Defined by Cicero as “the largest and most beautiful of all the Greek cities”, Syracuse owes its charm to its history, from the Greeks to the Arabs, from the Normans to the splendor of the Baroque.
Syracuse: the Neapolis district
In addition to Ortigia, which contains all these souls, the other area not to be missed in the city is that of Neapolis where you can take a step back in time with your four-legged friend. In all the main Sicilian archaeological sites, in fact, from Selinunte to Segesta, from the temples of Agrigento to Neapolis in Syracuse, dogs can enter on a leash and wander among the monuments.
At the entrance of the Archaeological Park of Neapolis, which covers 35 hectares, we find the Basilica of San Nicolò dei Cordari dating back to the 11th century. Almost opposite is the Roman Amphitheater, the third in Italy after the Colosseum and the Verona Arena.
Next to it, the largest votive altar in the ancient world preserved in situ, the Altar of Hieron II which has a length of 98 meters and a width of 23. Of the altar, dedicated to Zeus Eleutherios, only the bases survive today as the structure upper was almost completely removed in the sixteenth century to be reused in the construction of Spanish fortifications.
The Greek Theater is also impressive, the most important building for shows in the western Greek world. Lying on the Temenite hill it still amazes for its majesty that is best captured from above. Here Aeschylus represented the Etneas and the Persians. Then over time it was almost forgotten and it was the object of transformations, robberies, damages and removals that today leave visible only its gigantic imprint carved in the rock.
Sitting on the steps, a flashback suddenly brings me back to the past and I see myself on those same stands as a teenager when, on a school trip, I witnessed an unforgettable Medea. Beginning in 1914, in fact, the National Institute of Ancient Drama (INDA) held classical theater representations here at sunset, mainly works from the Greek tragedies of the 5th century BC. and from May to July you can watch these performances experiencing a truly unique experience.
The overhanging rock face, as well as other parts of the Colle, is entirely dotted with quadrangular recesses called naiskoi destined to accommodate the small pictures (pinakes) with votive images of deities or deceased. In the center there is a large cave from which water flows from the Greek aqueduct.
In the same area the Latomie, stone caves with tunnels from which stone materials were extracted for the monumental buildings of the city. Among these, the most interesting is the one known as del Paradiso with the Grotta dei Cordari and the Orecchio di Dionisio. This artificial cavity has an S-shaped plant and a pointed arch, 25 meters high. The name, which is inspired by the shape similar to that of an immense auricle, was invented by Caravaggio who visited it in 1608.
The legend according to which the cave, thanks to its extraordinary acoustic qualities, was used by the tyrant Dionisio to hear, from the top of the cavity, the words of the prisoners imprisoned in it, is groundless.
After visiting the Archaeological Park we wanted to go to the monumental complex of San Giovanni Evangelista, consisting of the remains of a magnificent basilica under which there are the catacombs, second only to those of Rome. But unfortunately we found it closed and we were no longer able to include it on our tour. To visit it together with the Archaeological Museum “Paolo Orsi” we promise to return soon to Syracuse which by virtue of its uniqueness in 2005 was included in the UNESCO heritage.
If hunger is felt nothing better than a good dish of pasta alla siracusana, a cross of influences between the Arab and Sicilian people, with a sauce based on anchovies, chilli and olives, sprinkled with browned breadcrumbs. Have you little time? Then we propose a stop at the Bar Midolo in Corso Umberto I, 86 for a classic arancino with meat sauce and a less traditional but delicious stuffed with ricotta and pistachios.
For coffee with cannolo and tart with wild strawberries move to Piazza Duomo at the outdoor tables of the historic bar that served as a magnificent backdrop to the film Malena by Giuseppe Tornatore, next to Palazzo Beneventano del Bosco and with a unique view of the cathedral.
Our dreams have been lulled by the tranquility of the Syracusan countryside included in the Ciane and Saline Oriented Natural Reserve of Syracuse at the farmhouse Villa dei Papiri, an ancient Sicilian farm of the nineteenth century immersed in an extensive citrus grove and surrounded by wonderful papyrus.
This is the right place if you want to admire the plants with the umbrella-like foliage of the papyrus in the wild: you have to go to the nearby source of the Ciane river, the only place outside Egypt where they spontaneously grow luxuriantly. Even Ciane, as well as Aretusa, was a beautiful nymph wife of Anapo and was transformed into a source for having tried to prevent the abduction of Proserpina by Pluto, the god of the underworld. At that point her young bridegroom, to remain united with her, had himself changed into the Anapo river that flows nearby.
Archaeological Park of Neapolis
Via Paradiso, 14
Open every day, including holidays, from 9 to 1 hour before sunset. For disabled people and their carer, entry is free.
For updates and information: +39 0931 66206.
Oriented Natural Reserve of the Ciane River and Saline of Syracuse
Open all year round
Info: +39 0931 709111 – firstname.lastname@example.org