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, Athenian arrows singing through the air. Discover not only Ortygia, but surrounding sites including the Greek Castle of Euryalus, the Roman Villa at Tellaro and the lovely Pantalica hills, honeycombed with ancient tombs.
- Historic Ortygia, with its glorious piazzas and sea views
- Verdant Pantalica, wonderfully alive with native bird and plant life
- A relaxed approach to discovering Syracuse, with ample time to explore
- All based in a charming hotel in Ortygia - a beautifully restored and chic area of Siracusa, across a causeway from the main part of the city
- Historic Churches
- Ancient Greek
- Special Access
- Small Group
- Just One Hotel
- All Inclusive
We fly to Catania and drive to our hotel on the island of Ortygia, in Siracusa's historical centre.
This morning we explore historic Siracusa 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 fresh-water Fountain of Arethusa, and the Great Harbour, where we consider the sea battle fought between Siracusan and Athenian forces in 413 BC, as vividly described by Thucydides.
After lunch in one of the many excellent restaurants of Siracusa, 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 Siracusa, 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.
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, including the extraordinary scene of “Bikini Girls” keeping fit! Other highlights include the “Great Hunt” mosaic, featuring detailed illustrations of many animals, including a captured tiger.
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.
We further explore the city of Siracusa today, crossing to the mainland to visit the fine Paolo Orsi Museum. Inaugurated in the late 19th century, the Paolo Orsi has become one of Europe's principle archaeological museums, and houses a variety of significant collections from the Greco-Roman era and beyond. One of its main attractions is the Sarcophagus of Adelphia, a beautiful piece covered with animated figures, discovered in the Catacombs of San Giovanni.
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 this morning include the amphitheatre and the Altar of Zeus.
After lunch, we enjoy privileged access to the Catacombs of San Giovanni themselves – truly a necropolis (“city of the dead”), with whole streets of tombs running off beneath the city of the living – in total over 20,000 early Christian tombs lie here.
We have some free time in Orygia this morning before saying our goodbyes. We fly home this afternoon.
- 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
6 nights in a historic hotel overlooking the great harbour on the island of Ortygia and panoramic views from its rooftop restaurant.
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