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Global travel blog that features travel stories on living, traveling and growing up in cities, villages and towns around the world!
A recent travel expedition took me to the eastern coast of Sicily – to an ancient yet prosperous metropolis that has a rich history of glory and downfall. The rise and decline of Syracuse may have gone down in the books of history as defining moments, but none of that kept this glorious city from preserving the old and shaping the new on its road to affluence.
“It’s like living on a page of history!” said a young man I met at the Regina Lucia restaurant located in Piazza Duomo. He was there with his brother. The two were ecstatic to be accompanying a foreigner visiting their city for the very first time.
“As teenagers, we were never hanging out at the local shopping malls or multiplexes. Instead, we had walls to climb at an archaeological site or just waited around for the next full-moon party at the Greek Theatre,” added the brother with a chuckle.
The two weren’t my official guides to the city. It was just one of those random conversations you pick up in a peculiar new town; but it wouldn’t be fair to call Syracuse peculiar – marvelous or from another time perhaps – Syracuse is a historical wonderland and there is nothing ordinary about it.
I had always wondered what it could be like growing up in a quaint little city that is about five centuries old.BA
It was my second day in the gorgeous city of Syracuse, but I already knew the boys were talking about the Area Archeologica della Neapolis located in the northern suburbs of the city that is home to the Greek Theatre, built in third century BC. Back in the days the theatre used to be alive all summer with plays and performances.
Also in the area is the Latomie, a peculiar place that served as a stone quarry for ancient Syracuse. One could see these stone quarries distinctly pierced with cavernous caves – one of them being the famous “Ear of Dionysius.” This cave got its name from Caravaggio, the Italian painter who named it after Dionysius – the Greek tyrant. Legend has it that the cave served as a prison for Dionysius’ captives and helped him spy on them because the cave makes even whispers to be clearly heard!
For those of you interested in the absorbing archaeological history of the place, the Museo Paolo Orsi is something that will pique your interest.BA
Museo Paolo Orsi is intriguing, but in my search for something more existent, I made my way to Ortygia. It is hands down the most surreal part of the city, where it seemed that time stood still. Casually chic, Ortygia with its stunning historic architecture and medieval lanes that lead you straight to the coast with sparkling blue sea, is a sight to behold.
Visit the Doric Temple of Athena or the Pallazzo Bellomo. On the dockside stands the Temple of Apollo – definitely something you shouldn’t miss out on in Syracuse.BA
Baroque churches, stunning romantically crumbling palaces and attractive piazzas – Ortygia has a lot to offer in terms of culture and history. And for someone like me, who loves seafood, Ortygia and the rest of Syracuse turned out to be an absolute treat.
Each day, the sun dawns and sets on the narrow streets that house inviting little restaurants, souvenir shops buzzing with tourists, and lush citrus orchards that add a story-book charm to the place. Most of these restaurants serve fish and shrimps as their preferred core ingredients for meal courses. The combination of local flavors with anchovies, lobsters, spaghetti, crab and a variety of fish and shellfish make for an excellent cuisine – one that will leave you wanting more.
If by this time you’re thinking Syracuse is not for someone looking for things other than history and architecture – you’re wrong. During my short stay in the city, there was one thing that became absolutely clear – the place offers uncontaminated nature. You can see it everywhere around you. From a thriving ecosystem to protected natural reserves that help nature thrive – Syracuse has it all.
Unfortunately, I did not have too many days to enjoy everything the place has to offer. So I had to settle with a visit to the Cavagrande del Cassabile Natural Reserve, where nature is in abundance with mighty willows, sycamores, poplars and ash dominating the reserves; and a boating expedition in Grotta della Pillirina.
Locals suggested that I visit the coastal strip between Capo Passero and Augusta to witness the marine mammals and cetaceans in all their glory. They said if luck would be in my favor, I might just run into a friendly dolphin too. Too bad I didn’t have much time on my hands, but I still managed to visit the Vendicari Natural Reserve – it’s a fantastic place for birdwatchers I tell you.
Syracuse is breathtaking. I know I’ll be planning a trip again soon – this time slightly longer – just can’t miss the canoe excursions on the Ciane River or the various other things I couldn’t do this time around while traveling in Syracuse!
Also check out Living in Syros, Greece.