The modern city, created after the bombings of the Second World War, hides the ancient one. Remnants and renovation are its characteristics.
Pieces from a distant and mythical past mix with Swabian architecture, the Gothic-Catalan style of some of the buildings, and luxurious baroque.
Ortigia, a small island connected with the land by a bridge, contains all this in an area 1km long and 500m wide.
On this island the ancient city was built and it has been an enchanting location throughout its age, there is also a legend of the city's foundation: they say that the nymph Aretusa re-emerged from the sea here, after swimming from the coast of Peloponnesus having escaped from the river god Alpheus, and once here she was transformed into a fresh-water spring by the goddess Diana, to whom she called for help.
The Spring of Aretusa is the symbol of the city and Ortigia is the varied and harmonic face of Syracuse.
Beyond the New Bridge are the four quarters of the mainland: Acradina, Tyche, Neapolis and Epipoli in the suburbs. These make up the Syracuse rebuilt after the bombings of World War 2 and they mix with the ancient Syracuse. Small residential and commercial districts meet the large archaeological park.
Today it is still possible to immerse yourself into the enchanting atmosphere of one of the best kept Greek theatres in Sicily, in which every year they still perform the cycle of Greek tragedies that in their original location manage to combine modern innovations in theatre with their roots in classical Greek culture.
Under the theatre, a path leads to the latomie, ancient quarries from which the stone was mined to build the monuments of the city. Together with some caves like the famous Dionigi’s Ear (so called by Caravaggio), the latomie hide enchanting gardens and citrus groves.
From under the ground of Syracuse the past keeps on emerging. Aside from the archaeological artefacts that enrich the large Museum, under the ground of Syracuse there is an intricate and far reaching network of catacombs, the most ancient of Sicily. The only one that is accessible is under the Basilica of San Giovanni and visiting it is a beautiful experience.
The final touch to the richly layered and extravagant architecture of Syracuse is the monolithic Sanctuary of Madonna delle Lacrime (Our Lady of Tears), standing out against the modern buildings and the remains of the old theatre. Designed in the shape of a giant tear, it is touching for its majesty and blends little with its surroundings. The many different elements of Syracuse may make it a little confusing but also very fascinating.