City of Siracusa | IsulaSicilia
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City of Siracusa

Cities

TERRITORY: The city of Syracuse, located on the south-eastern coast of Sicily, has a population of 123 510 inhabitants, it’s the capital of the province and includes 21 municipalities.

(video credits: positivtrip)

The ancient Syracuse is an unique and exceptional testimony to the development of Mediterranean civilization over three millennia. The sites and monuments of Syracuse, unique testimony of Roman, Greek and Baroque architecture, together with the Pantalica, which includes more than 5,000 graves, many of which are to be dated between the seventh and thirteenth centuries BC, have been recognized in the 2005 Shareholders' UNESCO, and included in the national list of cultural heritage unique in the world. The province of Siracusa boasts two UNESCO sites, Noto and Palazzolo Acreide included in the World Heritage List, for the exceptional late Baroque architecture in which the main monuments were rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693. Of great cultural value, it is also the Literary Park "Elio Vittorini", dedicated to the great writer of Syracuse. The Syracuse area is rich in many protected nature reserves. The main ones are the Natural Reserve Cavagrande Cassibile; The Natural Reserve Pantalica, Valley Stream dell'Anapo and Cava Grande; The Natural Reserve of Vendicari Wildlife Refuge; Marine Protected Area Plemmirio. Other fascinating wilderness areas, which fall in the extreme tip of the Syracuse area, are the Isola di Capo Passero and Isola delle Correnti. To the south of the city, among the most famous resort areas, remember the Lido Arenella, Fontane Bianche and Ognina. With regard to food, the Syracuse area boasts excellence related to the typical products, and is also included in the itinerary of the regional wine roads.

THE MAIN MONUMENTS: The city of Syracuse has an old part, Ortigia, and a part of the recent expansion. To know the main historical and cultural places of the city, you can take a course divided into three routes: archaeological, monumental and cultural center. The archaeological heritage, composed from the Archaeological Park, which houses the only Greek Theatre, is incorporated in the modern part of the city. At the intersection of Avenue Teracati and Via Romagnoli, in the eastern part of the Archaeological Park, there is the "Necropolis Grotticelli“, a picturesque Greek and Roman cemetery area, among the many tombs carved into the rock, it also houses the Tomb of Archimedes. Near Piazza Pancali, you can admire the Temple of Apollo, whose construction by the Greek colonizers dates from the sixth century BC. It’s the oldest temple in Syracuse and despite few columns of the original structure are remaining, it can sense the grandeur. Along the Elorina Way, you will find the Roman Gymnasium, a monumental complex dating back to the end of the first century aC and the remains of the Temple of Zeus (represented only by two columns), the second oldest temple in Syracuse, after that of Apollo. In Via San Paolo, is the area of ​​the catacombs of Syracuse that bare witness to the great heritage of the Christian world? However, the only complex of catacombs open to the public that can be visited is that of St. John. The Catacombs of Saint Lucia and those of Vigna Cassia are not accessible. Between Victory Square and Avenue Theocritus  there's the Shrine of Our Lady of Tears, built in honor of the miraculous event in 1953 when a plaster effigy of the Virgin Mary started to weep, placed at the bedside of a couple of spouses of  Syracuse. The Sanctuary, whose total area is 4,700 square meters, houses a crypt (or lower church) where’s located the high altar, with the effigy of the Virgin Mary. The Sanctuary houses the reliquary, in which are preserved some precious memories of the miracle of the lachrymation. The sanctuary was consecrated in November 1994, on the occasion of the visit to Syracuse, of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II.

Ortigia is home to many monuments, palaces and churches, making this ancient part of Siracusa, which overlooks the sea even more impressive. The Cathedral of Syracuse, located in the square, stands on the ruins of the ancient Doric temple dedicated to Athena, built in the fifth century BC by the tyrant Gelon. Today, the cathedral is one of the examples of the excellence of the late Baroque. The main façade shows the beautiful marble statues of the sculptor Ignazio Marabitti of Palermo (1757), depicting the Virgin of Piliere (center), Saint Lucia (right), San Martian (left). Two other statues of Marabitti, the ones of St. Peter and St. Paul, are two splendid works that flank the stairs. The interior of the cathedral, built with three naves, houses two chapels: the Chapel of the Baptistery, from which you can admire a fine baptismal font of the thirteenth century, made of marble and decorated with seven lions wrought iron; the Chapel of St. Lucia that hosts the silver statue of the saint, by Pietro Rizzo (1599). The Church of Saint Lucia, situated in Via Bignami, was built in the Byzantine period (sixth century). It was built in the area where, according to tradition, the Virgin of Syracuse was martyred. Behind the altar there was the famous painting by Caravaggio depicting the " Burial of Saint Lucia ", painted by the author during his short stay in Syracuse. The painting is currently housed in the Museo Regionale di Palazzo Bellomo. Among the main buildings and monuments of Ortigia, to remember Palazzo Bellomo building of the thirteenth and fourteenth century that houses the Regional Museum of medieval and modern art; Senate Palace, seat of the Municipality; Palace Benevento; the Municipal Theatre which is currently unusable. 

The Fountain of Arethusa is a freshwater spring. At the center of the source you can see the features of papyrus plants. According to a legend, the young Arethusa, not returning the love of Alpheus, was transformed by the goddess Artemis in the source. Alpheus, just to be near her asked Zeus to turn him into a river and flow in the 'island of Ortigia where he would meet his beloved again, Arethusa. Maniace Castle is located at the island on the tip of the port. It was built between 1232 and 1240, at the behest of the great Frederick II, as a strategic point for the defense of the city. The Maniace was in fact intended to be part of the defense of the southern empire of Frederick II, also representing a residence for the itinerant court of the king and for the meetings of Parliament. The historical facts related to the Castle are different: the founding of the University of Naples; the convening of the first Sicilian Parliament. The castle was the home of great personalities such as Queen Constance of Aragon, Maria Aragon, Bianca d'Aragona, Germana de Foix, second wife of Ferdinand the Catholic; Admiral Andrea Doria.

Among the most important museums of Syracuse, the Archeological Regional Museum "Paolo Orsi“; the museum of science and technology "Arkimedeion“, located in Piazza Archimede; the Papyrus Museum, located in Viale Theocritus; the Archimedes Techno Park, located in Via Giuseppe Agnello; Museum of Cinema, Via G. Battista Alagona; Museum of the Sea, located in Via Gaetano Zummo; Aquarium, located on Ortigia near the Fountain of Arethusa; aretusean Sicilian Puppet Museum, located in St. Joseph c/o Palazzo Midiri Cardona. In the direction of Belvedere, about 7 km away from Syracuse, is the Euryalus Castle, a majestic fort in 402 BC Greek wanted by Dionysius the Elder. The fortress is equipped with towers, a drawbridge and underground trenches. With over 27 km of walls, the castle helped to make the city impregnable.

One of the highlights of the year is the Feast of St. Lucy , the patron saint of Syracuse, celebrated by devotees and visitors, who flock to the city for the religious ceremony and take the opportunity to taste the typical products linked to the party and not only.

A BIT OF HISTORY: Described by Cicero as the largest and most beautiful of all the Greek cities, Syracuse was founded in 734 BC by the Corinthians led by Archie (734 B.C.). The island of Ortigia was the first settlement of Syracuse. In the fifth century BC, Gelon, the tyrant of Gela, occupied Syracuse making it very powerful. The rise to power of Gelon, who was proclaimed king of Syracuse, led to a reinforcement of the Greek presence in Sicily. In the fourth century it was conquered by the latest Syracuse tyrant Dionysius, brave and great political strategist who ruled the city for thirty-eight years and was succeeded by his son Dionysius II. Subsequently, Syracuse, after numerous and difficult wars against the Athenians, was dominated by the Corinthian Timoleon, Agathocles, King Pyrrhus of Epirus, up to the great victories of Hiero II against the Carthaginians and Mamertines. Syracuse had a period of peace long 50 years. In 212 the city was conquered by the Romans and became capital of the province of Sicily. With the fall of Rome, between 663-668 Syracuse was dominated by the Byzantine Emperor Constans II and annexed to the empire of the East. Now reduced to only Ortigia, Siracusa with the Arabs became the capital of the Val di Noto. In 1085 began the Norman domination in Syracuse. Roger I of Sicily reestablished Christianity. In that period many churches were built and the city became its Episcopalian. In the thirteenth century, Syracuse was later conquered by the Swabians, the Emperor Frederick II, who fortified the city with the Maniace Castle. Subsequently the city was ruled by the Angevins, the Aragonese and the Spanish. Conquered by Charles III of Bourbon in 1735, Syracuse rebelled unsuccessfully to Bourbon rule in 1837, and took part to the riots of 1848. In 1860, after having finally defeated the Bourbons, the city was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy. With the unification of Italy Syracuse regained the role of capital in 1865. In the twentieth century, the progressive thrust planning and construction of the railway and the port, favored a major expansion of the city and its trade.

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