Syracuse’s Archaeological Park
Visiting Syracuse’s archaeological park is an absolute must do when in Sicily and was a real highlight of our trip. Situated just a walk from the old, historical centre of Ortygia, the archeaological park is small enough to explore properly and in great condition. Syracuse is full of history, and the Syracuse Archaeological Park is brimming with charm, character and an insight into the past.
The Neapolis Archaeological Park of Siracusa contains both Greek and Roman architecture lying side by side. Although we are no history buffs we found the site fascinating and beautiful in equal measures. It is a shame there is not more information freely available throughout the park. If you like to know what you’re looking at then I recommend doing a bit of reading before hand, or paying for the information available at the ticket office. As we’re on a budget we used trusty google to guide us around!
We visited Syracuse’s archaeological park in April when there were very few crowds and at times it felt as though we had the site all to ourselves. I imagine in the height of tourist season it is much busier, but don’t let that put you off. There are plenty of places to hide from the crowds and get lost in a little history.
What To Expect When Visiting Syracuse’s Archaeological Park
The Greek Theatre
The Greek Theatre is on the right hand side of the path as you pass the ticket office, and is arguably the most impressive part of Syracuse’s Archaeological Park. The Greek Theatre has been preserved to a high standard and as you approach you will be greeted with gleaming white stone steps leading down the stage below.
Dating back to at least the 5th century BC, the Greek theatre is among the largest ever built. It’s 59 rows could accommodate up to 15,000 spectators and has staged the works of Sophocles, Euripides and the last tragedies of Aeschylus, including The Persians, Prometheus Bound and Prometheus Unbound, which were first performed here in his presence.
The theatre is still used for performances and there is a festival that runs from late spring. If you are lucky enough to be visiting at this time then it would be well worth trying to book a ticket.
Be aware: As this is a working theatre there are often building works going on here. Although not the prettiest, it didn’t ruin the experience for us. If you are lucky enough to get tickets to one of the performances here we imagine you would be in for a treat!
From a path leading down beside the Greek theatre you will find the strange Latomia del Paradiso, a deep limestone quarry that provided stone for the ancient city and later became a prison for 7000 survivors of the war between Syracuse and Athens in 413BC.
It is riddled with catacombs (most of which you are unable to enter) and filled with citrus and magnolia trees. It is here that you will find relief from the heat of the sun. This area, although small, makes a pretty place to rest your feet for a while before exploring the Roman amphitheatre.
The Orecchio di Dionisio is an unusual site and one that is not to be missed. This 23m-high cave extends 65m back into the cliff and was named by Caravaggio after the tyrant Dionysius, who is said to have used the acoustics of the quarry to listen in on his prisoners whispered secrets. We can see how this would be possible, as even a whisper at the back of this grotto is amplified to enormous levels due to the ear like shape of the cave! Kids and adults alike will have endless amounts of fun whispering messages to each other and singing at the top of their voices.
The Roman Ampitheatre
On the right hand side you will find the entrance to the 2nd-century Roman amphitheatre. Sadly much of it was destroyed by The Spaniards in the 16th century when they used the stones to build Ortygia’s city walls. It is large, measuring 140 meters by 119 meters and had a much more gory purpose than the civilised Greek plays.
The Roman’s used the amphitheatre for gladiator fights with wild animals and horse races. In the centre of the arena is a rectangular room that is supplied by two canals. This area was possibly used to collect the blood and gore from the gruesome contests that took place.
West of the amphitheatre is the 3rd-century-BC Ara di Gerone II. This is a monolithic sacrificial altar, where up to 450 oxen could be killed at one time.
For a more detailed historical account of the site visit the parks own website here (and make sure google translate is switched on if you don’t speak Italian!) We used this information to guide us around the site and found it just as good as any tour guide or audio guide!
Visiting Syracuse’s Archaeological Park-How To Get There
The thirty minute walk from Ortygia isn’t the most beautiful, but you will pass a few of Syracuse’s sights on the way, so it may be worth combining. It’s also the most ecological of all the options, and the best for you, so there’s that!
The quickest way to get to Syracuse’s Archaeological Park from Ortygia is by car, just a five minute drive and there is plenty of parking along the road beside the archaeological park at just a few euros. Pay at the machine near to the entrance.
There is a bus from Molo Sant Antonio, on the west side of the main bridge into Ortygia that will take around 15 minutes and cost 1 euro per person.
What you need to know when visiting Syracuse’s archaeological park
Ticket Price For Visiting Syracuse’s Archaeological Park
10 euros per adult, with discounts for children, students and Italian teachers.
Tip: Keep hold of your ticket for the entire trip. You will end up needing it on more than one occasion!
We thought this was a little steep, considering that you will pay the same for a ticket to Sicily’s more famous (and much, much bigger!) Valley of the Temples. If we had to pick only one we would have visited Valley of the Temples, but if budget allows then we think Syracuse’s archaeological park is definitely worth a visit too.
8.30am-1hr before sunset. Go early or late to avoid the worst of the crowds.
There is a small (expensive) cafe and toilets on the Roman side of Syracuse’s archaeological park. This is on the left hand side as you walk past the ticket office. There are also toilets on the Greek side that are a little less obvious. Turn to the left as you enter and you should spot signs.
Access To Syracuse’s Archaeological Park
The archaeological park is well set up for wheelchair access, though some of the paths weren’t open when we were there at a quieter time of year. They were clearly signposted so we assume they open the paths as necessary.
Where To Stay In Syracuse
You can choose between staying in the older and more historic Ortigia or in the more modern side of town across the bridge. We would choose Ortigia every time for the character and accessibility, and have listed a range of choices below. Bare in mind though that Syracuse’s Archaeological Park is a little outside of Ortigia as I mentioned above.
This choice is not only cheap, but also a great choice for those on a budget because it has a kitchen meaning you can cook for yourselves. Eating out in Ortigia isn’t the cheapest and although there are budget food options here, the cheapest option by far is to cook for yourself.
A room here will put you at the heart of the action, literally a stones throw from Syracuse’s cathedral and only a 3 minute walk from the beach. The views aren’t too shabby either!
For pure luxury try this apartment overlooking the city and the sea. You will also receive a very warm welcome from the host!
Gear We Couldn’t Have Done Without
We don’t go anywhere without our Chillys water bottles. They’re lightweight, slim enough to fit into handbags or bottle holders easily (we hate how wide some of the water bottles are these days) and the main thing we love-they keep drinks hot or cold for 24 hours. We usually fill one with a hot drink and one with a cold, then we get the best of both worlds! These also make a great gift as they come in so many fun colours and designs.
Sun cream and Sun hat
For obvious reasons. We use Tropic sun cream because it’s environment friendly, so we don’t need to feel guilty about going for a swim while wearing it. It’s also skin friendly. Adam suffers bad allergic reactions to just about every sun cream other than this one. We figured that must mean it’s pretty good all round!
I have to admit, I have some Mammut walking boots that were pretty expensive (compared to most of my clothes!), but they have lasted me YEARS and they are hands down the best shoes I have ever owned. They are comfortable, waterproof and don’t look too bad either!
Adam, on the other hand, bought some cheap walking boots from Amazon and wore them around the whole of Sicily. They won’t last too much longer but they did the job!
If you aren’t such a keen photographer, but like something that you can have a play with when you feel in the mood, then I can thoroughly recommend the Olympus OM-D. It’s small and light, so I can take it anywhere. I have the option to change lenses (I love my zoom lens for wildlife shots), but it also works great as a point and shoot. It looks really stylish too-a great reason to buy a camera!
We had a lovely few hours here visiting Syracuse’s archaeological park and could have happily spent another hour or so exploring and taking in the sights. If you are in the area then we would thoroughly recommend a visit. It was one of our favourite sights in Syracuse, and very educational too! If you have a few days in Sicily then see below for some more inspiration.
- Ragusa Ibla, just as beautiful as Ortigia!
- Valley of the Temples, a huge site of historical importance, and pretty incredible too!
- The Turkish Steps, a stunning site of natural beauty
Let us know if you’ve found this guide useful in the comments below, your feedback is always appreciated!