Syracuse - Sicily
Syracuse, in the southeastern corner of Sicily, is located between the Great Port and the Iblei mountains. Its oldest portion is actually an island called Ortegia, which harbors the famous Spring of Arethusa of Greek mythology, as well as the Temple of Apollo. "Syracuse" comes from the word Sirako, which in Greek means "swamp.".
Syracuse was once home to Archimedes and Aeshylus, among others Greek scholars, and at one point was on par with Athens and Carthage, in terms of intellectual center, but was conquered by Romans and Arabs from 211 B.C. to A.D. 879. The St. Lucy church Piazza San Lucia, built in A.D. 304, houses extensive catacombs, and the city contains both Greek and Roman amphitheaters. Romans overtook the city in 212 B.C., and barbarians sacked it about seven centuries later.
The Neapolis Archeological Park allows you to observe a preserved amphitheater dating back to 475 B.C., in addition to quarries, caverns, necropolis, and Greek and Roman ruins. An immense fortress, the Euryalus Castle, is only a few miles away from the city. The partially destroyed medieval St. John's Abbey shouldn't be missed, in addition to the Crypt of Saint Marcian. The Bellomo Palace, formerly a castle, contains an art gallery with works by Caravaggio and others.
The Anfiteatro Romano is an amphitheater used by the gladiators and built in the second century AD. However, the Teatro Greco is the most famous landmark here, built in the fifth century BC. A Greek classical drama festival is held in the early summer at Teatro Greco every even-numbered year
The Garden of Pardise (Latomia del Paradiso) was created after a quarry collapsed during the 1693 earthquake that devasted the island. The Museo Archeologico Paolo Orsi is a large museum with collections on all of Sicily.
To get to Syracuse, take the Interbus from Catania, Palermo or Rome, or AST buses from any number of nearby cities. Trains leave from nearby Ragusa and Taormina, and Catania. For more tips, try the AAT office on Ortigia at Via Maestranza 33, or the APT office at Via San Sebastiano 45.