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Traveling Italian

Posted On December 11, 2023 By Louis

Explore the Top Things to do in Syracuse

Syracuse is a captivating city on the east coast of Sicily with history, culture, and natural beauty. From ancient ruins to stunning beaches, Syracuse offers something for everyone. Whether you're an art enthusiast, a history buff, or a nature lover, you're sure to find amazing things to do in Syracuse.

Syracuse offers a variety of attractions and activities; here are the top ones to explore.

Go visit the Ear of Dionysius

Located just beyond Ortigia is The Ear of Dionysius, a limestone cave resembling an ear that has been sculpted into a hill in Syracuse. It is 23 metres high and 65 metres in depth. The name was given by Michelangelo da Caravaggio just do the similarities to the ear and also to do with the echoes and acoustics in the cave.

The cave was built in the Greek Roman times as a place to store water but then there was an earthquake so this was no longer useable. It then became a prison and the Dionysius I of Syracuse would use the echoes in the cave to see what the prisoners were saying about him. More recently this Ear of Dionysius was featured in the 2023 film Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Its a great place to walk around, experience inside and one of my favourite things to do in Syracuse.

Check out the Greek Theatre of Syracuse

Close by the Ear of Dionysius on the south slopes of the Temenite Hill is the Greek theatre of Syracuse that overlooks the city. It was built in the 5th century BC and renovated again in 3rd century BC and more recently in the roman period. The theatre of is one of the biggest in the Greek world with 67 rows cut into the rock and 138.6 metres in diameter. It holds around 16,000 people and is still used today for performances. On the walls you can see inscriptions with names of some of the gods and also the royal members of family. To really embrace it and to learn about the history I would spend about 1-2 hours here and book a tour in Syracuse. Also as its really open I would advise going in the morning before it gets to hot.

Explore the Syracuse Cathedral

On the historic Ortigia Island is the ancient church Duomo di Siracusa. Its structure was originally a Greek Doric temple and due to this in 2005 it was classified as a UNESCO world Heritage site. The origins date back to BC but the current Cathedral was constructed in the 7th century by Saint Bishop Zosimo of Syracuse. It then became mosque in 878 and then in 1085 converted back when Roger I of Sicily retook the city. The Cathedral has been through a lot and also rebuilt again when Sicily had the 1693 earthquake. Inside you will be able to a lot of baroque details, Doric columns including features like a an alter canopy and a statue of the Madonna della Neve. The entrance is €2 to get in and I would advise going early so its not so busy.

View the Temple of Apollo

Constructed approximately in the 6th century BC, the Temple of Apollo stands as one of the oldest temples in Sicily. Its design features a peripteros of stone columns, setting a precedent for the typical layout of Greek temples. Undergoing numerous transformations, the Temple of Apollo transitioned from being a Byzantine Church to an Islamic Mosque during the Emirate of Sicily. Following the Norman defeat, it was rededicated as the Church of the Saviour. Then it became Spanish barracks in the 16th Century. Although now in a state of ruins, it remains a highly significant and impressive monument. This is included in the Syracuse walking tour which I prefer as the guides are very knowledgeable.

Stroll over to the Fontana di Diana

200 metres away from the Syracuse Cathedral is the incredible Fontana di Diana. The fountain was designed in 1907 by Giulio Moschetti and his son Mario who was a sculptor and then built in just 10 months. The fountain portrays the goddess Diana with bow and dog showing the hunting characteristics and being the protector of Ortigia. Other characters include Arethusa, Alpheus, and 4 Tritons riding sea horses and pigfishes in the waves. At night the fountain is illuminated and there is a small bench you can sit down and take it all in. You can also find nearby restaurants in Syracuse that have a view or aperitivo hour is also a good time.

Explore the La Catacomba di San Giovanni

Underneath the 17th century roofless Basilica di San Giovanni lay the most impressive underground catacombs in Syracuse. The passage is dug into the rock and the main gallery and tunnel is around 100 metres long. You can see inscriptions etched onto the tomb surfaces and the paintings created with wide strokes of red, brown, and yellow. Just before reaching the gallery's end, a mural featuring various subjects on the right indicates that a significant burial site. You'll come across vaulted tombs containing over twenty sarcophagi, excavated consecutively to shape expansive family chapels. In total there is around 10,000 burials.

The Catacombs are a great thing to do in Syracuse, however I would only bring kids once they get a bit older. Note you can only book a guided tour thats starts from €10 per person and lower for children. It is available in English.

Visit the local Museum

Next up and near the Catacombs is the Museo Archeologico Paolo Orsi. This is one of the principle archeological museums of Europe. The museum is split into 4 key areas and houses items from prehistoric, Greek, and Roman eras discovered during archaeological digs in both the city and various locations across Sicily. I would spend a good hour here reading all of the different labels on the historic items. There is no clear direction however the staff are friendly and will tell you a good route to go. The museum is closed every day excepts for Mondays.

Take the kids to the Puppet Theatre

The Opera dei Pupi in Syracuse is one the top things to do in Syracuse for the young ones. In 2001, it was included in UNESCO's Registry of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, emerging as one of the most important representations of Sicily's history and cultural identity. The theatre has marked over two decades of operation, presenting more than forty shows and performances and crafting over 140 puppets through its workshops. There is a museum you can go to plus there is many other experiences suitable for both smaller and larger kids.

Take a day Trip to Noto

Go on a drive or book a private tour of the city, Noto. The city of Noto is in the province of Syracuse about 20 miles south west from the city. In 2002 it was classed a Unesco World Heritage Site. Here you can find more sites to visit such as the Noto Cathedral, Sant'Alfano Palaces and Royal Gate. It is basically one long strip of boutique shops, restaurants and historical sites. It is also where I found the best cannoli in Sicily at Panificio Maidda. This is slightly off the main strip and also do incredible sandwiches for lunch.

Spend the day on the beach

Around 20 minutes south of Ortigia is the famous beach Spiaggia di Fontana Bianche which is one of the top beaches in Sicily. With its crystal-clear waters and extensive stretch of fine white sand, the beach offers a serene environment. The waves are gentle, creating shallow and child-friendly areas, or you can simply enjoy the picturesque views while reading a book. For a fee of around 20 euros, you have the option to rent a chair, but there's lots of free space for those who prefer to lie down. As a popular destination, the beach features beach clubs with music and food, so you can spend the whole day if you want.

Explore the local Markets in Syracuse

Stroll through and enjoy the vibrant markets in Syracuse. The Ortigia Street market is open every day until lunchtime except on Sundays. It is a lively marketplace for fresh fish and vegetables. Delight in sampling oysters paired with wine, olives, cheese, and more. On the opposite side of the street, you'll find stands offering souvenirs and clothing. Just a minute's walk away are the local markets situated near the remnants of the Temple of Apollo, offering similar goods. Consider booking a cooking class with a local in Syracuse. Watch them haggle with the stall owners and then show you how to cook traditional Sicilian food in their kitchen. To finish you can have la four course lunch or dinner included.

Useful tips when visiting Trapani

Syracuse, renowned for its tourist appeal, features Michelin-starred restaurants. Ensure you make reservations in advance, especially during peak seasons, as the town is compact and bookings fill up rapidly.

Given the intense summer sun and things to do in Syracuse, it's essential to shield yourself from its harsh rays. Equip yourself with a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen boasting an SPF of 30 or higher. If you have sensitive skin, consider bringing a sunscreen with an even higher SPF from home.

Syracuse's walkable streets are ideal for exploration on foot. Remember to wear comfortable shoes and carry an ample supply of water to fully experience everything the city has to offer.

Engage a local tour guide in Syracuse to uncover the city's concealed gems and delve into its history. These guides can share intriguing stories and myths not typically found in guidebooks and readily address any questions you may have.

During the summer, consider exploring Syracuse's outdoor attractions in the morning or evening when temperatures are milder, and crowds are less prominent. Feel free to take a refreshing dip in the ocean at any time!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best things to do in Syracuse?

The number one things to do in Syracuse are visiting the Ear of Dionysius, La Catacomba di San Giovanni, and the Greek Theatre of Syracuse.

What are some of the best things to do in Syracuse with kids?

The top things to do with the little ones are to go visit the Puppet Theatre or spending the day at Spiaggia di Fontana Bianche.

What are some of the top things to do in Syracuse at night?

At night make sure to visit Fontana di Diana and enjoy at the local bar across the road.

Are there water-based activities in Syracuse?

Take a boat tour of Ortigia, explore the sea caves and go snorkelling.

Can I take a day trip from Syracuse to nearby attractions?

A good day trip in Syracuse would be to visit Noto or a beach day at Fontana Bianche.

Are there family-friendly activities in Syracuse?

When your with your family go to the Greek Theatre of Syracuse, Ear of Dionysius, the town of Noto or explore the local markets.

What are the must-visit historical sites in Syracuse?

Make sure to go to Syracuse Cathedral, La Catacomba di San Giovanni, Temple of Apollo, and Greek Theatre of Syracuse.

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