Syracuse is a city on the southeastern coast of Sicily, Italy. The city is the capital of the Syracuse province and has a population of 122,000. One of the oldest cities in the Mediterranean, Syracuse is home to a wealth of historical sites from the ancient Greek and Roman times. In addition, the city was considered one of the main powers of the Mediterranean in ancient times and was allied with the Spartans and Corinthians.
In ancient times, the rulers of Syracuse were involved in various battles with enemies such as Carthage and the Romans. Today, the city’s economy is budding, mainly driven by tourism, shipping and agriculture.
Since Syracuse has been inhabited for thousands of years, it is home to countless ancient attractions, including the Greek Theater, Temple of Apollo, and Castle of Madness. In addition, thanks to its coastal location, the city is close to several world-class beaches, where visitors can enjoy Sicily’s great weather. As a tourist destination, the city has something for everyone and is one of the main historical attractions of the island.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Syracuse:
1. Greek Theatre
The Archaeological Park west of Syracuse is undoubtedly one of the area’s main attractions.
Within this wonderful area are a series of ancient ruins, the most famous being the Greek theatre.
Built in 470 BC, this ancient amphitheater has hosted some legendary theatrical productions such as Aischylos and Sophocles, with a diameter of 138 meters.
Today, most of the original semicircular seats are well preserved, although they are sometimes covered in wood to preserve their quality.
Also, you can still see part of the stage and landscape architecture.
One of the best-preserved theaters in Sicily, this is a must-see when visiting Syracuse.
2. Roman Amphitheatre
Another real gem within the Syracuse West Archaeological Park is the impressive Roman Amphitheatre.
Like its Greek neighbor, the building remains in remarkable condition despite its age.
Built in the 3rd century, this amphitheater is partly made of actual rock and has a large vaulted entrance at both ends.
You can still see most of the seats on the sides, and you can also see the remains of the underpasses and rooms used by the gladiators who once fought here.
Although some of the structure is overgrown now, it still looks fantastic, with the moss and greenery giving it character.
3. Latomia del Paradiso
Syracuse has several different Latomia (quarries) that have been quarried and mined for stone since the 6th century.
This stone has been widely used in the construction of many urban landmarks and houses.
The most famous of these quarries is Latomia del Paradiso.
Inside this quarry is an impressive 60m long and 11m high gallery – the cave is really beautiful and quiet and surreal.
Surrounded by beautiful woodland, the quarry is so secluded that you wouldn’t know it was there without looking.
This Latomia is also known as the ear of Dionysius – legend has it that if you stand on one end of the cave, you can whisper on the other!
4. Santa Maria delle Cologne Cathedral
Known simply as the Duomo di Syracuse, this magnificent cathedral is a truly beautiful building that dates back to the 7th century.
The facade of this cathedral is quite stunning – it has a series of columns, and a series of stone statues depicting legendary religious figures.
The cathedral is built in an architectural style considered to be Sicilian Baroque, incorporating elements of Roman design and incorporating 17th century features.
The interior of the cathedral is equally impressive, with its high vaulted walls and elaborate altar decorated with various religious paintings.
Additionally, the church has a stunning stained glass window depicting the Last Supper.
5. The Crypts and Catacombs of San Giovanni
The Church of San Giovanni itself is an interesting structure, built in the 6th century.
Although it has been restored in various stages, it is now in ruins due to the devastating earthquake of 1693. If you go down the steps at the back of the church, you can enter the catacombs – these are huge, even larger than the examples left in Rome.
In the catacombs you can see various crypts, some huge columns still in near perfect condition.
In addition, the entire structure has countless designs and symbolisms, as well as miles of underground passages.
6. Syracuse Archaeological Museum
Any city with such a rich ancient history is bound to have a massive archaeological museum, and Syracuse is no exception.
Located on Via Teocrito, the Museo Archeologico houses a large collection of artifacts and artifacts collected from the surrounding area.
This is the most important historical museum in Sicily, with discoveries dating back to prehistoric times.
The exhibits are arranged in chronological order, and here you’ll find 6th-century pottery, bronze tomb reliefs, ancient weapons and tools, and terracotta.
This place is pure paradise for any history buff, but it also provides a fascinating perspective on how Syracuse has grown over the years.
7. Latomia dei Cappuccini
Syracuse is known for its extensive network of ancient quarries and caves that have been mined for hundreds of years.
This quarry that exists today used to be Latomia dei Cappuccini.
This massive quarry provided stone for the city’s various historic buildings, which are still accessible today.
Once an underground cave, the quarry is now collapsed and open to the elements.
Throughout the site, you can see huge irregular columns sprouting from the ground at odd angles.
In addition, most of the quarry is now covered by a beautiful garden maintained by capuchin monks who live nearby.
It’s a great place to explore and provides an interesting insight into the city’s architectural history.
8. Temple of Apollo
As mentioned earlier, Syracuse is home to a large number of ancient sites and sites that are its historic sites.
One such site is the legendary Temple of Apollo.
Located on Ortigia Island, this temple is not as complete as some other examples in the world, but it is still very charming.
Dating back to 570 BC, this temple is actually the oldest temple in Sicily and has served various purposes over the years.
Today you can see the rectangular base of the structure, most of the walls and some ornate columns.
For more information on the temple and to see some of the finds collected here, you can visit the Archaeological Museum.
9. Orialo Castle
You can find the ruins of this once grand castle just west of the city centre on the SP46 route.
Originally, the castle was a Greek stronghold during the reign of Dionysius around 402 BC. In the years that followed, the castle was modified, added and improved to become one of the most powerful fortifications in Sicily.
Although mostly ruins, you can still see most of the foundations and the layout of the fortress and outer walls.
Also, there are some ancient underground tunnels to walk through, and a fantastic museum that explains the castle’s history in depth.
10. Crazy Castle
At the southernmost tip of Ortigia is the historic Manias Castle.
If you walk down Via Castello Maniace, you will eventually reach the castle.
The castle was built in 1232 using local stones taken from the quarries in Latomia by Emperor Frederick II. Originally, the castle was separated from the island by a moat, but it has now been filled.
Today, you can walk through the castle grounds, explore the battlements, and look out over the bay and the Ionian Sea.
The main entrance has a beautifully decorated gate and the entire castle is still well preserved.
11. Archimedes Square
In the center of Ortigia is the delightful Archimedes Square – one of the main gathering areas of the island, this square has several notable features.
In the center of the square is the ornate Fontana di Artemide.
This fountain has many magnificent sculptures depicting various ancient scenes and there are some small palm trees around.
The square is lined with some fantastic buildings and several cafes such as Archimedes Cafe and Tropical Cafe.
This plaza is a great place to explore when walking through the streets of Syracuse.
12. Visit the seaside town of Fontane Bianche
Down the coast from the small town of Arenella is the delightful seaside resort town of Fontane Bianche.
With a range of quality hotels and apartments, this charming seaside town is the perfect place to escape the city and enjoy a relaxing beach holiday.
Fontane Bianche has a beautiful horseshoe-shaped beach with soft-touch golden sand.
Plus, the water here is unbelievably clear and warm, and you can literally see your feet as you wade through it.
A string of beach bars and cafes line the beach where you can buy food and supplies.
Fontane Bianche is truly a treat thanks to its stunning beaches, peaceful atmosphere and crystal clear waters.
13. Arenella Beach
Arenella is a small town in the Syracuse Province about 20 minutes south of the city.
Locals often come here to relax and soak up the sun, and it’s a truly beautiful stretch of coast, perfect for a day trip from Syracuse.
The beach stretches for about 300m and is surrounded by some striking coastal areas to explore.
The stunningly clear turquoise waters gently lapping the sand are the perfect opportunity to swim, snorkel or just relax in the Lido.
The main strip of Spiaggia has some great facilities, and you can rent deck chairs and umbrellas for a fraction of the cost.
In the town of Arenella you can find some good snack bars or tasty meals.
14. Ortigia Market
The local market is always a great way to communicate, find bargains and see how people live and trade.
Ortigia Market is a great place to explore and will take your eyes from stall to stall.
When you get to the island, walk down Via Raffaele Lanza and you’ll see market stalls next to the buildings.
The market sells everything from spices and peppers to cakes, seafood and fresh fish.
Here, your senses will be invaded and you will marvel at the beautiful colors, smells and sights of this wonderful market.
15. Cathedral Square
One of the central squares of the historic Ortigia Island is the Cathedral Square.
The square’s biggest feature is the aforementioned cathedral, but it also contains a few other fantastic structures and is often a fun place to explore.
Other notable buildings include the Palazzo della Sovrintendenza, the Town Hall and Chiesa di Santa Lucia alla Badia.
In addition, there is a beautiful garden and a range of restaurants and cafes.
On certain days, a local market is held here, which is the perfect place to haggle.
Where to Stay: The Best Hotels in Syracuse, Italy
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