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Siracusa, Province of Siracusa, Sicily

Syracuse in English, the city is located on the eastern coast of Sicily and is the capital of the province of the same name. The oldest part of the town is located on the island of Ortigia, and connected to the mainland by three bridges.
The city has numerous attractions for the visitor interested in historical sites, and is a lively seaside resort as well, world-famous also for being the birth-place of philosopher, mathematician and scientist Archimedes. Other great Syracusans were Epicarmos, the founder of the comedy; Teocritus, a bucolic poet of antiquity; and modern writers Salvatore Quasimodo and Elio Vittorini.

Info

  • Altitude: 17 m a.s.l
  • Population: about 120,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 96100
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 0931
  • Patron Saint: Santa Lucia, celebrated on 13th December
  • Frazioni & Localities: Arenella, Belvedere, Cassibile, Fontane Bianche, Penisola della Maddalena (Isola, Plemmirio, Terrauzza), Ognina, Santa Teresa Longarini Scalo, Targia.

History - Antiquity

Syracuse was founded in 734 BC by Greek settlers from Corinth, who called it Sirako ("swamp"). The settlers found the land to be fertile and the native tribes to be reasonably well-disposed to their presence. The city grew and prospered, and for some time stood as the most powerful Greek city in the Mediterranean.

In the 5th century BC Syracuse came to be ruled by tyrants, who ruled until 211 BC, with some interruptions. In the late 5th century, Syracuse was at war with Athens, which sought more resources to fight the Peloponnesian War. The Syracusans enlisted the aid of Sparta, Athens' foe in the war and defeated the Athenians.

In the early 4th century BC, tyrant Dionysius fought a war against Carthage and captured the whole of Sicily. Finally after a 3-year-long siege, Syracuse came under the power of the Romans in 212 BC.

History - the Middle Ages and Modern Times

1000 years later, in AD 878 another siege inaugurated two centuries of Muslim rule. In 1085 the Normans followed and in 1194 Henry VI of Swabia occupied Syracuse. Under Frederick II the city and the whole of Sicily flourished again. In the struggle between the Anjou and Aragonese monarchies, Syracuse sided with the Aragonese and defeated the Anjou in 1298, receiving from the Spanish sovereigns great privileges in reward.

The city in the following centuries was struck by two ruinous earthquakes in 1542 and 1693, and in 1729 by a plague. More destruction took place by the Allied and the German bombings in 1943.

What to see

  • Teatro Greco - built in the 5th century BC by architect Damocopos on the side of a hill facing Ortigia, was connected to the worship of Artemis Lyaia.
  • Latomia del Paradiso an ancient stone quarry that provided the material for temples and fortresses, in activity in Greek times. It is a huge cave and can partly be visited.
  • Ara di Ierone II , the largest sacrifice altar in the Greek world, was 198 mt long and 22 mt wide (about 650 ft x 75) where according to one historian on one occasion as many as 450 oxens were sacrificed to Jupiter in a single day.
  • The Ear of Dionysius (Orecchio di Dionigi) is an artificial limestone cave carved out of the Temenites hill, most likely formed out of an old limestone quarry. It is 23 metres high and extends 65 metres back into the cliff. Horizontally it bends in an approximate 'S' shape; vertically it is tapered at the top like a teardrop. Because of its shape the Ear has extremely good acoustics, making even a small sound resonate throughout the cave. The name of the cave was coined in 1586 by the painter Michelangelo Merisi (Caravaggio). According to legend tyrant Dionysius used the cave as a prison for political dissidents, and by means of the acoustics eavesdropped on the plans and secrets of his captives.
  • The Anfiteatro Romano, the third largest in Italy, was built in the 3rd century BC for the fights of gladiators. Only the lower part is extant, since in the 16th century The Spaniards took mostt od the limestone blocks to build fortifications around the city.

Events

  • Every two years, a festival of classical tragedies in the Greek theater
  • 13 December feast of patron Santa Lucia.

Where to stay