Sicily is an island rich in ancient history and culture, no more so than on the Ionian coast, which is the most south-easterly corner of the island. The city of Syracuse is built upon the site of an ancient Greek settlement founded in 734BC by the Corinthians. Here you can see the influence of the ancient Greeks upon modern Sicily.
The Old Quarter
This is a place charged with myths and legends and one of the things that the old quarter is famous for are the ‘Springs of Arethusa’. Legend tells that upon attempting to escape from Alpheus the river God, Arethusa was transformed into a spring by the Goddess Artemis, and the site of the spring in the town was where the newly transformed maiden emerged from the ground. This was also the Archimedes city, and also home to Aeschylus and Pindar, becoming perhaps the most important city of Ancient Greece rivalling Athens for status for a while.
For all of its importance though it was not the first Greek settlement on the island. Thapsos was the site of an original Mycenaean settlement, not too far away from Syracuse, and artefacts have been unearthed here that have been dated back to around 1500BC. Signs of Greek inhabitants have also been unearthed at Panarea.
An Important City
By 480BC Syracuse was the most important Greek city on the island of Sicily with events here dominating the way that life developed on the island. Syracuse is filled with beautiful ancient buildings as well as ruins that cry out to be explored. As you walk around the city you will encounter a mixture of Greek and Roman architecture, so much so that one of the walls of the cathedral was part of an original Roman structure, namely the temple of Minerva.
Walking around the old city you will encounter the Temple of Apollo which is probably the oldest, original Greek temple on the island; it is also referred to as the Temple of Artemis. It is also believed to be the oldest Greek temple outside of mainland Greece. Unfortunately all that is left to view of it now are ruins, but it must once have been a very impressive structure.
The Ionian Coast
There are many ancient and medieval relics to encounter here including the fortress of Maniaces Castle, a fortress that was begun in the 11th century and continually built upon and renovated over the following centuries. For a good illustration of the mixture of Greek and Italian construction the Neapolis Archeological Park situated on the Terminite Hill will show you clear distinctions between the two very different types of buildings. Plus you will also be able to experience both a Roman and a Greek Amphitheatre in this incredible region, both of which are incredibly well-preserved. If ancient history and culture hold an interest for you, Sicily, especially Syracuse will offer you more than you can ever hope to see and explore in just the one visit to this amazing island.
A visit to Syracuse wouldn’t be complete without staying in one of the villas Sicily. Villas in Sicily are a much better accommodation option than a hotel and really will help you immerse yourself into the traditional Italian way of life.