The wonderful natural cove, which constitutes the great port of Syracuse, originates in an old, alluvial plain facing the island of Ortigia and the Madalena peninsula.Its natural position and the absence of currents make it particularly suitable for landings and for this same characteristic, the Greeks built up to seven ports there, as the historian Thucydides tells us when he describes the battle fought between Athens and Syracuse in 413 BC.Morphologically, the entire arch of the port represents the low coastline where the Anapo and Ciane rivers flow, which until the middle of the XIX century flooded a large part of the coast giving rise to marshes, which constituted a natural defense.
After the unification of Italy, the need to recover the area became essential and this was made feasible due to the reuse of materials from Ortigia’s demolished fortifications. The district still retains the name of Pantanelli and after years of fighting by environmental organizations, the wetland along with the salt flats, has been designated as a protected area.Syracuse became the most powerful city in Magna Graecia in the V century BC, while Athens lost ground among the Greek cities; as a result, Syracuse sought to intervene to reinforce its dominance in the Mediterranean.
The first significant battle took place inside the port on July 26, 413 BC, forcing the Athenians to evacuate. A second Athenian fleet of 73 ships battled the Syracusans on July 29, and the Syracusans defeated the Athenians once more. After a month, the Athenians began to show symptoms of desiring to restart the fight. An unforeseeable and fortuitous natural phenomena changed the fate of the day: a lunar eclipse, interpreted as a terrible omen, disheartened the ranks of the Athenians who hesitated to attack.
The Syracusans, on the other hand, did not share this viewpoint; rather, they took advantage of the circumstance and launched a battle that caused confusion among the enemy fleet of more than 110 ships.It was a bloody battle, and the Athenians attempted to flee, but the port´s entrance was blocked by hundreds of boats, ropes, and chains, resulting in a near-total defeat.The eventual capitulation of the Arabs by the Normans in the XI century was another key event.The magnificent port of Syracuse was the scene of a brutal naval fight, with Emir Benavert falling into the sea while attempting to board Count Roger I´s ship. The body was retrieved and sent to Africa by Roger I.
The Arab resistance crumbles after the emir´s death, and Syracuse surrenders in October, 1086.Allow your imagination to go wild as you travel through history from the top of the Alfeo seafront´s old bastions, while taking in one of the city´s most beautiful views.
GET THE MOST OUT OF THE SUN
Italian gastronomic excellence is always on everyone´s lips. Many of them are true celebrities, known and appreciated on a planetary scale, like the fragrant citrus fruits of Sicily.Oranges, lemons, tangerines grow lush under the warm sun that kisses the island and fill the air with their fresh fragrance that also makes them an ideal ingredient for the preparation of delicious recipes with a refreshing and aromatic flavor.Yes, Sicily supplies roughly 90% of the national lemon production; the majority of it is represented by the Femminello Siracusano, the most widely planted variety, making the lemons from Siracusa IGP (A European certification) the most important in Italy and Europe.
It has a long and storied relationship with the island; it´s enough to believe that citrus fruits first arrived on Sicilian shores during the Arab occupation. And, while its use was limited until the XVI century to the preparation of the most delicate foods, its cultivation became more intense from 1600 onwards, thanks in large part to the Jesuit brothers´ skill and dedication.
Only two centuries later, its popularity spread across the globe, and it was successfully transported from the old continent to England, Malta, and modern-day Ukraine.Three different types of lemons are produced depending on the flowering period of the plant, which bloom three times a year: The Primofiore, the Bianchetto or Maiolino, also known as spring lemon, and the Verdello or summer lemon.Each of them differs in size, skin characteristics, pulp, color and, of course, the harvesting period which, for all types, is carried out with strictly manual techniques.In general, the Femminello Siracusano is appreciated for its juicy pulp, the intense aroma and the fine and silky skin that, depending on the type, varies in color from deep yellow to green.
It is also a citrus fruit that is particularly rich in vitamin C and mineral salts and in addition to having a high juice yield, it has high quality essential oils.Since ancient times, it has been known for its soothing, aromatic, digestive, astringent and diuretic properties and it is considered an effective anti-stress and an excellent ally for the treatment of various disorders and diseases such as flu, kidney stones, intestinal infections and gastritis in addition to being an ingredient widely used in perfumery and in the cosmetic industry for its ability to counteract the formation of free radicals, preventing aging.In the kitchen it is a real delicacy.
In addition to flavoring the most diverse recipes, it is an excellent ingredient for the preparation of tasty desserts, ice cream, slushies and soft drinks.As a result, it´s hard to imagine anything more enjoyable than strolling through the streets of picturesque Syracuse while sipping a delicious lemonade made with the prized local lemon that has enthralled producers and consumers from all over the world.
Il Chioschetto. Piazza Emmanuele Pancali, 1
Called the Ortigia syndrome, the traveler arrives and without taking off their sunglasses and dropping their suitcase, they begin to take off with their minds.The little island is connected to the mainland by two bridges and has three sides that face the sea.Italians and foreigners arrive, and some of them open their wallets to buy properties, which are typically ruins that need to be restored. Others have promised to do so in the near future.Sue Townsend did something else: she turned Ortigia into a perfume, a fragrance, the result of a love developed on the Marquis of San Giuliano´s estate, an organic farm dedicated to citrus growing halfway between Catania and Syracuse.
Born in the English countryside, raised in the west of Ireland, Sue knew the concept of nature well. Yet, over the years she has wondered what the Mediterranean tastes like. It was difficult, perhaps impossible to describe in words, even if you count on a vast vocabulary. Something was required to convey the sensations of time, that thrilling wave capable of enthralling even the most inattentive passer-by.The product took two years to develop; the most difficult part was deciding which small businesses to work with on its implementation.Ortigia is now a modest (but rapidly expanding) essences and perfumery firm.
Sue lives in a house-museum overlooking the Arno River in Florence, where the company´s headquarters are located.She started the business in 2006, creating a line of soaps, perfumes, creams, candles, and lotions based on a simple rule: all of the components had to be natural and native to Sicily, which has always been close to her heart.Behind the product visuals, there is also work being done to promote the island´s unique identity.Sue creates the packaging using her hands, attempting to highlight the fineness of her work.
Pure ornamentation, inspired by the colors that sparkle in her eyes. The silver paper boxes are handcrafted. The evocative palm and leopard prints on the glass vases and bottles are inspired by the mosaics of Palermo´s Palace of the Normans.She goes out to harvest pomegranates or prickly pears on her own. Plants such as orange flower, linden, lavender, saffron, almond, orange, and lemon trees can be found in all of Sicily´s gardens.Even the products´ base ingredients are natural: olive oil, vegetable glycerin, and organic colorants, all of which are free of parabens. All of the products are made by tiny family businesses that take great care in their brand.
To avoid betraying the spirit of the land that had given her this opportunity, she continued her hunt for the fragrance with the same zeal as at the beginning.It has opened shops and boutiques everywhere, allowing the aromas of these lands travel and giving Ortigia global visibility.
The company is represented in Florence, Paris, New York, Hong Kong, and London, but it is in Syracuse that it reaches its pinnacle of beauty with a stunning shop in the heart of the city´s historic district.
Via Roma, 21
VERTIGOS OF BEAUTY
Piazza Archimede, the geographical center of the island of Ortigia, is a riot of timeless beauty.In Greek and Roman times, although it was not properly a square, it was the main crossroads formed by the main cardo (north-south, the current Via Dione) and the decumano (west-east, the current Vía Maestranza and Vía Amalfitana).The new flat space began to be delineated between the XV and XVI centuries, with the construction of prominent palaces belonging to noble families of the time.The buildings that dominate it depict the island´s whole history, from the Middle Ages to the present.
In a clockwise direction, the Banco de Sicilia building, completed in 1928, is distinguished by an ashlar-columned portico and a second order defined by ionic pillars.The late Baroque Pupillo Palace (1773-1800) sits to the east, with a slightly convex façade and wrought iron balconies.The former Corvaia and Zumbo palaces were demolished and replaced for the Central Savings Bank building. The first, Giovanni Vermexio´s masterpiece from 1628, was damaged, but not irreparably, by an Allied air raid on February 15, 1942.The second, which included XV century architectural elements, was demolished in the autumn of 1957 to make room for Gaetano Rapisarda´s new construction.
The six ornamental panels in high relief, which symbolize the crafts, are the work of sculptor Salvo Monica, while the bronze statues are by Biagio Poidomani.The original cantonal of Palazzo Interlandi Pizzuti, built in the XVIII century and enhanced with decorative embellishments in the modernist style, stands at the intersection of Maestranza and Roma streets.The Gargallo palace, built in the XVII century, is the next stop. Its current look, with its exquisite neo-Gothic stucco design, is the result of reforms carried out between 1895 and 1899.
Tommaso Gargallo, a brilliant scholar and benefactor, and the founder of the INDA, was born on September 25, 1760, in this castle (National Institute of Dramatic Art).The Lanza Bucceri palace, the square´s oldest building, is from the late XIV century and has a very plain façade with a basic rectangular doorway and twin windows in Catalan Gothic style.The fourth side of the square is closed by the Bank of Italy (or the clock), a XV century structure that was renovated in the 1950s. The fifteenth staircase, with a lion in a heraldic posture and a mullioned window, can be seen from the big iron porch.
On April 12, 1882, the watch was placed on the prospectus. The exquisite Diana Fountain, created in 1907 by sculptor Giu-lio Moschetti and depicting the legend of Aretusa, stands in the heart of the square. The nymph is depicted fleeing from Alpheus, who is attempting to grasp her with outstretched arms. Diana, the group´s hieratic leader, guards the young woman.
The rushed tourist with limited time in Syracuse frequently overlooks this fascinating museum, undecided on what to see amid the city´s many monumental and cultural attractions.When strolling through Ortigia´s alleyways, it is undoubtedly worth visiting the Palacio Bellomo, a stunning example of XII century civil architecture that is exceptional in its condition of preservation.The outer facade with its harsh structure of small ashlars and high plinth dates from this century, as does the ground floor with quadrilateral rooms with majestic ribbed vaults, one of which still displays the imperial eagle of Emperor Frederick II of Swabia on the ribbed of the hall of room III.
Enlarged in the XIV century, it underwent important reforms in the following century, when the palace was acquired by the Bellomo, a powerful and wealthy Syracusan family, who adapted it to contemporary housing requirements as well as Catalan architectural style (entrance portal, staircase, loggia, mullioned windows). The Regional Gallery of Palazzo Bellomo was created in 1940, when the collections of medieval and modern art were separated from the collections of the National Archaeological Museum.It now houses a permanent exhibition of 270 paintings and sculptures from the early Christian and Byzantine periods to the XIX century.
It is impossible or incorrect to rank the most beautiful paintings in this or any other museum in the world, but for those who have never visited the gallery and want to do there, one should not miss Antonello da Messina´s masterpiece: the Annunciation.Antonello da Messina is without a doubt Sicily´s best Renaissance painter, and his works can today be found in museums all over the world.The Annunciation is one of the few remaining paintings on the island, however it is in poor condition due to historical vagaries.
It was made in 1474 for the Palazzolo Acreide´s church of l´Annunziata.Missing for a long time, it was found and identified at the end of the XIX century, in a very poor state of conservation.Today, we can see it thanks to the Syracuse museum´s acquisition.Antonello da Messina is able to combine Tuscan Renaissance geometries and traditional interiors with the abundance of details of Flemish painters. The image depicts the famous Gospel chapter in which the archangel Gabriel appears to the Virgin Mary.
The locations in which the scene takes place demonstrate an amazing use of perspective, with a colorful landscape rich of minute details visible outside the windows.Fortunately, the Virgin´s delicate and exquisite face is one of the features of the piece that has survived neglect and time.
Via Capodieci 14-16
A little doorway dug out along the perimeter wall of the famous Archdiocese Garden, accessible from the Piazza del Duomo, leads to a stunning network of underground corridors, passages, and rooms that have been built over time using pre-existing constructions originating from the Greek period.The last significant phase that seals the transformation processes of this hypogeum system is related to its adaptation to an air-raid shelter during World War II, as a refuge from the bombings that hit the city, before the armistice between Italy and the Allies, which was signed at Cassibile, near Syracuse, in September 1943.
Works were carried out by the Anti-aircraft warfare citizen committee (U.M.P.A.), as part of a strategic planning initiative for civilian meeting locations in the event of an attack.For the occasion, numerous teams of "pirriatori" (excavators) were used to expand the route already marked by the pre-existence of an old quarry, the latter remembered by local chronicles from the XVIII century as a place from which the stone material used for the construction of the Cathedral´s façade was removed.Along with the refuges for the residents, it was also ordered to excavate a "holy" room, specifically fitted to protect the patron Saint Lucia´s statue and riches, which were housed in special zinc boxes.
The Archbishop´s Palace and the church of Santa Lucia alla Badia were rediscovered in 1869 during renovation work on the portion of the plaza that includes the Archbishop´s Palace.The path follows a primary gallery that leads from Piazza Duomo to the Foro Italico della Marina, where other lesser underground routes intersect, one of which leads to the vast cistern beneath Bishop Paolo Faraone´s Palace (1619-1629).
The route, devoted to the civilian victims of the Anglo-American bombardment of Syracuse on July 19, 1943, offers visitors to learn about the complex´s alterations through a series of explanatory panels with thematic plans, movies, and moving images from the terrible conflict´s final phase.
Piazza Duomo, 14
WHERE IS THE LIZARD?
Tourists who visit the city are fascinated by everything that illuminates their gaze: from the archaeological area to the beaches with clear and crystalline waters, from the architectural wonders of the Baroque to the cordiality of its people.However, the tourist is on the lookout for small details that he or she may tell their friends about when they return, and that will enrich their travel experience.In this case, we´ll show you a curiosity that not everyone in Syracuse is aware of: the "lagarto vermexiano," which is placed on one of the corners of the City Hall´s current offices, the Palacio Vermexio.
It was built between 1629 and 1633 and bears the name of Giovanni Vermexio, a member of a family of Spanish architects who settled in Syracuse at the end of the XVI century.The structure includes unique architectural features that were widely imitated in Syracusan constructions in subsequent decades.Vermexio has done an admirable job of fusing traditional Renaissance forms with vibrant Spanish tastes. A continuous wrought iron balcony, tympanums, broken frames, projections, niches, and capitals decorated with shells and masks contrast with the lavish ba-roque decoration of the second order: a continuous wrought iron balcony, tympanums, broken frames, projections, niches, and capitals decorated with shells and masks.
The niches, which are now empty, were intended to house seven marble statues of Spanish kings commissioned from Gregorio Tedeschi, who had been commissioned with all of the palace´s sculptural decoration, but the artist´s untimely death prevented him from finishing more than the great double-headed imperial eagle that dominates the central balcony, symbol of the Spanish empire.The décor of the structure is completed with festoons that unite the Corinthian capitals of the second-order pilasters below a prominent cornice.
The XVIII century Senate carriage (1763) is housed in a large glass room in the current town hall, while the antiquarium is housed in two large rooms on the ground floor and documents the results of various excavation campaigns carried out inside the Ionic Temple or Artemision (end of the VI century BC), whose remains are under the palace, from 1960 to the present.The architect Vermexio, known as "Lagarto," signed several of his works by sculpting a lizard in more or less apparent corners, either due to his physical appearance or perhaps due to the assonance of his surname with "verme" (worm in Spanish).
The artist additionally "autographed" our building at the left corner of the main facade´s cornice.
Piazza Duomo, 4
THE JEWS PASSAGE
Syracuse has been home to a large Jewish community since ancient times, which was founded in Roman times in the Akradina area, on the mainland, near the little port´s bay.The city decreased in size during the Middle Ages, and the people moved to the island of Ortigia, which is now the historic center.A small area in the extreme north of the island was also home to the island´s Jewish community, which numbered around 3,000 individuals. This region is still known as Giudecca (the Jewish quarter) and can be found between Via Maestranza and Via Larga, particularly along the narrow Via Alagona and Via della Giudecca (the medieval platea iudeorum).
The Syracuse Jewish community has lived and prospered in this district for several centuries.The remembrance is kept in the name, but due to historical events that have impacted Sicily, it is impossible to recognize the vestiges of the ancient community. Practicing Jews were exiled from the kingdom of Spain in 1492, as a result of Fernando II of Aragon´s Decree of the Alhambra. The area became depopulated, and in 1693, a devastating earthquake demolished the city, permanently altering the area´s appearance.Despite this, the Giudecca district is worth seeing for its unique lanes and proximity to the Levante seafront.
Due to various inconsistencies in historical records, archaeologists and historians have long questioned the location of the ancient synagogue. The majority of them believe it was between Via Alagona and Via della Giudecca, beneath the existing church of San Giovanniello and the Palazzo Bianca behind it.The posture is consistent with descriptions in ancient literature, and archeological evidence appear to support this notion. Some old stone blocks were reused in the construction of the church and the palace, and ancient and fragmentary inscriptions in Hebrew letters were discovered in two of these blocks."... the synagogue of Siracusa, established with justice and faith," reads the first inscription, which can be seen inside the church´s apse.
A second inscription was discovered during the renovation of the adjoining Palazzo Bianca, marking the grant of land for construction. Underground rooms with an old miqwe, a Jewish ceremonial bath, were unearthed during the same excavations, fed by subterranean spring water.The church of San Giovanniello, which is located along Via della Giudecca, is now consecrated and available for weddings.
It now does not have regular openings for guided tours, save on rare occasions when the stone segment with the old inscription can be seen.Palazzo Bianca, on the parallel Via Alagona, currently houses the tourist residence "Alla Giudecca", in addition to hotel reservations, guided tours of the miqwe, the old Jewish bath, can be made from the reception.
Via della Giudecca
ACTION, WE ARE SHOOTING!
Sicily is an open-air setting. Commissioner Montalbano´s or The Godfather´s film sets are now well-known. However, when the lights go out and the characters appear, Syracuse takes center stage.The image of the imaginary city of Castelcut is developed primarily between Noto and Siracusa in Giuseppe Tornatore´s film Malena. Castelcut, like many other fictitious cinematic places, is a magnified Sicily.In a way, the setting becomes a character in its own right. To better understand the characters in the film, a heated and dense Sicily is created, in which stereotypes are multiplied.
The Piazza del Duomo in Siracusa is unquestionably the focal point of Castelcut´s identity. This location appears multiple times in the film, most notably to depict Monica Bellucci´s "parades," in which she crosses the plaza in front of all of her fellow compatriots.This unalterable location also acts as a counterpoint to the metamorphosis of the protagonist and her parable to the bitter end.Once you get to the square, we recommend you, as in Malena, to stop at one of the historic bars to savor a moment of architectural splendor.
The square is a Baroque design achievement and a must-see for anybody visiting the city, not least since it is flanked by all of the city´s significant landmarks, which include anything from beautiful cathedrals to magnificent aristocratic mansions.The Cathedral, with its vastness and beautiful XVIII-century façade, is unquestionably the focal point of the entire plaza.
Recognizable for its imposing Greek columns, it is a first-rate masterpiece, as well as an important place of worship, now Catholic but which throughout its history has been a Greek temple and mosque. It is not, however, the only thing worth seeing, as the Piazza del Duomo is a treasure trove of incalculable worth.
The baroque Palazzo Beneventano dal Bosco, which was notable for housing Admiral Nelson during the Napoleonic conflicts, the City Hall and Palazzo Borgia Impellizzeri, as well as the church of Santa Lucia alla Badia, continues to loom large.
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