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Siracusa is one of those places in Sicily that you have to visit. Without visiting would be like missing an essential part of the island. This city has an incredible amount of archaeological sites and some great architectural buildings. It is by far my favorite city in Sicily. The archaeological site, situated in the northwest of the town, is home to a staggering number of well-preserved Greek (and Roman) remains. The main attraction is undoubtedly the Greek theatre that dates back at least until the 5th Century BC. There is also remains of a Roman theatre and the famous “Ear of Dionysius”, a 20m-high, slender pointed arch cut into the rock face that develops inwards for about 65m. There are also the famous Catacombs of San Giovanni. Although not a massive highlight they are worth seeing if you have time. Running for kilometers under the city these catacombs were excavated for the most part between 315 and 360 A.D., and remained in use until the end of the 5th century. Unfortunately, after thousands of years of looting, what survives is only the “bare bones” of the building, stripped of colored plaster, mosaics, stone slabs, and even small objects that were incorporated into the enclosures to distinguish one tomb from another.
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The best way to see the island of Ortigia is just to wander. It’s difficult to get lost (it measures just 1km by 500 meters and has lots of little streets that all look the same), but packed with over 2,500 years of history. We often come here at night as its a great place to soak up some Italian nightlife, wander past the harbor showcasing the yachts and sailing boats of the elite and also drop by the famous fountain of youth (La Fonte Aretusa). Half a dozen Greek poets wrote the tale of the nymph Arethusa, who was bathing in the Alpheus River in Greece one day when the god of that river took a liking to her. She begged for deliverance from his advances, and Artemis in pity turned the nymph into a spring, allowing her to escape underground. She traveled under the sea to emerge here, in Siracusa. Alpheus, though, was hot on her heels, and came gushing out in the same spot, mingling his waters with hers for eternity. Apparently this, to the Greeks, was romantic. They used to say you could toss a goblet into a spring at Arcadia in Greece and it would pop up here.
Island of Ortigia
On a tiny island jutting off mainland Sicily, Ortigia is a little Greek bubble in Italy, dotted with 2,000-year-old ruins of Greek temples. It’s easy to lose yourself here ambling about the sleepy alleys lined with pretty pastel-coloured houses, topped with ageing balconies over-run with plants. Visit the impressive Cathedral in Piazza del Duomo, built over a 5th century Greek Temple of Athena, whose Doric columns can still be seen incorporated into the walls of the cathedral. Take a short bus ride to Neapolis in Siracusa (on the mainland) to admire the well-preserved ruins of an ancient Greek theatre surrounded by the Latomia del Paradiso, an old quarry filled with citrus trees.Visit the Ortigia food market, heaving with local produce and the freshest catch of the day, then feast on the best seafood pasta at the nearby Ristorante L’Ancora (ristoranteancora.com). Caff è Apollo (Largo XXV Luglio 13; +39-0931/185-2656) is your best bet for an espresso and a ricotta-fi lled croissant. Stop over at the Puppet Theatre (teatrodeipupisiracusa.it) for a late-evening traditional Sicilian puppet show.