Excursions in the most beautiful spots of Sicily



Founded in 734 b.C. by the Corinth colonists, Syracuse will become for Cicerone “the biggest and most beautiful city among the greek ones”. The name derives from the term that the first sicilian populations gave to their territories: Syraka (water abundance). Syracuse’s name and strength are well known from remote eras: protagonist of the political scene of the ancient world, it was founded during the VIII century b.C by a group of Corinth citizens who, landed in the eastern coast of Sicily, founded different cities, arriving till Agrigento.

During the greek period, Syracuse reaches its greatest glory. Today we have various historical testaments of this era: the Fonte Aretusa of Ortigia, the greek theatre, the Galermi aqueduct, Dionysus’ ear and Ierone's altar are just some of them. But there are also some greek temples: Apollo’s and Zeus’.

Syracuse was then elected in 663 capital city of the byzantine empire thanks to Costante II and it crosses a big period of political, artistic and cultural centrality.

The arab conquest in 878 will upset the city that will be dominated by the byzantines again. They will allow the city to rise again artistically and architecturally, so that today Syracuse is U.N.E.S.C.O patrimony and has two world heritages: the baroque cities of the Val di Noto (Noto and Palazzolo Acreide) and Syracuse with the necropolis of Pantalica.

What to see in Syracuse

Roman Gymnasium

In the second half of the XIX century there was the excavating of a roman building, wrongly identified as Gymnasium. The construction of the I century a.C. was probably a Serapeum, at least during the first phase previous to the conclusion of the building.

Greek Theatre

The scenographic theatrical complex is one of the biggest and most suggestive that we have, and it’s located between the rocky sides of the Colle Temenite, with the cavea towards the coast of Syracuse.

Roman Amphitheatre

Surely the biggest one in Sicily, it comes from the I century b.C. It was built in magnificent proportions, widely digged in the rocks.

Ierone II Altar

It is the biggest hellenic altar of the antiquity. It was realized by Ierone II during the III century b.C. and it has a rectangular structure of 22,80x198 mt; during the roman era the arcade was added among a central basin.

Dionysus’ Ear

Dionysus’ ear, so called by Caravaggio, is an auricular pavillon and has magnificent acoustic qualities. The legend tells that the tyrant of Syracuse restricted the enemies there, hearing their conversations from the outside.

Castello Eurialo

The Eurialo castle, formidable defensive equipment, is part of a complex that was set up by Dionysus and that included the walls too (IV century b.C.). The ruins as they are today are the result of byzantine restorations.

San Giovanni Catacombs

San Giovanni catacombs in the church of Syracuse are still so fascinating due to their mystery. For a lot of time inside the San Giovanni church in Syracuse there was an ancient cathedral, located in the Acradina (the area of the catacombs), and here the bishop of Syracuse, San Marciano, in the III century b.C.

Ortigia Island

Ortigia Island is the oldest part of Syracuse. The name comes from the greek "ortyx" that means "quail". It is the heart of the city, the first occupied area thanks to its geographical position and the presence of water and sources.

As the rest of Sicily, Ortigia too is the proof of the past centuries and populations. Its territory tells an ancient story about the arrival of the greeks followed by the romans, the swabian, the aragoneses and the arabs. Among the most beautiful thing in Ortigia there are: the Maniace castle, the Apollo temple (VI century), the duomo (ionian temple of the VIII century b.C.), the Artemide fountain (1906), the Aretusa spring, the Urban Door (VI-V century b.C.), the archiepiscopal palace, the San Martino church, the Santa Lucia church, the Holy Spirit church, the Beneventano - Del Bosco palace, the Mergulensi - Montalto palace, Marina Door from the ‘500, the San Pietro Intra Moeina church, the San Giovanni Battista church.

"Madonna delle Lacrime" holiday - from August 29th to September 1st

This holiday recalls the miraculous event of the Virgin Mary lacrimation that happened from August 29th to September 1st 1953. Since then, the Virgin Mary is worshipped not only by the citizens of Syracuse but by the rest of the sicilian citizens and worldwide, due to her miracles.

Every year on August 23rd the preparatory rituals begin until August 27th and from the afternoon til the night there is the rosary and the vespiri.

In those four days, there are holy masses both in the churches of the shrine and in the lacrimation home. On August 29th, a day dedicated to the ills and the volunteers, there’s a procession that goes from "Via degli Orti di San Giorgio" to "Piazza della Vittoria", where the Virgin Mary sanctuary is located, and at 7:00 p.m there’s the holy mass.

The 30th of August is dedicated to the teens who meet at Piazza Euripide and go to the sanctuary all together to celebrate the holy mass at 7:00 p.m. with the archbishop. Then there is a vigil with all the Franciscan orders of Syracuse.

On August 31st, dedicated to the priests and the seminarists, the holy mass is at 10:30 a.m. Then, at night, there is a holy mass with the bishop.

The 1st of September is dedicated to the families. There’s the last holy mass with all of the major city, military and ecclesiastical authorities of Syracuse.

Santa Lucia holiday - December 13th and December 20th

The holiday of Santa Lucia is on December 13th and December 20th in Syracuse, where the virgin and martyr Saint Lucia was born. It is a very sincere holiday that involves a lot of devoted from the whole province and the eastern Sicily. There are also a lot of natives of Syracuse that live abroad.

On September 13th Syracuse celebrates the protector Saint Lucia, and the statue is brought through a long procession from the Duomo to the church of "Santa Lucia al Sepolcro"; the procession is followed by an eighteenth-century coach with some characters dressed in different costumes.

Let’s remember that Saint Lucia is the protector of the blinds, so during the holiday a lot of pilgrims come to ask for a healing.

This holiday is famous due to the 3km long procession and, even if it is a bit unbearable, the citizens will continue to bring the statue on their shoulders undaunted.


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