5. Syracuse: Ortygia & Neapolis Archaeological Park Guided Tour
The guided tour of Syracuse will make you discover the historic center located on the island of Ortigia and the Nepolis. Let's start from one of the two bridges that connect Ortigia to the mainland, the Umbertino Bridge with a visit to the Temple of Apollo which dates back to 580 BC. and represents the oldest Doric temple in all of Sicily. We continue in the heart of the island discovering piazza Archimede square, dedicated to the great Syracusan mathematician, with the beautiful Diana Fountain. Walking through the alleys we arrive at piazza della Minerva square, made of white limestone with beautiful buildings that overlook the square. The most important building is the Cathedral of Syracuse dedicated to the Nativity of Mary Most Holy, founded on the remains of the ancient Temple of Athena of which some columns that re-emerge from the walls of the church are still visible both on the external side but above all by visiting the Cathedral at the internal. The imposing façade is built in Baroque and Rococo style and is surrounded by other beautiful buildings overlooking the square, such as the Palazzo del Vermexio seat of the Town Hall, Palazzo Beneventano and the Church of Santa Lucia alla Badia, which preserves inside the splendid work of Caravaggio "The burial of Saint Lucia". We continue the guided tour walking towards the sea admiring the Fonte Aretusa, an unusual mirror of fresh water inhabited by fish and ducks and where papyrus plants grow. A few meters away we find the Alfeo seafront, where we conclude the first part of the visit, the oldest stretch of seafront on the island where you can admire the beauty of the sea that surrounds Ortigia and the imposing Maniace Castle, a fortress dating back to the Swabian period that in past it was prison and military barracks. We move to the Archaeological Park of Neapolis with the visit that starts from the Church of San Nicolò ai Cordari of the eleventh century and in the lower part where we find the Roman Pool, large water tanks dug into the rock with pipes that brought the water to the Roman amphitheater for nautical games and water fights. The nearby Roman amphitheater dating back to the Augustus era was in fact used for various shows, the most famous of which were the fights between gladiators: it has an elliptical structure carved into the rock and is spread over three levels. We continue our visit with the Altar of Hieron, the immense altar dedicated to Zeus where the sacrifices of the bulls took place. The guided tour continues towards the Latomie del Paradiso, quarries used for the extraction of stone, of which we will visit the most important, the Ear of Dionysus. The cave is 23 meters high and is very impressive due to the exceptional echo inside it. We conclude the visit to the Nepolis admiring the beautiful Greek theater carved into the stone, the most famous and important monument of the archaeological park, built by the Greeks and renovated by the Romans.