Syracuse & Taormina or Noto
The best of Ancient Greece and Sicilian Baroque.
A NOTE ABOUT DRIVING TIMES
From Giardini-Naxos, Syracuse & Taormina is the recommended combination; going to Noto makes the driving times too heavy. From Catania we recommend combining Syracuse with Noto for the inverse reason.
From Giardini-Naxos: Syracuse & Taormina, 3 hrs
From Catania: Syracuse & Noto, 2.75 hrs
Besides having 2700 years of history behind it, Syracuse can also boast being the most important city in Magna Graecia and one of the major powers in classical antiquity. Founded by the Ancient Greeks, it was described by Cicero as “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all.”
Today Syracuse is a UNESCO World Heritage site, thanks to its monuments and archeological sites that are “the finest examples of outstanding architectural creation spanning several cultural aspects; Greek, Roman and Baroque.” The archeological area of Syracuse contains a staggering number of Greek and Roman ruins, the most popular of which is the Greek theatre from the 5th Century BC, one of the largest ever built by the Greeks.
This part of Sicily is renowned for its Baroque architecture, which you will find in abundance in Piazza Duomo and on the island of Ortigia, the ancient heart of Syracuse joined to the mainland by three footbridges. In addition to the seemingly innumerable architectural points of interest, Ortigia is also home to a fabulous farmers market.
A bit further south from Syracuse is Noto, where legend tells that not only Daedylus but also Hercules slept there. It fell under Arab rule during the 9th Century, and then Norman.
Noto is best known to visitors today for its fine examples of the Sicilian Baroque style.
Perched high on a cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea, Taormina is a beautiful place with a great story to tell. It was inhabited prior to the the arrival of the Ancient Greeks, who established Taormina as one their earliest colonies in Sicily. Today you can touch still touch this part of Taormina's past by visiting the Greek Theatre, which is in excellent condition and offers stunning views of the brilliant blue sea with Mt. Etna beyond. (If history and scenery aren't your thing there are lots of shops and restaurants to explore.)
Over the millennia, as in so many parts of Sicily, Taormina has been influenced by many diverse peoples and cultures -- everything from the Moors to the Normans to the Crown of Aragon to the Bourbons -- which can still be seen in its architecture. Its prosperity has endured throughout the various eras, evidenced today by the elegance and size of its cathedral and many of its buildings.
By the end of the 19th century Taormina had become a haven for artists, writers and intellectuals, attracting such notable visitors as Oscar Wilde, Richard Wagner and Tsar Nicholas II. Today the town is host to a variety of arts festivals encompassing film, music, dance and theatre.
DURATION: 8-9 hrs
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