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Siracusa is one of the most beautiful Italian cities: can you smell the fragrance of zagare (orange blossoms) in the air? Can you feel the breeze of the Mediterranean Sea ruffling your hair? Every corner of Ortigia will surprise you with a piece of history and your senses will be filled up with the colours and sounds of the Sicilian life. We would like to give you some tips for your stay in Syracuse, starting, of course, with the beauty of Ortigia, its ancient core.
Siracusa’s showpiece square is a masterpiece of baroque town planning. Along, rectangular piazza flanked by flamboyant palazzi, it sits on what was once Siracusa’s ancient acropolis (fortified citadel). Little remains of the original Greek building but if you look along the side of the Duomo, you’ll see a number of thick Doric columns incorporated into the cathedral’s structure. Over the square, in the northwestern corner, is the Palazzo Beneventano del Bosco (where we are going to have our gala dinner), which sports a pretty 18th-century facade, while at its southern end is the Chiesa di Santa Lucia alla Badia, home to Caravaggio’s arresting masterpiece, Il seppellimento di Santa Lucia (Burial of St Lucy), painted in Syracuse between 1608 and 1609.
Down the winding main street from the cathedral is this ancient spring, where fresh water still bubbles up just as it did in ancient times when it was the city’s main water supply. Legend has it that the goddess Artemis transformed her beautiful handmaiden Aretusa into the spring to protect her from the unwelcome attention of the river god Alpheus.
Guarding the island’s southern tip, Ortigia’s 13th- century castle is a lovely place to wander, gaze out over the water and contemplate Siracusa’s past glories. The castle grounds house two exhibitions, one shedding light on the fortress’ evolution through the centuries, the other displaying ar chaeological objects from the site, including Norman-era ceramics and some curious-looking ceramich and grenades from the 16th century.
It is the historic food market of Ortigia. Held every morning except Sunday, it is everything one expects an Italian market to be: there is always a lot of shouting and gesticulating and wonderful (as well as less wonderful) smells. It sells authentic products, much of them from the region: herbs, tomatoes, ripe bloodred oranges, deep purple aubergines, bright red chilli peppers and lemons. All are fresh, and cut up while you’re waiting, and there are stalls of local meats and seafood – a sword fish might eye you as you walk past. But though it is so authentic, the place continues to reinvent itself. New types and shapes of cheeses emerge from time to time, such as a cute pig-shaped cheese, only made on special occasions, and giant colourful sandwiches.
For the classicist, Syracuse's real attraction is this archaeological park, home to the pearly Teatro Greco. Constructed in the 5th century BC and rebuilt in the 3rd century, the 16,000-capacity amphitheatre staged the last tragedies of Aeschylus (including The Persians), first performed here in his presence. From early May to early July it's brought to life with an annual season of classical theatre. reference: www.lonelyplanet.com In case you wish to experience watching one of the tragedies you can book your ticket you’ll find more information at the website www.indafondazione.org At the bookshop of Teatro Greco it is possible to rent audio guides to listen to simultaneous translation into English of the Greek tragedy that is being performed.