortigia is the historical heart of the city of Syracuse. Within its area of one square kilometer it is possible to admire the architectural beauties of different historical periods: from the first prehistoric settlements, through the numerous remains of ancient Greek Byzantine and Norman. Today Ortigia lives in a brilliant reconstruction of its old charm, finding consensus in the numerous tourists who remain entranced by the rare beauty of Syracuse.
The Archaeological Park Neopolis
The Archaeological Park Neopolis: built between 1952-55 includes most of the finds of the classic Greek and Roman Syracuse, unifying under one roof area of about 240,000 square meters, the remains of the ancient era. Among other distinguished architectural buildings:
The Roman Amphitheatre from the imperial era (III – IV century AD. C.), which for its greatness was to be superior to others in Sicily. The bottom was dug into the rock, which for the poor quality of its morphology, was hidden from sight. The upper part is elliptical in shape, with very large outer diameters (140 and 119 meters). The amphitheater was unearthed in 1839.
The Altar of Heron II was a huge altar, used in ancient times for the sacrifices offered to the gods. Its lower part is still visible, formed in the ground, while the upper part was lost during the Spanish period.
The Greek Theatre is dated around the second century BC. Literally dug into the rock, it was at the same time among the largest of the Greek era (diameter of 138 meters) with its lower slope (about 19 meters).
After the glories of the classical period, when many of the famous tragedies were performed in Syracuse, the theater underwent significant changes during the Roman domination in an attempt to “reconvert” the structure featured in Latin motifs.
Later falling into disuse, the theater was used by the Spaniards to build other buildings. The excavations brought to light were completed in the first half of the fifties.
The Ear of Dionysius is an artificial cave, resulting from an old aqueduct, more than 23 meters high. The cave owes its name to a writing of Caravaggio, who during a hike in 1608 noticed the resemblance to a human ear. According to legend, Dionysius used to hold prisoners of war in the cave, to overhear their talk of conspiracy: the noise amplification is indeed significant, and would have allowed them to know important information about their enemies.
At the edge of the park remains visible the Necropolis of Groticelli where there are numerous rock-hewn tombs, dating to the Greeks rather than to the Imperial age.
Among others, the Tomb of Archimedes, however, it is only a Roman columbarium (funerary building divided into niches). The real tomb of the mathematician from Syracuse was described by Cicero as a column where there was a sphere and a cylinder.
Historical Background of Siracusa
The name Syracuse probably derives from the Greek syrakeo, a term indicating the spring of fresh water close to the city center.
The foundation of the city dates back to the arrival of some Greek colonists, who after defeating the peoples of the land, began construction of the city. In the ancient period, it was with Dionysius, the historic enemy of Carthage and Athens that Syracuse was able to establish itself as a military power in the Mediterranean. It was during this period that the large protective walls of the city and the mighty castle Eurialus were constructed.
During the classical period, the impregnable city Syracuse fell to the Romans: the siege of the city lasted several years, during which time the famous mathematician Archimedes tried with his ingenious weapons to make a contribution to the cause of Syracuse. Syracuse was conquered in 212 BC and the glories of the ancient period no longer continued into the later centuries.
During the period of the Empire, in Syracuse, intricate necropolises were carved; the underground catacombs were places of worship for the Christians, at that time persecuted for their beliefs.
Later the city was conquered by the Byzantine Empire, becoming the capital of the Eastern Empire from 663-668.
Passing into the hands of the Arabs in 878 it became capital of the Val di Noto. During this period it contended with Palermo, the most important city of Sicily, while maintaining great importance in the trade routes of much of the Mediterranean.
With the Norman conquest of 1086, the city center was relegated to second order, in fact losing the contest with Palermo.
Like most cities of eastern Sicily, Syracuse also links its history to the 1693 earthquake, a devastating event for the entire Val di Noto. The fastidious reconstruction saw prominent architects and craftsmen at work, thanks to which Syracuse is now one of the finest examples of Sicilian Baroque.
In the period preceding the unification of Italy, the Syracusan citizens distinguished themselves in adversity to the French crown, losing the title of the provincial capital in favor of Noto. Which was returned in 1865.
The early years of the 1900’s were characterized by a massive increase in population which has led the construction of the city to expand inland.
Today, Syracuse is a confirmed tourist center of primary interest, full of historical and architectural works along with unique and natural beauty, all to be seen.
città ad espandersi verso l’entroterra.
Oggi Siracusa si conferma centro turistico di primario interesse, pieno di testimonianze storiche, di opere architettoniche uniche nel loro genere e bellezze naturali tutte da conoscere.
Siracusa by Night
Spend an evening in Syracuse is an event not to be missed, especially in the warmer periods of the year, where you can enjoy a pizza or a beer in the unique setting of Ortigia, it is a unique opportunity to admire the beauty of the city. The waterfront is mobbed by young people who walk holding ice creams and drinks. It should be emphasized, that lately Ortigia is receiving great interest from an increasing number of wealthy foreign tourists.
For those who prefer an evening with a little more action, outside of the historic center there are numerous clubs and discos that organize different evenings every day of the week.