City built by the sea and already described by Cicero as "the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all" and listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site along with the Necropolis of Pantalica, Syracuse is a natural port, at present divided into a old part known as Ortigia and a new part which has recently developed.
The Old city built on an island is one of the major civilization of the Mediterranean and features the charm of a place with three thousand years of stratified history. The name Syraca, of antique Sicilian origins, means abundance of water, for the great quantity of streams, rivers and marshes that are present in the area..
The fame of Syracuse is, without doubt, related to its Greek period, settlement founded in VIII century b.C., when the city reached the same power , riches and artistic splendor of the other cities of Ancient Greece. The Greek Theatre, built in this period, was one of most important of the whole Known World, entirely cut in the rocky mountain side and taking advantage of the natural slope of Mount Temenite. In ‘600 the artist Caravaggio gave to this quarry style construction the name of Ear of Dionisio. Other important monuments of the these ages are the Ara di Ierone II, an approx. 200 metres long sacrifice altar, the Temple of Apollo, the Temple of Zeus of which only two columns still stand, the Castel Eurialo, built during the Tyranny of Dionisio I. Syracuse was also the birth place of the mathematic genius Archimedes.
Of the Roman period remain the traces of the Amphitheatre, the Gymnasium (I century A.D.), the Catacombs, the largest after Rome.
After the Decline of the Roman Empire, like all the other cities of the island, Syracuse submitted the domination of Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Suebi and Spanish.
The Cathedral built between 1728 and 1754, on the ruins of the Doric Athenaion of the V century b.C., presents a Baroque style plan. The interior is divided in one major nave and two aisles with a series of connecting chapels and features various architectural styles, from Byzantine to Baroque. The multi-colour pavement is of the XVI century and in 1518 the nave was covered by a wooden roof. The bell tower, instead, was edified in XVI century.
The Church of Santa Lucia al Sepolcro is of the Norman period and was built to house the remains of the Saint, at present preserved in Venice. Inside the Church features a precious masterpiece of the artist Caravaggio which is a presentation of the "Burial of Santa Lucia" (1608) and the column where the Saint was martyred.
The Arethusa spring is a fresh water source in the heart of Ortigia, famous for the myth of Aretusa and Alfio, which over the centuries has fascinated important poets, such as: Pindaro, Ovidio, Virgilio, D'Annunzio, John Milton and Alexander Pope. Inside the well grows a paper plant, unique example of a wild native species that grows in Europe.
Not to miss: the Church of San Filippo Neri, with a simple façade, the Church dello Spirito Santo, Palazzo Impellizzeri, Palazzo Vermexio, Palazzo Greco, Palazzo Beneventano, Palazzo Monforte, Palazzo Bongiovanni, Palazzo Gargallo, Palazzo del Senato (preserved in its court a cerimonial carriage of the Senate of the XVIII century) and the Bagno Ebraico (Miqwe), the oldest Hebrew Bath in Europe.