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Siracusa, Siracusa

Siracusa , Sicily
Italy's insider take:

One of the most sophisticated cities in the ancient Greek world, Siracusa is also the most elegant in present-day Sicily. The historic center, located on the island of Ortygia, is connected by bridge to the mainland; among the remarkable ancient Greek monuments here is the almost-intact, fifth-century B.C. Temple of Apollo. The huge Doric columns of this temple actually lie inside the city's Byzantine cathedral; from inside it's obvious that the columns are, in fact, supporting the ceiling, roof, and structure of the church. A statue of the Virgin Mary, to whom the cathedral is dedicated, stands above the altar in the same place where, 2,500 years ago, a massive statue of Athena stood.

Just down from the cathedral on Ortygia's winding main street, Corso Umberto, is the Fountain of Arethusa, where fresh water continues to bubble up in huge quantities, just as it did in ancient Siracusa, when it was the city's main water supply.

The vast, fifth-century-B.C. Greek theater, located on the mainland in the Archaeological Park of Neapolis, looks out over the city toward the sea. This was considered one of the most important centers of Greek theater and poetry; the last tragedies of Aeschylus, including The Persians, were first performed here in his presence. Now, every May and June, a theater festival of classical tragedies and comedies performed in ancient Greek takes place (800-380-0014).

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