All SEE in Syracuse

One of the most beautiful countries in the world, Italy is well known for its rich art and culture, and for its numerous landmarks. With 54 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, more than any other country in the world, and an estimated 100,000 monuments of any sort (churches, palaces, museums, fountains, sculptures and archaeological remains), Italy is home to about half of the world’s artistic treasures. And if you are looking for inspiration, find below a list of the most famous tourist attractions in Syracuse, Sicily…

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    Syracuse Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

    The Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the cathedral of Syracuse, located in the historical center of the city, on the Ortygia island. The cathedral incorporates parts of a Greek doric temple dedicated to Athena, which was converted into a church with the advent of Christianity.   SHORT HISTORY During the 5th century BC, the first tyrant of Syracuse, Gelon, built on this place an imposing Doric temple dedicated to Athena, the ancient Greek goddess associated with wisdom and warfare. With the advent of Christianity, the temple became the first Christian church in western Europe in the 7th century AD. The Byzantines made significant changes to the Christian structure and, later, the Muslims, after their conquest of Syracuse, transformed it into the main place of Islamic worship in the area. The church became a mosque, undergoing the changes that the Islamic cult required. With the Normans, the city rediscovered Christianity and, therefore, the building resumed its main role as a Syracusan Catholic church. The Normans rebuild the church and gave it a majestic but austere facade. During the terrible earthquake of 1693, that razed to the ground several cities in eastern Sicily, including most of Syracuse, Read more [...]

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    Piazza Archimede

    Piazza Archimede is a beautiful square in Syracuse, located in the historical center of the city, on the island of Ortygia, about 250 meters from the Cathedral of Syracuse and 280 meters from the Temple of Apollo.   SHORT HISTORY In Greek times, although it was not a square, it was one of the main crossroads formed by the road of Decumano Maggiore, the current Via Dione and Via Roma, and the road of Decumano Minore, now Via della Maestranza and Via della Amalfitania. During the 16th century, prestigious buildings belonging to noble families of the time were built around the square.   ARCHITECTURE At the center of the square, stands the beautiful Fountain of Diana, built in 1907 by the sculptor Giulio Moschetti. The nymph Arethusa is depicted in the act of escaping from Alpheus who, with outstretched arms, tries to grab her. Diana, at the center of the group, protects the young girl. To the north of the square, we have the Banco di Sicilia palace, built in 1928 after a design by Salvatore Caronia, which is characterized by a portal framed by rusticated semi-columns and a second order marked by pilasters with Ionic capitals. Next, to the Read more [...]

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    Fonte Aretusa

    Fonte Aretusa is a beautiful fountain in Syracuse, located in the historical center of the city, on the island of Ortygia. According to a legend from Greek mythology, Arethusa was a nymph, daughter of Nereus, who fled from her home beneath the sea, in Arcadia, and became a fresh water fountain on the island of Ortygia. Inside the pool of the fountain, grows papyrus, Ortygia being one of the two places in Europe where this plant grows, with the other being the Fiumefreddo River, also in Sicily, near Catania.   SHORT HISTORY Over the centuries, the fountain undergone several transformations. At first, it was located outside the fortification walls of the city, and could be accessed from the sea through a steep staircase. In the 16th century, the water source was divided into several streams used for tanning leather, which formed a lake of about 200 meters in diameter. In 1540, the fountain was incorporated into the fortifications of the city, when the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V strengthened the military structures of Ortigia, to be freed in 1847, when the reservoir took its present form. The viewpoint next to the fountain is what remains of the ancient bastion, demolished Read more [...]

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    Temple of Apollo

    The Temple of Apollo (Tempio di Apollo) is one of the most important ancient monuments of Syracuse, located in Largo XXV Luglio, on the island of Ortygia.   SHORT HISTORY The temple can be dated to the beginning of the 6th century BC, being considered the oldest Doric temple in Sicily. Over time, the temple underwent several transformations. In the first half of the first millennium of our era, it was a Byzantine church, of which the frontal staircase and parts of a central door are still preserved, and then it became an Islamic mosque. Subsequently, the Norman Church of the Savior was built on its place, which was later incorporated into a 16th-century Spanish barracks, while some architectural elements remained visible. These successive transformations seriously damaged the building, which was rediscovered around 1860 inside the Spanish barracks, and was brought to light thanks to the excavations carried out by Paolo Orsi between 1938 and 1942.   ARCHITECTURE The temple has a lenght of 55.36 meters and a width of 21.47 meters. It is one of the first Greek temples made of stone, marking the transition from the ancient wooden structures. The building has a hexastyle front and a continuous Read more [...]

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    Piazza Duomo

    Piazza Duomo is the main square of Syracuse, located in the historical center of the city, on the island of Ortygia. The semielliptical square gathers many beautiful Baroque buildings, but also houses ancient treasures, as we will see below.   ARCHITECTURE The most important building in the square is, without doubt, the Baroque Cathedral of Syracuse, dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Cathedral, located to the east of the square, if one of the first Christian churches in Europe, and incorporates parts of a Greek doric temple dedicated to Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom and war. Adjacent to the Cathedral is the Archbishop’s Palace, a beautiful palazzo built in Baroque style in 1618. The palace is, today, the seat of the Archdiocese of Syracuse, and houses the Archiepiscopal Seminary and the ancient Alagonian Library. Next, we have the entrance to the Hypogeum of Piazza Duomo, a vast network of passages and tunnels dug in the soft limestone of the Ortygia island. To the south of the square, there is the beautiful Church of Santa Lucia alla Badia, dedicated to the patron saint of Syracuse, Saint Lucia. The church was built between 1695 and 1703, Read more [...]

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    Palace of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage of Syracuse

    The Palace of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage of Syracuse (Palazzo della Sovrintendenza ai Beni Culturali di Siracusa) is a palace in Syracuse, located in Piazza del Duomo, on the island of Ortigia, across the square from the Archbishop’s Palace and the Cathedral of Syracuse. The palace is also known as the Numismatic Cabinet, due to the fact that it houses a permanent exhibition of ancient coins.   SHORT HISTORY The palace was built in the second half of the 19th century, on the site of a deconsecrated convent, known as the Convent of San Giovanni di Dio, which housed the seat of the Archaeological Museum of Syracuse, now transferred in Viale Teocrito, in the modern part of Syracuse.   ARCHITECTURE The facade of the palace, with two orders, was built in Neoclassical style. On the ground floor, there is the large portal and four rectangular windows. On the upper order, we can find five arched windows, separated by pilasters with Ionic capitals. Inside, there is the numismatic collection of Greek, Roman and medieval coins, many of which were found in Syracuse.   HOW TO GET THERE The Palace of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage of Syracuse is located about Read more [...]

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    Archbishop’s Palace

    The Archbishop’s Palace (Palazzo Arcivescovile) is a palace in Syracuse, located on the island of Ortygia, in Piazza Duomo, adjacent to the Cathedral of Syracuse. The palace is the seat of the Archdiocese Of Syracuse, and houses the Archiepiscopal Seminary and, also, the ancient Alagonian Library.   SHORT HISTORY The original building was a palace of the Swabian era, built during the times of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, around the year 1200. Today, the only trace of this palace is an ancient chapel, well preserved, located inside the courtyard of the present 19th century building. This Swabian construction presents some cross vaults very reminiscent of the Maniace Castle. The palace underwent important changes in the Aragonese era. After the demolition of the first building, the current structure was commissioned by the Spanish bishop Juan de Torres Osorio of Syracuse, and the work began in 1618, under the supervision of the architect Andrea Vermexio. The structure of the Archbishop’s Palace, as we know it today, is the result of systematic restorations made during the 18th and the 19th centuries, which transformed the building into a late Baroque style palace tending towards Neoclassicism. The building was inaugurated in 1854, by the Read more [...]

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    Fontana di Diana

    Fontana di Diana is a monumental fountain in Syracuse, located on the Ortygia island, in Piazza Archimede.   SHORT HISTORY After the creation of the Archimedes Square in 1878, the Municipality of Syracuse commissioned the sculptor Giulio Moschetti to build a fountain. The sculptor was choosen after his creation in Catania, the beautiful Fountain of Prosepina, has received many praise. After the presentation of the preparatory sketch of the fountain, the City Council commissioned the work through a resolution dated February 1, 1906. Giulio Moschetti built the fountain in about ten months, between 1906 and 1907, with the help of his son, the sculptor Mario Moschetti.   ARCHITECTURE The fountain faces south and highlights the figure of Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt, protector of Ortygia in ancient times. The sculpture of Diana holds a bow and is accompanied by a dog, the attributes of the goddess of hunting. At her feet, there is Arethusa, the Nereid who fled from her home in Arcadia, beneath the sea, and according to legend was transformed into a fresh water fountain on the island of Ortygia. Near Arethusa, her lover, Alpheus, is amazed by what is happening to her. Inside the tank Read more [...]

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    Church of the Holy Spirit

    The Church of the Holy Spirit (Chiesa dello Spirito Santo) is a beautiful church located on the seafront of the Ortygia island, in Syracuse.   SHORT HISTORY The church was built in 1727, during the Spanish domination of Sicily, by the architect Pompeo Picherali. The church stands on the site of the ancient First Church of Syracuse, built in the 4th century by the Bishop Germano and affected by the earthquakes of 1542 and 1693.   ARCHITECTURE The facade of the church, built in Baroque style, has three orders separated by scrolls and marked by pilasters, surmounted by a three-mullioned window. The whole facade from white limestone is a continuous play of shapes, rich in decorations, with Corinthian elements. The church is the only one in Syracuse with an external dome. The dome has a diameter of 8 meters and is also in Baroque style The interior of the church has a Latin cross plan with three aisles. The vaults are decorated with frescoes and stucco. Unfortunately, today, the church is in poor condition, due to the numerous water infiltrations from the roof. The majestic pipe organ is in complete abandon and the stuccos and frescoes on the roof are Read more [...]

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    Castello Maniace

    Castello Maniace is one of the most important monuments of the Swabian period, a magnificent example of the military architecture of the Roman Emperor Frederick II, located on the tip of the island of Ortygia, in Syracuse. The name of the castle derives from Giorgio Maniace, a Byzantine general who, in 1038, regained the city of Syracuse from the hands of the Arabs. The castle has a massive quadrilateral structure of 51 meters per side and about 12 meters high. At the four corners of the building are four cylindrical towers. The average thickness of the walls is about 3.5 meters.   SHORT HISTORY On the place where the castle stands today, strategically important for the defense of the harbour, there were fortifications since the time of the Greeks. The building of the castle is attributed to Emperor Frederick II, who entrusted its construction to the architect Riccardo da Lentini, shortly after returning from the Crusade in the Holy Land. The construction took place between 1232 and 1239. In 1266, the castle passed to the Angevins and, in 1282, it was conquered by the Syracusans in the revolt of April 11. In 1325, Peter II of Sicily, the son of Read more [...]

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    Church of Santa Lucia alla Badia

    The Church of Santa Lucia alla Badia is a church dedicated to the patron saint of Syracuse, Saint Lucia, located in Piazza Duomo, on the beautiful island of Ortygia, in Syracuse. The church is the place where is held, every year in May, the Feast of Santa Lucia delle Quaglie, to celebrate the miracle of 1646 which occurred right here.   SHORT HISTORY The church was built between 1695 and 1703 after a project by the architect Luciano Caracciolo, on the site of a monastery from the 15th century, which was completely destroyed by the earthquake of 1693. Originally, the facade overlooked the street Via Picherali, but now it’s facing the main square of the city, Piazza Duomo. The structure of the church was heavily damaged during the Second World War, and a restoration took place in the 20th century. The flooring of the nave was replaced in 1970, as it was severely damaged due to humidity.   ART AND ARCHITECTURE The facade is entirely built of light limestone and is divided in two orders by a wrought iron balcony. The balcony is not the original one, which was dismantled during the Second World War. The sumptuous portal of the Read more [...]