With a history stretching back almost 3000 years, the city of Syracuse has the rare accolade of being classed as a World Heritage Site in its entirety. At the heart of the ancient city is Ortygia, painstakingly and dazzlingly restored.
We follow in the footsteps of the Greeks, Romans and much later civilisations who landed upon these shores. More than two thousand years later, we can still gaze out over the same harbour and imagine the cool blue waters heaving with triremes. Discover not only Ortygia, but surrounding sites including the Pantalica hills, honeycombed with ancient tombs.
- See the stunning views and piazzas in Ortygia
- Discover the Baroque architecture in Noto
- Visit the Temple of Athena and the Temple of Apollo
- Stay in one historic hotel for the duration of the tour
- Indulge in local wine and gastronomy
- Historic Churches
- Ancient Greek
- Special Access
- Small Group
- Just One Hotel
- All Inclusive
We fly to Catania from London and drive to our hotel on the island of Ortygia, in Syracuse’s historical centre.
This morning we explore historic Ortygia on foot – walking straight from our hotel to the Temple of Athena, which has been remarkably assimilated into the fabric of the Christian Cathedral. We also take in the Temple of Apollo, the freshwater Fountain of Arethusa, and the Great Harbour, where we consider the sea battle fought between Syracusan and Athenian forces in 413 BC, as vividly described by Thucydides. After lunch in one of the many excellent restaurants of Ortygia, the rest of the afternoon is free for us to enjoy the local piazzas, cafés and sea views. You may wish to see the Church of Santa Lucia, in which Caravaggio’s own “Burial of Saint Lucy” is displayed, or visit the Museo del Papiro, which takes a fascinating look at the history of writing and papyrus.
We enjoy a free morning to either explore the markets and sites of Ortygia, or perhaps take a boat trip around the historical harbour itself. After lunch, we drive south in order to visit the hilltop city of Noto, famed for its exceedingly well-preserved Baroque architecture. Substantial rebuilding here followed a severe earthquake at the end of the 17th century, when this flamboyant style was at its height. Known as the “Stone
Garden” thanks to its abundant carved foliage, the city is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We also take in the Villa Romana del Tellaro, before returning to our hotel.
Today we travel to the palatial Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina, for a chance to see its exceptionally fine and famous mosaics first-hand. More than 50 of the villa’s rooms depict vivid scenes from mythology and real life. The complex here, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, is both unusual and well worth exploring – a “supreme example of a luxury Roman villa”. As such it easily merits a whole day of discovery, and we
tour its rooms at the pace they deserve. Tonight we will dine as a group at our hotel.
We further explore the city of Syracuse today, crossing to the mainland to visit the fine Paolo Orsi Museum. Following this we visit the spectacular archaeological area which surrounds the theatre, as well as the vast stone quarries where prisoners were incarcerated after the Peloponnesian War. Other stops include the amphitheatre and the Altar of Zeus. After lunch, we enjoy access to the Catacombs of San Giovanni themselves – truly a necropolis (“city of the dead”) - in total over 20,000 early Christian tombs lie underneath the city. For our final evening we will have dinner at a local restaurant.
To mark our final morning, we take a short drive to Megara Hyblaea, founded by colonists in the 8th century BC, from whom the city took its name. We then transfer to the airport for our return flights home.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
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