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Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Syracuse

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Ortygia (Ortigia)
54 Tours and Activities

The city of Syracuse on the eastern coast of Sicily is partly located on an island called Ortygia, where much of the city’s history can be found. The island figures into Greek mythology as the place where the Greek goddess Leto gave birth to Artemis, and its name comes from the ancient Greek word for quail; Leto's sister is said to have turned into a quail and become the island when she fell into the sea.

There are two islands that connect the island with mainland Sicily, and most of the city of Syracuse is on the mainland. Among the sights in the historic city on Ortygia are its seventh-century cathedral and the Fountain of Arethuse.

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Syracuse Greek Theater (Teatro Greco)
14 Tours and Activities

In the hills just outside the city of Syracuse is a Greek theater, which dates from the fifth century BCE. The fairly well-preserved theatre was rebuilt in the 3rd century BCE and again during the Roman era, while the original theatre had 67 rows for audience members, making it one of the largest in the ancient Greek world. There are fewer rows today, as the site was modified over the centuries.

It wasn't until the 19th century that a real excavation of the site took place, and in the early 20th century the theatre became the site of annual performances. Today, it is sometimes used during the summer for music shows and theater.

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Ear of Dionysius (Orecchio di Dionisio)
10 Tours and Activities

Set in the hills of the Sicilian town of Syracuse is a large cave with the evocative name of the Ear of Dionysius. The name does not, however, refer to the Greek god. The name, Orecchio di Dionisio in Italian, was given to the cave by 16th-century painter Caravaggio, who named it after a vicious fifth-century BCE ruler of Syracuse. He is said to have used the cave as a political prison, and the cave's incredible acoustics gave him the ability to eavesdrop on his enemies. Another legend says he once used the cave as a torture chamber. While the legends are unlikely to be true, the name stuck. The primary acoustic position in the cave is no longer accessible to visitors due to safety concerns, but the cavern is still an impressive sight.

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Church of Santa Chiara (Chiesa di Santa Chiara)
6 Tours and Activities

Officially known as the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, the Chiesa Santa Chiara is one of several examples of Sicilian Baroque style architecture in the town of Noto on the Italian island of Sicily. Designed by architect Rosario Gagliardi around 1730, the church was modeled after elliptical shaped churches built by the Romans in the 16th and 17th centuries. The interior is considered one of the most beautiful in Sicily, with decorative stucco, gold gilding, a wooden choir with decorative inlays, 12 columns featuring the figures of the apostles and a main altar made of marble from ancient Noto. Also on display inside the church are important works of art such as a picture of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica painted by Salvatore Lo Forte and a sculpture of the Madonna and Child made of marble. Visitors are well advised to climb up to the rooftop terrace of the adjoining convent to enjoy panoramic views of Noto.

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