72 hours in Siracusa

Located on the Ionian Coast of Sicily, Siracusa is the perfect romantic getaway, even for a short 3-day break. Encompassing panoramic views and luscious sandy beaches, gastronomic delights (namely delicious fresh seafood) and stunning architecture ranging from ancient to Baroque styles, this unique coastal city has something for everyone!

But did you know that it is first and foremost a UNESCO World Heritage site, and that it is full the brim with archaeological museums, castles, cathedrals and ancient ruins that tell the tale of the city’s rich Greek history? (Fun fact! In its day Siracusa was one of the largest and most important cities in the ancient world – even more so than Athens!) With this in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the top things to see and do in Siracusa to learn about its fascinating past.
 

Teatro Greco

Translating from Italian as “The Greek Theatre”, this 2,500-year-old wonder is one of the largest and best-preserved theatres in the world. Budding Classicists will have their breath taken away as they meander the ruins of the former 16,000-seater amphitheatre and imagine the ghosts of ancient actors donning masks and performing legendary Greek tragedies by the greatest playwrights of them all, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. (Fun fact, Siracusa’s Greek theatre was where the last tragedies of Aeschylus were performed… in his presence!) But if you visit in May or June, you won’t have to imagine yourself back in time, as this is when the Greek Theatre Festival takes places, which is one of Sicily’s foremost cultural events. Filling the ruins with thespians since 1914, this festival will be transport you back in time as you watch three tragedies and comedies be performed as the sun sets over your spectacular surroundings. 2019’s theme is “women and war” so visitors will be treated to renditions of Trojan Women, Helen (both by Euripides), and finally the hilarious Lysistrata, Aristophanes’ comedy telling of how the women of Athens protested against the Peloponnesian War with an ardent sex strike. Sounds like something not to be missed…

Siracusa Greek Amphitheatre
 

Parco Archeologico della Neapolis

If you can’t get enough of your classical history, why not explore the rest of the archaeological park that the Greek theatre is situated in. From the mystical limestone quarry from which the city was built, to the 2 nd century Anfiteatro Romano (which was used for gladiatorial combats), and even the 3 rd century sacrificial altar (where it is thought 450 oxen could have been killed at one time!) there are plenty of different ruins and sights to see which will give you a broad insight into the life of southern Italian dwellers from thousands of years ago.
 

Museo Archeologico Paolo Orsi

Historical research can get a little heated under the bright rays of the Sicilian sun, so if you want a break from the beams, why not head inside and continue your classical education at Sircausa’s Museo Archeologico Paolo Orsi, which just so happens to be one of the most prestigious museums of archaeology in Europe! With four different sections which chart the development of Sircusa, from its humble beginnings in pre-history to its pre-eminence as a key player in the ancient world, this museum will give you a clear over view of how this stunning settlement has evolved throughout the centuries.

The Necropolis of  Pantalica
 

Piazza del Duomo

If your more of a fan of Baroque architecture than classical antiquity, make your way to the Piazza del Duomo, Siracusa’s masterpiece central square sits upon what was once the city’s ancient acropolis. The square is named after the stunning cathedral that overlooks it, which has an imposing Baroque façade, but was actually originally built as a 5 th century temple to Athena, making it a potent symbol of how history is ever evolving. Whilst there is now an effigy of the Virgin Mary on the rooftop where there once stood a golden statue of the goddess of wisdom, if you look very closely you can still see some remnants of the Duomo’s ancient origins, namely the Doric columns which are visible both from the exterior and interior of the cathedral. Top Tip! Whilst on the Piazza you should also visit the smaller church of Chiesa di Santa Lucia alla badia. Whilst it doesn’t sport such a grandiose frontage as the Duomo, it does have some hidden gems concealed inside its walls, namely “The Burial of St Lucy” an artistic masterpiece by the Renaissance master Caravaggio himself!

Siracusa Cathedral

Cathedral square in Siracusa
 

Castello Maniace

Castles more your thing than churches? Well Siracusa’s got you covered! Head to the southernmost tip of the island of Ortygia to visit the cream coloured Castello Maniace, the 13 th Century castle built by Holy Roman Emperor Fredrik II. Originally used as a royal residence, the castle went on to become a prison, then a fortress, and now is enjoying its life as a tourist attraction! Admire the stunning architecture of the castle’s multicoloured pillars, high vaulted ceilings and sturdy fortifications as you explore its antiquated rooms and passageways, and find out more about its every changing role in the two exhibitions situated on the castle grounds. Or, if just fancy soaking in the ambience of the area, utilise Castello Maniace’s coastal location which allows you to stare wistfully out to sea as you contemplate the magnitude of the history that surrounds you.
 

Ortygia Market

You’re bound to have worked up an appetite after all of your time-travelling, so what better way to refuel than to head to an authentic Sicilian market? Head to Ortygia market which is located at the entrance to Ortygia island (connected to Siracusa by the Umbertino bridge) for a melange of colours, scents, sights and of course tastes! There’s a range of fresh delights to buy, including fish caught from the azure Ionian waters, spices, chili peppers from Etna (which are just as hot as the volcano itself!), multicoloured fruits (from blood red oranges to sunny yellow lemons) and locally produced cheeses. But even if you don’t make a purchase, this market is still a feast for the senses, and definitely the best way to get an authentic insight into the everyday lives of Siracusa’s local population.

Siracusa MarketSiracusa market

Siracusa sea front