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Siracusa (Syracuse) is a window into the ancient history of the Mediterranean and Europe. Its vast archeological site, on the edge of the modern city, is a rare treasure of temples, amphitheatres and an ancient castle. The island of Ortygia – a labyrinth of charming ancient and medieval streets – makes for a delightful holiday of sightseeing and shopping. This was a center of Greek, Byzantine and Judaic civilization. Physical evidence of these three cultures can still be seen today, making Ortygia a fascinating place to visit for anybody curious about the historic patrimony we have inherited from classical mythology, early Christianity and medieval Judaism.
Located near the southeastern corner of Sicily on the Ionian coast, Siracusa is built on an ancient Greek settlement founded by Corinthians in 734 BC (BCE), amalgamating with the Sicels (Sikels) who had displaced the indigenous Sicanians. More than any other modern city in Sicily, Syracuse manifests a visible continuity from its ancient Greek past, both historical and mythological.
Attractions in Siracusa.Its older residential quarter is an island, Ortigia (or Ortygia), from the Greek for quail, probably named for that bird’s abundance in this area. Ortygia is known for, among many other things, the freshwater Spring of Arethusa. When Artemis changed Arethusa into a spring of water to escape the river god Alpheus, it was here that the transformed maiden emerged. On a more factual note, Syracuse was the city of Archimedes, Aeschylus (whose plays are still performed in the huge amphitheatre) and Pindar. Plato spent several years here. It was the most important city in Magna Graecia, the Greeks’ America, and for a long time rivaled Athens as the most important city of the Greek world. However, it was not the first “Greek” settlement in Sicily.
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