Syracuse is a place related to both art and torture. We visited Syracuse Sicily during our trip to many cities in Sicily, Italy.
Once you get to the archaeological place, you will have to visit Ortygia (Ortigia), which is 10 minutes from the site.
The island of Ortygia is the actual old city of Syracuse and one of the most beautiful and traditional looking towns in Sicily, Italy.
It is a 10 minutes drive from the archaeological site.
What to See in Syracuse Sicily
Allocate time to just walk in and around the city of Ortygia and visit the ancient quarry, the old Greek theater, and the Roman amphitheater.
The ancient locations are in the same area altogether.
Ancient Quarry of Syracuse, a Place of Torture
That is the location were war prisoners were kept.
Now covered with green looks like a pretty lovely spot, but it was not like that.
Just get to the bottom of it and explore the caves, and you will understand why. It was called the Latomie De Paradiso.
Among the caves exists one that was called “The Ear of Dionysius.” Dionysius was the tyrant of that era.
He placed all slaves inside this cave, which, due to its fantastic acoustics properties, made it possible to hear all the discussions of the slaves.
Indeed the cave has the shape of the interior of a human ear. Simply walk in and just tear a piece of paper. The sound is astonishing.
See this video from inside the cave.
Until some point, it was permitted to climb to the cave interior top, to better experience the acoustic behavior of this place, but this stopped due to safety reasons.
The Greek Theatre of Syracuse
There are two theatres in Syracuse: The Greek and Roman ones.
The Greek theater lies at the slopes of Temenite hill, on the other side of the quarry (5 minutes walk).
The theater was build in 5th BC and is one of the largest in the world.
Today it hosts classical Greek plays during May and June.
At the top is this spring which -in the past- used to pour drinkable water.
Carved inside the mountain are these small round shaped holes which were tombs!
They were tombs; only heroes would be buried.
The Roman Amphitheater of Syracuse
Very close to the Greek theater is the Roman amphitheater.
The difference between a theater and an amphitheater is this: The latter has seats from both sides.
When you see an amphitheater, it is always of Roman origin, not Greek.
Greeks had theaters only (with seats from one side and the stage at the opposite).
City of Ortygia, Syracuse
An island connected to Sicily with three bridges comes with the typical (yet magnificent) architectural elements from Normans, Arabs, and Byzantines.
The city of Ortygia also hosts the ruins of the temple of Apollo.
You will love to walk through its alleys and in the main square.
Ortygia was colonized by ancient Greeks (2700 years ago) who also fortified it.
Soon Ortygia became a significant and rapidly growing Mediterranean city. At the far end (below), you can see the Castello Maniace.
In fact, for some time, Syracuse (Siracusa) was the most powerful and prosperous Greek city in the Mediterranean.
Ortygia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a distinction that is certainly deserved. It hosts numerous archaeological sites.
Among them is the oldest and most beautiful piazzas in all of Sicily, the Piazza Del Duomo.
Piazza Duomo Cathedral in Ortygia, Syracuse
A Catholic church in Syracuse, Sicily. Its structure was originally a Greek Doric temple.
The church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It dates back to the 5th century BC. The cathedral was built around the ancient Temple of Athena.
Church of Saint Lucia
The church is at the very heart of Ortigia island, very close to the cathedral. Saint Lucia is the patron saint of Siracusa (Syracuse).
The church houses the painting titled “The Burial of Saint Lucy,” one of Caravaggio’s most famous paintings.
The temple and monastery were utterly destroyed after an earthquake in 1693.
Immediately the nuns started the rebuilding of it, and it completed ten years later (1705).
Piazza Archimede – Fountain of Diana
Siracuse (Siracusa) was the home of the famous mathematician, astronomer, and inventor Archimedes.
The piazza is dedicated to him.
In the center is the fountain of Diana, built to honor the Roman goddess Diana (Artemis for Greek). It depicts the myth of the nymph Aretusa.
Temple of Apollo
It is considered the oldest Doric temple in Sicily.
The temple changed between different styles during the ages.
It was converted to a Byzantine church, to a Muslim mosque, and then to a church again (during Norman occupation).
The Outdoor Market of Syracuse Sicily
If you are early in the city, then you have good chances to see the open market with lots of fruits, seafood, and different kinds of treats.
Get some fresh food for your walks.
If you are afraid of getting lost in Ortygia, then don’t be.
Walking in any direction will get you either to the city center or the seafront or to any of the three bridges.
The city is built in such a way that it is easy to navigate and virtually impossible to get lost.
By the way, do eat as much “gelato” as you can.
FAQs for Syracuse Sicily
How do you get to Syracuse from Sicily?
Get to Catania Airport (1 hour from Syracuse). There are trains from Rome (10.5 hours) and buses from Catania (60-90 minutes). There is also a direct bus between Siracusa and Catania Airport, which takes just over an hour.
Is Sicily safe?
Modern-day Sicily is generally a very safe place to travel
Is Syracuse in Greece?
The city of Syracuse is located on Sicily, yet it was originally a Greek colony (founded in 734 BCE). The city was founded by Ancient Greek Corinthians and Teneans and became a very powerful city-state.
Is there a ferry to get to Ortigia Island?
You don’t need a ferry. It is connected with main Syracusa by 2 bridges. A 5-10 minutes walking time.
What is the weather in Syracuse and Ortigia?
The average temperature in late December to early January is around 14 degrees Celsius. In summer time it follows the Mediterranean climate patterns (that means mild Spring with hot Summer).
Where to stay in Ortigia?
Better to stay outside of Ortigia (less pricey). Some ideas are:
Giuggiulena, Musciara in Siracusa by the sea and walking distance to Ortigia.
In the countryside there is Villa dei Papiri, 8km to Ortigia.
At seaside: White Bay.
In the heart of Syracuse, on Ortigia, the Domus Mariae Benessere. It is owned and managed by an order of Catholic Nuns.
We hope you will enjoy Syracuse and Ortygia in Sicily.