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.