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Siracusa & surroundings

Location thumbnail 'Piazza del Duomo' Location thumbnail 'Orecchio di Dionisio'

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Location thumbnail Noto Location thumbnail Roman Amphitheatre
Location thumbnail Pre-historic 'Pantalica' Location thumbnail Pantalica - Bathing Pools

If you follow the coastline for 45 minutes south from Catania you will arrive in Sicily's most beautiful city, Siracusa.

Once the most important city of the Greek world and the Byzantine Empire and former capital of Sicily under the Romans, it combines its ancient glory with the architectural splendour of the 18th century Sicilian Baroque style.

The medieval heart of the old city lies on the island of Ortygia, a concentration of alleys and narrow streets leading off the central 'Piazza Del Duomo'. This piazza is one of the most beautiful and elegant Baroque squares in all of Europe, featuring a Cathedral transformed out of a 2,700-year-old Greek temple, following the earthquake of 1693.

Back on the mainland, the Archaeological Park in the Neapolis district contains Siracusa's most spectacular monument, the Greek Theatre ('Teatro Greco'). Dating back to the 5th century BC, it was sculpted from living rock and still used every May and June for Greek classical dramas. Later, the Romans used it for gladiator combat, as was the Roman Amphitheatre nearby, the 3rd largest in Italy.

Adjacent to Teatro Greco is the Orecchio Di Dionisio, a 60mt long and 20mt high echo cave, thought to have been used as a 'sounding board' for theatrical rehearsals.

There are also fine examples of Baroque architecture in the surrounding towns of Noto, Ragusa and Modica.

Pantalica, situated up in the 'Monte Iblei' (heading off the road half way back to Catania) is a spectacular deep, winding ravine and Sicily's greatest 'Necropolis' (ancient burial ground). It was first used between 13th-10th century BC and is a collection of over 5,000 pre-historic tombs hollowed out of the sheer walls. Later, these tombs were used as cave dwellings and by the Christians fleeing Roman persecution and the gladiatorial arena.

It is a pleasant hike down to the Anapo River at the bottom of the gorge, passing caves of bats and stalagmites/stalagtites but take lots of water, as it can get very hot! Once you reach the river, you will find a paradise of rare flora and fauna, colourful butterflies and dragonflies and a series of natural bathing pools where you can refresh yourself before your ascent.

It is a real 'Garden of Eden' and one of our favourite spots, although only really accessible with your own transport.