Syracuse Tourist Attractions

SyracuseSyracuse

Syracuse lies on the south coast of Sicily, partly on an island off the coast. In ancient times it was for centuries the largest and most powerful town in Sicily. Today it is important as a trade center for the agricultural produce from the hinterland and as an industrial city. It has retained an atmosphere all of its own, aided by its mild climate, its many places of interest to visitors and the charming countryside surrounding it.

Old Town

Acradina District

Foro Siracusano

Foro Siracusano, now smaller than it was in ancient times, forms the center of the Acradina district. Coming from Ponte Nuovo it lies at the end of Corso Umberto; here it crosses the Piazza Marconi, where the central bus and coach station is to be found. It is a square lawned area with a Memorial to the Fallen and some modest remains of the ancient agora (public meeting place) and a few columns.

Ginnasio Romano

Following Via Elorina westwards from the Piazza Marconi in Syracuse and after crossing the railroad line on the right the visitor will find himself in the fenced-in area known as Ginnasio Romano. It is a Roman site from the first century B.C., not a school or gymnasium as the name suggests but a small theater surrounded by columned halls. The larger part of the auditorium has remained, as well as an altar on a high base behind the stage.

Marine Arsenal

Another road leads northeast from the Foro Siracusano. Passing along Via Armando Diaz and Via dell'Arsenale and between railroad lines and the north side of the Little Harbor, the visitor comes to the remains of an ancient Marine Arsenal, and is already on the way towards the Tychedistrict of the city.

Piazza Santa Lucia

Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi

The New Archaeological Museum in Syracuse is amongst the most significant in the city. The Museum exhibits artifacts from the Early Christian and Byzantine period to the Classical period.

Parco Archeologico della Neapoli

Parco Archeologico della Neapoli contains a variety of ancient sites, including the Greek Theater, the quarries, and the Roman Amphitheater.

Epipolai

Epipolai, almost uninhabited today, was the northernmost and also the largest district of the ancient city of Syracuse. It lies on a limestone plateau of some 15,000sq.m/3.75 acres and is in the shape of a triangle. This plateau looked down on the important supply road from the interior, and was therefore fortified by Dionysios I in about 400 B.C. by means of a wall 6km/3.75mi long.
Diodor records that 60,000 laborers worked under the personal supervision of Dionysios and completed the great encircling wall in just 20 days. Its shorter eastern side runs parallel to the coast, and the long sides to the southwest and north join up near the Castello Eurialo, 8km/5mi northwest of the city center. To reach it take the road to Catania, turn left after 2km/1.25mi and follow the signs to Belvedere; bus route 11.

Eurialo Castle

The Castle, with an area of 1.5ha/3.75 acres, is one of the strongest fortifications still remaining from the times of the Greeks. Like the walls, it was built in the reign of Dionysios, between 402 and 397 B.C.
In subsequent years, up to the third century B.C., the castle was modified to meet changes in military requirements. It is said that it was here, when Syracuse was besieged by the Romans in 213-212 B.C., that the giant mirror constructed by Archimedes was used to reflect the sun and thereby set fire to the sails of the enemy fleet.
Syracuse - Castello Eurialo - Floor plan map Syracuse - Castello Eurialo Map

Castello Eurialo - Antiquarium

The entrance lies in the west, where there is also a small museum. Thus the castle is entered from the most vulnerable side and the one which was most strongly protected. There are three tombs dug into the rocks here, and behind them lies the main bastion safeguarded by five massive towers. A later, possibly Byzantine wall separates the eastern part, where there were several wells to provide water in times of siege. Underground passages through which troops could pass undetected by the enemy, some of which are still usable, form part of this well-designed complex. Of particular interest is the forcipate gateway below the castle to the north.
View
There is also a rewarding view from here of the Old Town of Syracuse and the Porto Grande harbor area; it is especially impressive in the afternoon light.

Spring of Cyane and the Temple of Zeus

Outside the conurbation of the city, on the west side of the Porto Grande harbor, lie two completely contrasting ancient sites, both of great interest - the Spring of Cyane and the Temple of Zeus.

Spring of Cyane

The Spring of Cyane, Fonte Ciane, 7km/4.5mi southwest of the city center, can be reached either by boat from Foro Italico or by car; first take the road southwest to Canicattini Bagni for nearly 4km/2.5mi and then follow the signs to the left.
The Spring was named after the nymph Cyane, referred to in the myth of Demeter, who attempted to prevent the abduction of Demeter's daughter Persephone by Hades, the God of the Underworld but was turned into a spring by Hades. Every year the ancient Syracusans held a feast at the spring in honor of Persephone and Cyane.
The pond formed by the spring, well-stocked with fish, is the source of the Ciane River, which is only 6km/4mi long. Surrounded by wild papyrus beds it is a very peaceful place, where the visitor can perhaps experience something of the atmosphere of an ancient natural sanctuary.

Temple of Zeus

Immediately south of the Anapo and Ciane Rivers, which join just before they flow into the sea, is the site of this Temple of Zeus. Take the SS 115 Ragusa road as far as the bridge over the rivers and then climb up the narrow road on the right to a small hill. Here can be seen all that remains of the temple, the foundations on which two columns have been re-erected. This, too, is a place away from the normal tourist route and in romantic surroundings.
The Temple of Zeus of Olympia was built c. 560 B.C., 10 years after the Temple of Apollo in Syracuse, to which it is similar in some ways. It too has six monolithic columns 8m/26ft tall at each end and 17 along the sides, colored terracotta cladding on the geison (cornice), a double portico and deep in the long cella an adyton accessible only to the priest.
Records state that in 480 B.C. Gelo, following his victory over the Carthaginians at the battle of Himera, as well as endowing the Temple to Athena (now the Cathedral) in the city also gave a golden cloak as a thanksgiving gift to Zeus in Olympieion. It is said that to make it required an incredible 85 talents of gold (one talent equaled 26.196kg/57.33lb) - by comparison, 40 talents was sufficient to make the Statue of Athena by Phidias in the Parthenon at Athens. However, the golden cloak did not last long as a gift to the gods - Dionysios I seized it for himself about 400 B.C. and replaced it with a cloak of wool.

Peninsula of Mary Magdalene

A pleasant excursion can be had by taking the SS 115 south from the Temple of Zeus, then soon turning off left to the Penisola della Maddalena, the ancient Cape Pelemmyrion at the end of the Grand Harbor (Porto Grande) of Syracuse. From the rocky coast near the lighthouse there is a beautiful view northwards of the island of Ortigia, dominated by Castello Maniace and the Cathedral.

San Giovanni

San Giovanni

Originally built in the Early Christian period, the church of San Giovanni in Syracuse was extended in the sixth century, destroyed by the Saracens in the ninth century, restored by the Normans in the 12th century, and has remained a ruin since the 1693 earthquake. The main section still standing is the 14th century portal wall.

San Marziano Crypt

Steps lead down to the San Marziano Crypt, named after the man who founded the first Christian community in Syracuse in the year 44 and according to local legend suffered martyrdom on this very spot. Probably the crypt was originally a Roman hypogeum (sepulchral vault); eight of the Ionic column bases are still to be seen. Then it became the oldest church in Syracuse, and in the third or fifth century a triple-domed complex in the shape of a Greek Cross was built round it. The crossing pillars are surmounted by articulate capitals made up of both ancient and Christian features - above flat Ionic spiral scrolls can be seen warriors each bearing Gospel symbols. In the eastern part of the crypt stands the altar at which, according to local legend, the Apostle Paul prayed in the year 61, as well as the Tomb of St Marcian.

Catacombs of San Giovanni

Adjoining the crypt are the Catacombs of San Giovanni, an extensive underground necropolis dating from the fourth to sixth century, dissected by a network of main and side roads at the junctions of some of which round areas have been laid out. At one of these areas archeologists found the Adelphia Sarcophagus, dating from c. 340 and today one of the major attractions in the Syracuse Archeological Museum.

Surroundings

Noto, Italy

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