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Travel: Syracusa, Sicily , Italy. Nov 10-13/2022

Updated: Nov 24, 2022

Part 2 of a trip to Sicily (from Nov-10 - 16th)

Part 1 - (Nov 9-10)

Once the visit to Catania's old center was exhausted, the drive to Siracusa, by the rented car picked up at the airport took less then an hour.

Siracusa -A UNESCO World Heritage City

“the greatest and most beautiful of all Grecian cities” quotation by

Cicero (3 -43 BC) a Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, and philosopher,

Although Cicero had a totally different image of the city, the beauty definitely is still there.

The plan was to stay 3 nights, of which one would be spent at the city's larger part's center and additional two, at the connected smaller Ortigia Island's center, although the distance between the 2 centers is short and, definitely allows walking.

Founded by Ancient GreekCorinthians and Teneans around 734 B.C. Syracuse is

located in the southeast corner of the island of Sicily, next to the Gulf of Syracuse beside the Ionian Sea. in a drastic rise of land.

This 2,700-year-old city became a very powerful city-state.

Syracuse was the most important city of Magna Graecia. played a key role in ancient times, when it was one of the major powers of the Mediterranean world. and It defeated the mighty Athens in 413 BC

It has been notable for its rich Greek and Roman history, in culture, amphitheatres, architecture, and as the birthplace of the pre-eminent mathematician/ engineer Archimedes, as well as being home to many other great Greeks.

Part of the Roman Republic and the Byzantine Empire. under Emperor Constans II, it served as the capital of the Byzantine Empire (663–669).

At the height of its economic, political and military powers, the city had a population of 300,000 and, according to Cicero, was “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all”.

The city, now of 120,000 inhabitants, is made up of 2 parts, connected by 2 (in-going and out-going) bridges between the main inland (of ancient remains) and the Island of Ortega

A visit to its Archaeological site, on the main land and the charming connected island of Ortega, are the must things to do.

The Archaeological Park of Neopolice (here)

Quarries, caves, famous Greek Theater and more...

The archaeological excavations carried out in the mid-20 c brought back

and preserved the most important ancient monuments of the district, in the heart of modern Syracuse, all inside an extraordinary and homogeneous environmental context.

The archaeological site, situated in the northwest of the town, includes a staggering number of well-preserved Greek (and Roman) remains, caves and an enormous query.

Tyrant Dionysius I who in 405 a. C. wanted to transform the Neapolis region into a monumental area, able to contain many of the architectural testimonies of the classical city, facilitated what is preserved on site.

Dionysius I made Syracuse the most powerful of the Western Greek colonies. He was regarded by the ancients as an example of the worst kind of despot—cruel, suspicious and vindictive.

The park's trails serpentine through lovely verdant garden vegetation and orchard trees, planted on the site, that makes the walk a more alive pleasant experience vi-sa-vi the ancient decomposing barn ruins. Many of the scattered cut stones were dissembled and reused as a recycled building material by the Spaniards, who ruled here in the 16th c.

Greek Theater

The main attraction is undoubtedly the Greek theater that dates back at least until the 5th BC. Not just today but also in antiquity it was considered the most famous monument of the city, with great international fame and prestige, being the most important building for shows of the Greek-western world, very high example of civil architecture.

The sea can be seen from the theater

Built in 5th BC into the rock of the Temenite Hill, it was renovated in the 3rd BC. Its fundamental features are: the semi-circular stone auditorium, the orchestra and the stage, the latter characterized by grooves and trenches probably used in Roman times for circus events.

Its cavea is amongst the largest ever built: its 59 rows could accommodate up to 15,000 spectators. It was also a place of worship and large popular assemblies, the site of public trials, and in Roman times, it was also adapted for circus and variety exhibitions.

Ancient aqueduct brought water to a cave at the top above the theater

The theater is still used for an annual Greek theatre festival running from the middle of May to the end of June.

Altar - Ara of Hieron II, (3rd BC)

This commemorative grandiose monument built in the Hellenistic period by King Hiero II , is the largest altar known from antiquity. with 2 entrances, Only the base of the alter structure remained because it was demolished in the 16th c by the Spaniards.

It was dedicated to Jupiter Liberator (Zeus Eleutherios), in honor of which the feast of Eleutheria was celebrated, with the sacrifice of 450 bulls at a time

.The bulls were decapitated on the monumental grand alter and the horns, hoofs and other not edible meat was offered to the Gods . The blood was accumulated into a blood pool, from which blood flowed in canals .

The meat from the 450 bulls was “ barbecued” to feed the people of Syracuse for free . a very “compassionate “ sacrifice .

.Ear of Dionysius,(latomie)

Just over the ridge from the theater are the old stone quarries

This artificial large cave a 20m-high, slender pointed arch which is cut into the rock face dug into the limestone inwards for about 65m. and is surrounded by lush, funnel-shaped vegetation, From this cave, the route of the large urban quarries starts, at the edge of the ancient city, from where the stone materials were extracted for monumental constructions.

The other named cave where that of Paradise the cave of the Cordari and of the Salnitro, and of Intagliatella and of S. Venera

The name "Ear of Dionysius" was given by the 16C Italian painter Caravaggio during his visit in 1608 and legend would tell that it was used by Dionysius I the tyrant as a prison and locked his prisoners there to listen, from an opening from above, as the voices were magnified by the echo. The inside excellent cathedral-like acoustics allows hearing from outside.

The Roman amphitheater,

Of an elliptical shape, it has considerable dimensions (140 meters x 90) and was built in the 3rd c CE, to ccomodate traditional circus fare, with gladiators and wild animals providing spectacles of blood-curdling violence.

In the center is a rectangular hole that is thought to have had one of two purposes: a space for scenic machinery or a drain for blood and gore!

In the 16 C the Spaniards used the large square blocks that characterized it to build the defense bastions of the island of Ortigia.

(for more)

Archimedes Tomb

David as is his way, "pulled the legs" of a youth group, who asked him how far is the

way to the tomb of Archimedes, which is indeed a 2Km walk up and down a long narrow path, a hill and steps.. throughout nature in the park, but way removed from the actual site where the ruins are situated.

David invented a reply saying that “Archimedes must have been over 1.90 meters tall based on his bones and skeleton which are fully preserved “ .

One hour later the boys caught up with us, at the Roman Theater site, and complained that they "couldn’t find the bones in the tomb" to which David responded ; saying that "someone must have removed the skeleton between our visit to the tomb and when they arrived which was over 30 minutes later ". The Italian boys missed the pun...

In reality, the pun was on us, and all other gullible visitors, who took this long shlapp, because the sign at the alleged Tomb location, just in front some recent modern buildings constructions read:

"It is incorrectly considered the place where the famous scientist from Syracuse was buried.."

Island of Ortygia

Packed with over 2,500 years of history. architectural styles vary widely, encompassing Greek and Roman remains, Medieval Norman buildings and a great deal of understated Baroque.

Distinctive Characteristic of the Spanish ,Jewish and Arabic quarters are still preserved.

in town, and restaurants, trattorie, bars market and brand-name shopes can be found plenty..

Sites Visited

Vicenzo the local "semi tour guide"

from Ortigia island,persuaded us to take a tour around the island and its 3 condensed quarters, in his charming Tuk-Tuk cycle, which easily squeeze its way through the very narrow winding allies of the island.

The island round drive started at the Apollo Temple site, in the old center

Appolo Temple

Ruins of Temple of Apollo, which was built in the 6th BC and supposedly was the first great Doric temple of its kind in Sicily, can not be missed when one cross the bridge leading to the island and continues walking straight into the town's center. in front of the Piazza Pancali,

The temple underwent several transformations: closed during the persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire, it was a Byzantinechurch, from which period the front steps and traces of a central door are preserved, and then an Islamic mosque during the Emirate of Sicily. and back to church

Archimedes Square

Continuing up on Corso Matteotti - a fancier modern shopping street, leads to

Piazza Archimede, named after the town’s most famous son.,

A beautiful Diana sculpture Fountain, and elegant buildings are features there

Piazza del Duomo.-Center of Ortygia,

The highest point of the island of Ortigia, is the symbol of reconstruction of the city after the earthquake of 1693. The pedestrian square is home to the white color historical and religious limestone buildings such as the wonderful Baroque Cathedral built on the site of an ancient Temple of Athena as can clearly be seen from the original Doric columns that were incorporated into the building’s main structure

Th beautifully symmetrical Baroque Palazzo Beneventano del Bosco (across the Cathedral) large urban palace building, once housed the British Admiral Horatio Nelson at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, and King Ferdinand I and the church of Santa Lucia, the town’s patron saint, are all part of the square.

Some Greenery brightening the stone and cobalt Allies

Galleria Regionale di Palazzo Bellomo

Palazzo Bellomo a 13th-century large Catalan-Gothic palace, houses the art museum's eclectic collection, which ranges from early Byzantine and Norman stonework to

19th-c Caltagirone ceramics. medieval sculptures, as well as Renaissance and baroque religious paintings. couple of storybooks and 18th-c Sicilian carriages.

What intrigued me the most were these tomb stones with carved Hebrew writing freely positioned at the entrance yard to the museum..

The stones are, from a medieval Jewish Cemetery discovered in 1892 in Lucia District during demolition of the ancient wall fortification. Names of Rabbis burred in the 15th c

The history of the Jews in Sicily potentially begins over two millennia, with a substantial Jewish presence on the southern Italian island before their expulsion in the 15 c

A legend suspects that Jews were first brought to Sicily as captive slaves in the 1st AD after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. However, it is generally presumed the Jewish population of Sicily was ceded prior to the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. Rabbi Akiva visited the city of Syracuse during one of his trips abroad.

Syracuse was one of the first cities in eastern Sicily to welcome Jews. until when in late 1492 all of the Sicilian Jews were forced to leave the island, after the long coexistence. Between one and three thousand Jews left Syracuse, out of the overall population of 12-14 thousand, and the entire Giudecca Quarter was left empty.

The Giudecca -Jewish Quarter

Byzantine miqwe (Jewish baths) under the Hotel alla Giudecca.

The mikveh in the Giudecca,

At the city's Jewish quarter until 1493. operated hidden the oldest mikveh known to survive in Europe

Castello Maniace, (unaccessible ) a true bastion/citadel constructed between 1232 and 1240 by the Emperor Frederick II. and bears the name of George Maniakes, the Byzantine general who besieged and took the city in 1038.

Fountain of Arethusa.

The historical highlight of the western side is the Fountain of Arethusa.

Legend has it that Arethusa, originally an Arcadian nymph, fled underwater to Syracuse in an attempt to rid herself of the persistent amorous advances of the river God Alpheios. The Goddess Artemis transformed her into the freshwater spring that is see today.

All was in vain, however, as Alpheios located his prey and mixed his own waters with hers. Legend also has it that the spring is directly connected under the sea to the river at the sanctuary of Olympia.

Water flows placidly among the papyrus plants, the ducks and huge fish.

The Fountain of Arethusa, the river Ciane, south of Syracuse, and the river Fiume Freddo in the province of Catania are the only places in Europe where Papyrus plant (known in Egypt) can be found.

10 most curious facts concerning the Arethusa Fountain:

1) The water of the Arethusa Fountain is actually from the Ciane river that crosses the Porto Grande (main port) under an impermeable layer of clay.

2) The massive defeat which Athens suffered during the siege of Syracuse (414 B.C.) is largely attributed to the enduring physical resistance of the population of Syracuse, thanks to the fact that they could draw water from the source. It was thought that with the help of the miraculous water there would be no chance of the aretusean people entering a humanitarian crisis during the siege.

3) During the Greek and Roman times, the fresh water source was outside the city walls, thus accessible from the sea.

4) In the 6 c, the source was divided into channels, used for tanning leather. Some of these are still present and visible at the bottom of some buildings such as the Old wash house on the seafront of Ortigia.

5) In 1169 due to an earthquake, the water that fed the source dried up and disappeared. It only reappeared years later, but from then on the fresh water of the Fountain became brackish, with higher salinity levels than fresh water.

6) The water flow of the source significantly declined after the 1693 earthquake and the water began to dry up.

7) Horatio Nelson shortly before the Battle of Aboukir against Napoleon, stopped in Syracuse and enchanted by the Fountain in which he took refreshment, he wrote the following words: “Thanks to your efforts we have supplied our stocks with food and water, and certainly having drawn to the Arethusa Fountain, we can not miss the victory. ”

8) The head of Arethusa used to be depicted on the Tetadracma, ancient coin of Syracuse in 410 B.C., in which the nymph could be seen surrounded by four dolphins.

9) In 1966 a 500 thousand lire banknote was printed with the depiction of Arethusa.

10) Recently, the flow of the Arethusa spring waters has significantly decreased, probably because of the long periods of drought.

The fountain is mentioned in a number of works of literature,

Porta Marina

A beautiful medieval Entrance Gate (15th c) to the city's Spanish quarter leading to the narrow streets of the city through the ancient Spanish fortifications, from the marina sea port

The richly decorated Gothic frame contained the Spanish coat of arms in ancient times.

The Customs Building

Quaint Historical Structures on the island

Charme Algila Hotel Disused former Borbonic Prison

Syracusa Food Scenes


Next to the beautiful Old Market Hall building, that for some unknown reason has been closed all weekdays but opened only on Sundays, there is a lively open all week days only, a farmer street market, where fruit, vegetables, fish, other foods and. and trinkets.

are sold and is defiantly recommended to stop and shop in

At the end of the market is a delicatessen of rare quality called: selling cheeses, hams and cured meats of the very best quality, many of which, especially those produced in Sicily

Best Salumrria on the Island to stock on Italian Salamis, cheeses and other Deli Delights

Restaurants for typical Sicilian Food

La Darsena - The Dock- in Ortigia

via Riva Garibaldi, 6 +39 0931 66104

Top Sea Food place in front of the water

and the hotel Ortea Palace we stayed in, and below the bridge with the Archimedes Statue watching...

Great food and pasta combo,

We kept coming back to eat there

Via Cavor 28 +39 392 4610889

A small place in one of the quaint allies leading to Piazza Archimedes

Hotels stayed at:

One night at:

Viale Montedoro 76, Syracuse +39 0931 580 576

In the center of main Syracuse, located in an ancient residence in front where the Forum once was., and next to this

beautiful pink building

More Scenes from around the hotel

Public Park in Forum place By Dino Pantano Church St Tommaso - Pantheon

A Protocorinthian Bronze By Gaetano Rapisardi - 1919

The “Foro Siracusano” (“Forum of Syracuse”), also known as the “Villini”, is the main green lung of the city. designed by architect Luigi Mauceri who change the name and turn it into a garden, occupying the site of the Piazza d'armi

2 nights on the enchanting island of Ortega at:

Ortea Palace - Ortega Syracuse

Riva Nazario Sauro, Syracuse

Located in a historic ‘Palazzo Della Poste’ from the 1920s, Ortea Palace is right in the historic center of Syracuse between the larger and a small ports,

The original Fascist style building operated as a post office until 20o3 , and stood unused empty and crumbling until 2010

The 75 rooms hotel, converted to an Art Nouveau structure, which once served as a huge post office building, opened in 2018, and is true and unique architectural masterpiece of its kind, now offering beautifully updated modern facilities, and views over the Porto Piccolo marina. Our room had a fabulous view toward the large port.

The hotel is just few steps from the island's center's restaurants and shops, and the most important monuments,

Views from the Hotel

To be continued....


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