Tour Guides

Best of Sicily: Located near the southeastern corner of Sicily on the Ionian coast, Siracusa (Syracuse) is built on an ancient Greek settlement founded by Corinthians in 734 BC. More than any other modern city in Sicily, Syracuse manifests a visible continuity from its ancient Greek past, both historical and mythological. Its older quarter is an island, Ortegia (or Ortygia, from the Greek for "quail," probably named for that bird's abundance in this area). Ortegia 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, Pindar and Aeschylus. It was the most important city in Magna Graecia, with a population of around 300,000, and for a time rivaled Athens as the most important city of the Greek world.

Wikipedia: Syracuse is an Italian city on the eastern coast of Sicily and the capital of the province of Syracuse. Once described by Cicero as "the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all", the ancient core of Syracuse is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. Syracuse was founded in 734 or 733 BCE by Greek settlers from Corinth, led by the oecist (colonizer) Archias, who called it Sirako, referring to a nearby swamp. The nucleus of the ancient city was the small island of Ortygia. The settlers found the land to be fertile and the native tribes to be reasonably well-disposed to their presence. The city grew and prospered, and for some time stood as the most powerful Greek city anywhere in the Mediterranean. Colonies were founded at Akrai (664 BCE), Kasmenai (643 BCE) and Kamarina (598 BCE). The descendants of the first colonist, called Gamoroi, held the power until they were expelled by the Killichiroi, the lower class of the city. The former, however, returned to power in 485 BCE, thanks to the help of Gelo, ruler of Gela. Gelo himself became the despot of the city, and moved numerous inhabitants of Gela, Kamarina and Megera to Syracuse, building the new quarters of Tyche and Neapolis outside the walls. His program of new constructions included also a new theater, designed by Damocopos, which gave the city a flourishing cultural life: this in turn attracted personalities as Aeschylus, Ario of Metimma, Eumelos of Corinth and Sappho, who had been exiled here from Mytilene. The enlarged power of Syracuse made unavoidable the clash against the Carthaginians, who ruled over the Western part of Sicily. In the Battle of Himera, Gelo, who had allied with Theron of Agrigento, decisively defeated the African force led by Hamilcar. A temple, entitled to Athena (on the site of the today's Cathedral), was erected in the city to commemorate the event.

Columbia Encyclopedia: The old town, on the small island of Ortygia, is connected by a bridge with the mainland, where the more modern districts are situated. Numerous remains testify to the city's past greatness. On Ortygia are the cathedral, built (7th cent. A.D.) on the remains of a Greek temple, with 12 Doric columns; the remarkable archaeological museum; the fountain of Arethusa; ruins of a temple of Apollo; and a castle built (13th cent. A.D.) by emperor Frederick II. Among the remains on the mainland are a large, well-preserved Greek theater (5th cent. B.C.), still used for performances of classical works; a Roman amphitheater (2d cent. A.D.); the large Greek fortress of Euralus; and the extensive Catacombs of St. John (5th–6th cent. A.D.).

World Heritage Centre: Ancient Syracuse, includes the nucleus of the city's foundation as Ortygia by Greeks from Corinth in the 8th century B.C. The site of the city, which Cicero described as "the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of all", retains vestiges such as the Temple of Athena (5th century B.C., later transformed to serve as a cathedral), a Greek theatre, a Roman amphitheatre, a fort and more. Many remains bear witness to the troubled history of Sicily, from the Byzantines to the Bourbons, with, in between, the Arabo-Muslims, the Normans, Frederick II (Hohenstaufen, 1197 to 1250 A.D.), the Aragons and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Historic Syracuse offers a unique testimony to the development of Mediterranean civilization over three millennia.

Our Lady of Tears: From August 29 to September 1, 1953, a small plaster plaque of the Virgin Mary allegedly shed real human tears in Syracuse, a small town on the south-east coast of Sicily, Italy. The 29 x 22 cm plaster plaque of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was made by the sculptor Amilcare Santini and mass-produced in a studio in Tuscany. In March 1953 one of the replicas was purchased as a wedding gift for a young couple, Antonina and Angelo Iannuso. Angelo took his bride to live in the home of his brother on Via Degli Orti in Syracuse, where they hung the image on the wall behind their bed. In the morning on Saturday, August 29, 1953, Antonina noticed that the image was weeping. She called her sister-in-law Grazie and her aunt, Antonina Sgarlata. At first they thought she was hallucinating, but after witnessing tears exuding from Our Lady's eyes dripping down onto the bed-head, they soon realized that this was not the case. At 5 p.m. coming back home from work, Angelo Iannuso saw the miracle for the first time.

Holiday Company Descriptions

Riviera Travel: Today we take the drive to Siracusa, once one of the richest and most beautiful cities in the ancient world, even rivalling Athens. Today the city is one of Sicily's most attractive, a wonderful collection of limestone buildings, dating mainly from 17th and 18th centuries. There is an extraordinary Baroque Cathedral incorporating an ancient temple, with a lovely interior. The old port area is extremely attractive and very traditional, full of small fishing boats and lined with restaurants and pavement cafes. We have a guided walking tour of the old town and we also take in a panoramic view of the Archaeological Park, before returning to our hotel.

Travel Sicilia: We leave the Greek world in the morning and drive towards Piazza Armerina, right in the middle of Sicily, where we visit a masterpiece of the imperial Roman age: the Villa de Casale, with its mosaics, extraordinary show of myths, public and private life of the Roman times. In the evening we get to Siracusa. Dinner is served in the most representative historic house of Siracusa, in the old centre of the town, the little island of Ortigia. Like Athens and Cartago, Siracusa was one of the main towns of the Mediterranean, so powerful to impose its egemony on all the other Greek colonies of Sicily. In the morning we visit the archaeological park and the museum. The Greek theatre is one of the biggest buildings of the Greek world. The Persians by Aeschilus were played here for the first time in 472 b.C. The afternoon is spent in Ortigia, with its legendary Aretusa spring.

Academic Tours: After breakfast, tour Siracusa including the most famous Greek theater of Sicily, the legendary Dyonisius' Ear, the Roman amphitheatre and the Latomie. Visit the island of Ortigia, historical center of Syracuse, as well as treasure of Baroque style. Lunch on your own and leave for Noto famed for its Baroque style. Stop in Modica, also know for its Baroque architecture.

Historic and Cultural Tour of Sicily: Excursion down the Ionian coast to visit the Siracusa archeological site and old historical district (Ortygia). Home to Archimedes, ancient Syracuse was one of the most important cities of the Greek world. Time at leisure to enjoy lunch at a restaurant of your choice before returning to Taormina for dinner and overnight.

Holiday Accommodation

Hotel Residence Riviera: This is an attractive hotel offering self-catering accommodation ideally placed between the famous Teatro Greco open-air theatre and Syracuse's ancient Ortigia Island. Brimming with history and myriad cultural influences, Syracuse has a fascinating past that stretches back over 3,000 years. Home to the famous classical philosopher and inventor Archimedes, ancient Greek monuments jostle with grand baroque-style architecture; French and Spanish influences sit alongside medieval Arab and Jewish sites. The archaeological park is close to the hotel and major sights are within easy walking distance. A little further afield, you can discover lovely nature trails or dive in the clear waters of the Mediterranean. There are also sailing and windsurfing facilities nearby as well as a popular horse-riding centre.

Hotel Albatros: This is an impressive, modern four-star hotel built to an arresting avant-garde design close to the ancient Roman temple of Jupiter and just a few kilometres from Syracuse's historic centre. There are 18 spacious rooms, each with stylish modern furnishings and an elegant en-suite bathroom complete with shower and Jacuzzi. All rooms are fully air-conditioned and have cable/satellite TV, direct-dial phone and cots are available on request to families with small children. A babysitting service is also on offer.

Grand Hotel Villa Politi: Built at the end of the 19th century on old Greek quarries, the Grand Hotel Villa Politi dominates the rugged Sicilian countryside, and is situated one kilometre from the Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum and two kilometres from the old city centre. The 100 guestrooms are classically decorated with parquet floors and rich gold fabrics, and include air conditioning, satellite television, wireless Internet, and minibars. The hotel's restaurant, Salone Laudien, features large stone pillars, chandeliers, and arched windows which complement the early Liberty decor, and offers traditional Sicilian cuisine with an emphasis on fresh seafood. The hotel has a large outdoor pool bordered by a terrace area for sunbathing. Guests can enjoy cocktails by the pool or, in winter, by the open fireplace in the lobby. There is free parking for guests with their own vehicles, while for business travellers there are conference facilities including audio-visual equipment and meeting rooms. Complimentary newspapers can also be found in the lobby and there is wireless Internet access for guests who wish to plan a day's sightseeing. Multilingual staff at the 24-hour front desk can advise on local attractions and book restaurants and excursions. The Madonna delle Lacrime Sanctuary, famous for an icon of the Madonna which began weeping in 1953, is just 800 metres away. The Church of Santa Lucia is one kilometre away, and features paintings by Caravaggio. Catania Airport is 60 kilometres away, a drive of around 60 minutes.

Hotel Caiammari: The Hotel Caiammari is a restored traditional Sicilian villa set within extensive lush gardens, located six kilometers from Siracusa Old Town and one kilometer from Arenella beach. Just over a kilometers away, guests can explore the Neapolis Archaeological Park and visit the Archaeological Museum and catacombs. Guests can stroll through Siracsua's Old Town centre and visit the cathedral and Temple of Athena, both six kilometers away. The hotel is 50 kilometers from Catania International Airport. The Hotel Caiammari features a fitness room with a sauna and jetted tub, and an outdoor pool with a swim-up bar. Business guests can organize meetings in the conference rooms and make use of the banquet facilities. In the evenings, guest can enjoy a drink at the bar or out in the lush gardens. Multilingual staff at the 24-hour front desk can give advice on local attractions and arrange airport transportation; complimentary parking is available on site. Guests can dine at Restaurant Caiammari, a typical Sicilian restaurant in both atmosphere and menu, serving regional specialties and international dishes.

Hotel Mediterraneo: Opened in 2004, the Hotel Mediterraneo enjoys a quiet location facing the Mediterranean Sea by the large harbour of Syracuse, 700 metres from the Island of Ortigia. There are 12 air-conditioned guestrooms, decorated in yellow ochre with traditionally-styled furniture and oil paintings. Rooms have balconies (some with a sea view) and come with televisions and safes. The hotel has a library and a high-speed Internet connection is available. There are also laundry facilities and guests with cars have access to free parking. The hotel provides good access to the landscape and historical monuments of Ortigia Island which evoke its original Greek occupation; the amphitheatre is one kilometre away. Art lovers can visit the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art and those interested in ancient history can explore Greek and Roman relics in the Archaeological Museum; both places are also a kilometre from the hotel. The hotel is approximately 50 kilometres or a 40-minute drive from Catania Airport. Trains run from Catania to Siracusa central railway station, 200 metres from the hotel.