Top Historic Sights in Syracuse, Italy

Explore the historic highlights of Syracuse

Cathedral of Syracuse

The Cathedral of Syracuse (Duomo di Siracusa) origins on this site date to prehistory. The great Greek Temple of Athena was built in the 5th century BC. The temple was a Doric edifice with six columns on the short sides and 14 on the long sides. Plato and Athenaeus mention the temple, and the looting of its ornament is mentioned by Cicero, in 70 BC, as one of the crimes of the governor Verres. The present cathedral was ...
Founded: 7th century AD | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Ear of Dionysius

The legendary Ear of Dionysius is the most famous cave in Syracuse. It’s called this way for its ear shape and above all for its remarkable acoustic properties which amplify the sounds inside it. Its name was given by the painter Michelangelo da Caravaggio. According to the legend, the tyrant Dionysus used it as a jail and he used to eavesdrop on the prisoners’ conversations. This cave was dug in Greek/Roman times a ...
Founded: 5th century BC | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Bellomo Palace Regional Gallery

Bellomo Palace Regional Gallery is situated in the premises of Bellomo Palace. The origins of the palace have been traced to the 12th century, the time of Hohenstaufen rule of Sicily. The palace still features a number of unusually well-preserved elements from this time. The main facade, as well as the basement and ground floor, still essentially retain the 12th-century appearance of the building. Alterations were made i ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Greek Theatre of Syracuse

The Greek theatre of Syracuse lies on the south slopes of the Temenite hill, overlooking the modern city of Syracuse. It was first built in the 5th century BC, rebuilt in the 3rd century BC and renovated again in the Roman period. Today, it is a part of the Unesco World Heritage Site of 'Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica'. It seems that the theatre was renovated in the third century, transforming it into the ...
Founded: 5th century BC | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Palazzo Montalto

Palazzo Montalto was built in 1397 for Maciotta Mergulese. In the 15th century, the Queen of Aragon gave the palace to Filippo Montalto. It was used as a temporary hospital during a cholera epidemic in 1837, and it was used by the Figlie della Carità in 1854. The palace is built in Chiaramonte Gothic architecture. Its façade is characterized by a number of mullioned windows decorated with flower motifs. It also ha ...
Founded: 1397 | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Temple of Apollo

The Temple of Apollo is one of the most important ancient Greek monuments in Syracuse. It is dated to the beginning of the 6th century B.C. and is therefore the most ancient Doric temple in Sicily and more or less, the first which corresponds to the model of the temple surrounded by a peripteros of stone columns that became standard in the whole Greek world. The temple underwent several transformations: closed during the ...
Founded: 6th century BCE | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Altar of Hieron

The Altar of Hieron is a monumental grand altar in the ancient quarter of Neapolis in Syracuse. It was built in the Hellenistic period by King Hiero II and is the largest altar known from antiquity. The structure is aligned roughly north-north-west to south-east-east, and is located in the Neapolis. Almost nothing except the foundations of the structure survive today. The structure was partly built from masonry blocks an ...
Founded: 3rd century BCE | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Castello Maniace

The Castello Maniace is a citadel and castle situated at the far point of the Ortygia island promontory, It bears the name of George Maniakes, the Byzantine general who besieged and took the city in 1038. Originally, one could only enter the castle over a bridge spanning a moat (now filled). A feature of the castle is the decorated portal. Today the castle is open to public and is a local tourist attraction in Syracuse. ...
Founded: 1232-1240 | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Roman Amphitheatre of Syracuse

The Roman amphitheatre is located in the ancient suburb of Neapolis, in what is now an archaeological park, near the Greek theatre and the Altar of Hieron. The amphitheatre is on a different orientation to these other structures and probably follows the lines of an urban plan developed in the late classical period, which is reflected by the street discovered near the Sanctuary of Demeter in the suburb of Achradina. The ma ...
Founded: 1st century AD | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi

The Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi is one of the principal archaeological museums of Europe. In 1780 the Bishop Alagona inaugurated the Museo del Seminario which became the Museo Civico near the archbishop"s house in 1808. Subsequently, a royal decree of 1878 sanctioned the creation of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Siracusa, which was only inaugurated in 1886, in its historic location on the cathe ...
Founded: 1886 | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Basilica of Santa Lucia

Basilica of Santa Lucia Extra moenia is a Byzantine church built (after Norman rebuilt), according to tradition, in the same place of the martyrdom of the saint in 303 AD. The current appearance is from the 15th–16th centuries. The most ancient parts still preserved include the portal, the three half-circular apses and the first two orders of the belfry. Under the church are the Catacombs of St. Lucy. For this church  ...
Founded: c. 1100 | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Basilica and Catacombs of St. John

The Basilica of St. John the Evangelist was built in the 6th century by the Byzantines on a crypt dating from the 1st century AD. It is of great importance both for its architectural aspect (as it was the largest building built in Syracuse) and because its memory is related to the origins of the Christianity in the city. For a long time this church was identified with the ancient cathedral of the city and here were built ...
Founded: 1st century AD | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Roman Gymnasium

The monumental complex known as Gymnasium, probably built in the second half of the 1st century AD, consists of various constructions. Surrounded by the remains of a quadriportico are the ruins of the temple preceded by an altar, and a theatre. There was also, from Greek times, the sacellum with the remains of Timoleon.
Founded: 1st century AD | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Euryalus Fortress

The Euryalus Fortress was the key point in the fortifications of the ancient Greek city of Syracuse. It is located on the highest point of the hill of Epipolae. During the Athenian invasion of Sicily (415-413 BC), the fortress did not yet exist, but the strategic importance of the area was clear; the Athenians initially captured the hill, but their failure to retain it prevented them from effectively besieging the city. ...
Founded: 402-397 BCE | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Tomb of Archimedes

In the northeast corner of the Archaeological Park there is a long street strewn with graves from the Greek, Roman and Byzantine periods, which were carved into the limestone cliffs here. Among them there is also the famous 'tomb of Archimedes', which can be recognized easily by its gabled façade. According to legend, the famous mathematician, who died during the Roman siege of Syracuse in 212 BC, is buried her ...
Founded: 212 BCE | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Vigna Cassia Catacombs

The Vigna Cassia catacombs located next to thel Parco Archeologico Neapolis, owe their name to the family that owned the vineyard (at the time of discovery), which was located above the catacombs themselves. They were found in 1852 during excavations by the Commission of Antiquities and Fine Arts, which at the discovery of steps carved into the rock that led to about 15 meters below street level, decided to deepen the re ...
Founded: 3rd century AD | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Syracuse War Cemetery

Syracuse War Cemetery is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission burial ground for the dead of World War II. The site of the cemetery was selected in 1943 at an early stage in the operations for the capture of Sicily. In this cemetery most of the graves are those of men who lost their lives in the landings in Sicily on 10 July 1943, as part of the early stages of the campaign to capture the island (Operation Husky). They ...
Founded: 1943 | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Temple of Olympian Zeus

The Temple of Olympian Zeus, the second oldest temple in Syracuse after that of Apollo in Ortigia, rose in the ancient village called Polichne, in a panoramic position, slightly elevated. The Doric building, surrounded by large monolithic columns, appeared really impressive. Today, what is left of the huge building (which measured 20.50 meters x 60) is part of crepidoma and two columns of the south side. From it there ...
Founded: 6th century BCE | Location: Syracuse, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Palazzo Colonna

The Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.

The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).

With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).

Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.

The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.

The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.

Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.