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Siracusa (known as Syracuse in English) is a city in the southwest of Sicily, Italy. Founded in 733 BC by Greek settlers, it became one of the most successful Greek city states until its fall to Rome in 212 BC. The city is composed of both the island of Ortigia (Ortygia) and a mainland section. The two are comfortably connected by two bridges.
Siracusa is brimming with exciting history with the kids. When visiting you’ll want to divide your time between Ortigia (the island) and the mainland where you will find the major archeological sites.
This was my favourite part of Siracusa. As you enter the island, you'll find the Temple of Apollo which dates back to the 6th century BC. What's incredible about this temple is how it's completely surrounded by a bustling city. A few more streets on and you’ll find a bustling market. You’ll be tempted by the fresh produce! There are also several small food shops as well and we had the most amazing sandwiches from the very famous Caseificio Borderi. They make all their own cheeses (caseificio is a cheese maker) and it’s definitely worth waiting in the line, even with the kids.
The Piazza Duomo (the main piazza in Siracusa) is also a wonderful spot to spend time in with the kids. There are several cafes in the piazza to relax in, but you’ll definitely want to spend some time admiring the amazing Duomo (Cathedral) of Siracusa. Detailed information on the inside of the church can be found here. The church was originally a Greek temple dedicated to Athena. In fact, the church has the original doric columns that are visible from both the inside and outside of the church. It is an incredible place and even if you have visited a lot of churches, this one is worth taking the time to visit.
If you are a fan of Caravaggio then visit the church of Santa Lucia alla Badia to see his painting dedicated to the passing of Saint Lucy.
Also, there are a few small museums in Ortigia that might interest the family. First is the the Museo Leonardo Da Vinci e Archimede Siracusa. This museum is a fantastic dedication to both of these great minds with replicas of their inventions throughout the museum- many of which are hands on for the kids. The other is the Museo del Papiro (papyrus). This museum details the history and use of papyrus - not just for paper, but also used for tools and boats. It is also a leader in the study and conservation of papyrus.
You will want to visit the incredible Greek ruins of the Parco Archeologico Della Neapolis.
The ruins are a treat and it’s a great place to visit with the kids as it’s all outside. From climbing the stairs of the Greek theatre to testing out sound capabilities of the the cave of Dionisio, everyone in the family will enjoy the park.
There is a Roman amphitheatre near the entrance of the park. Further in is the Greek Theater. Our kids had fun climbing the stairs in there. Afterwards, we walked into a cave called Orecchio di Dionisio ( Ear of Dionysius). This ear-shaped cave was supposedly named by the painter Caravaggio . The story goes that Dionysius would put prisoners in the cave in the hopes of being able to hear their conversations as the cave has an incredible echo. Whether or not the story is true, the cave is fun to visit with kids and ours couldn’t get enough of hearing their echoes.
If you have time there is also the Paolo Orsi Archaeological museum dedicated to the rich history of the area. You can find Greek statues, ancient coins, as well as the remains of a Sicilian Dwarf elephant here. Also, if you are are there in summer, it’s air-conditioned. There is a combination ticket for those would like to visit the Archeological Park as well as the Paolo Orsi Archaeological museum.
Nearby the archaeological park there is a small outdoor museum, Tecnoparco Archimede. This museum has several large replicas of his inventions.
Siracusa is a wonderful Sicilian city with a fascinating history that gives a very different vibe to other Sicilian cities. Definitely make the time to visit!
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