When I discovered this city – I was driving quite often towards the south to hang around and be away from Catanian trash and dirt. This historical city has much to offer and makes you come back again and again. Where to start?

Syracuse is mentioned in the Bible in the Acts of the Apostles book at 28:12 as Paul stayed there. Good start?

The city was founded by Ancient Greek Corinthians and Teneans and became a very powerful city-state. Syracuse was allied with Sparta and Corinth and exerted influence over the entirety of Magna Graecia, of which it was the most important city. In certain moment it was equivalent to Athens in size and population proportion. Ancient Greek celebrities like Cicero and Archimed lived here.

Eureka! or, I found it! – was said by him, Archimed while he was running naked the streets of Syracusa. Famous for many inventories such as attacking the battle ships with mirrors reflecting the sun rays or finding the Pi (π) in circle. “NōlÄŤ turbāre circulōs meōs!” is a Latin phrase, meaning “Do not disturb my circles!”. It is said to have been uttered by Archimedes—in reference to a geometric figure he had outlined on the sand—when he was confronted by a Roman soldier during the Siege of Syracuse prior to being killed.

The siege of Syracuse by the Roman Republic took place in 213–212 BC. The Romans successfully stormed the Hellenistic city of Syracuse after a protracted siege, giving them control of the entire island of Sicily. During the siege, the city was protected by weapons developed by Archimedes.

So the Syracuse became part of the Roman Republic and then Byzantine Empire.

The Temple of Apollo is one of the most important ancient Greek monuments on Ortygia. Just to explain, Ortygia is a small island which is the historical centre of the city of Syracuse. Just passing the three-bridge Santa Lucia (like the one in Ljubljana, if you remember 😛 ) The island, also known as the CittĂ  Vecchia (Old City), contains many historical landmarks that I will write about here. The name originates from the ancient Greek ortyx which means “Quail“. Dating to the 6th century B.C., this temple is one of the most ancient Doric temples in Sicily, and among the first with the layout consisting of a peripteros of stone columns.

Perhaps the best way to describe the transition from Greek Hellenic to Roman is the Fountain of Artemis/ Diana. In Roman mythology, Diana was the goddess of hunting, and in later times, the moon and chastity. Cypress trees were sacred to her. She was the daughter of Jupiter and the Titan Latona (or Leto). In Greek mythology, Diana was called Artemis.

Strolling down the streets of Ortygia, you will arrive to Piazza Duomo with the Cathedral of Santa Lucia.

Its structure is originally a Greek doric temple The Temple of Athena. When you enter, if you pay attention, you can see the columns are doric. The present cathedral was started to be built in 7th century. The building was converted into a mosque in 878 after Arab conquers, then converted back when Norman Roger I of Sicily retook the city in 1085. The roof of the nave is of Norman origin, as well as the mosaics in the apses.

The cathedral holds a number of relics of St. Lucy, the patroness of the city: a number of bone fragments, a robe, a veil, and a pair of shoes.

Lucia was born of rich and noble parents about the year 283 AD. Her father was of Roman origin but died when she was five years old, leaving Lucy and her mother without a protective guardian. Her mother’s name Eutychia seems to indicate that she came from a Greek background. Lucia wanted to consecrate her virginity to God, and she hoped to distribute her dowry to the poor. However, Eutychia, her mother, arranged Lucy’s marriage to a young man of a wealthy pagan family. When she refused, she has been sentenced to be defiled in a brothel. The Christian tradition states that when the guards came to take her away, they could not move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen. Bundles of wood were then heaped about her and set on fire, but would not burn. Finally, she met her death by the sword thrust into her eyes. When her body was prepared for burial in the family mausoleum it was discovered that her eyes had been miraculously restored. This is one of the reasons that Lucy is the patron saint of those with eye illnesses. If you watch carefully, you will see that she always appears with the sword and a tray with the pair of eyes.

To go back to Hellenistic time just for a moment, as the Fountain of Arethusa can be found in the middle of the island. It is the source of fresh water that flows directly to the sea. It was used by women for washing the clothes. However, the greek mythology says it is the shelter place of nymph Arethusa, hunted by Alpheus. It is quite a unique place, as the papyrus plant grows out of the small lake where the fountain comes.

Time for an aperol? This is now a good place to sit. Just at the fountain, begins the Lungomare Alfeo. There is a restaurant called Spizzica Al Vecchio Lavatoio (Snack At The Old Washhouse).

The best part here is the view, of course. It is a lagoon with many boats ancored and youth partying. If you observe carefully, you would notice the system of purchasing food and beverages from the bars by using the basket technique. 😛

In Syracusa there are many churches yet to be discovered by myself. So far I have entered to the Chiesa San Paolo Apostolo and discovered interesting paintings. If you know Christian narrative, you will understand the paintings.

And as well; Basilica of Santa Lucia Extra moenia: a Byzantine church built (after Norman rebuilt), according to tradition, in the same place of the martyrdom of the saint in 303 AD. The current appearance is from the 15th–16th centuries. The most ancient parts still preserved include the portal, the three half-circular apses and the first two orders of the belfry. Under the church are the Catacombs of St. Lucy. For this church Caravaggio painted the Burial of St. Lucy.

Strolling the streets, enjoying the hidden gems, baroque facades, bars and restaurants, balconies that are decorated with many beautiful plants. It’s a vibe 🙂

The total peak of the Ortygia island is the Castello Maniace, constructed in 13th century, as an example of the military architecture of Frederick II‘s reign. It is a square structure with circular towers at each of the four corners. The most striking feature is the pointed portal, decorated with polychrome marbles.

If you’d like to buy a souvenir here, you should definitely buy Teste di Moro. You can spot them on many balconies as pots. Why? Once upon a time, Sicilian girl had a balcony of beautiful flowers. Moore (Moroccan) was passing by and made her fell in love. It was forbidden love, of course. They married secretly but only shorty after she discovered that he has a family in the land of Saracens. So she beheaded him and used his head as a pot on her balcony. A reminder to never mess with Ladies.

A Sicilian specialty, granita is a cold, sweet treat made from water, sugar, and fruit that is never completely frozen. It’s mixed continuously to obtain a texture that is simultaneously grainy and creamy. I could never understand how an ice cream could be eaten with a brioche, but here we are. And it’s not that bad. If you sit at the main square, in front of the Cathedral, in the cith caffee, you can for sure say you have become almost local.

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