Southeast Sicily trip planner

The cities, sights, and attractions of Southeastern Sicily

★★★ Ancient Siracusa - Siracusa (Syracuse to some) is my favorite city in Sicily. It makes a great base and good spot to slow down for a day or two, for while it has plenty of top-notch sights to keep you busy, it also sports a relaxed atmosphere, with pleasant cafes, seaside walks, and open-air restaurants to while away the hours. Siracusa was settled by Greeks in 733 BC and was the major power in Sicily from 480 BC through the Roman occupation. With a perfect location at the center of the Mediterranean world, the heritage of this powerful trading port has left the modern city with everything from fantastic ruins—including one of the world's largest intact Greek theaters—and a baroque old quarter to one of Italy's finest archaeological museums and the only stands of papyrus that grow in Europe (supposedly a gift from Egyptian ruler Ptolemy II)... » more

★★ Baroque Noto - Noto is the single best example of baroque urban planning in existence, currently on the road to recovery after years of decay that culminated in the 1996 collapse of the cathedral dome. Medieval Noto was so utterly destroyed in the 1693 earthquake that the Duke decided to bag the whole thing and rebuilt the city from scratch about six miles away. This planned urban landscape—completed between 1715 and 1780—is a festival of orderly baroque exuberance, with churches, palazzi, and open spaces carefully laid out with 18th-century theatrical flair... » more

Medieval Ragusa - Ragusa is really two cities. When the earthquake of 1693 did serious damage to much of their ancient city—founded by the Bronze Age Sikels and swept by an early baroque building craze just before the quake hit—Ragusans decided to move a bit east to rebuild. They raised their new, late baroque–and-modern city (Upper Ragusa) between the gorges that ran away from the damaged little hill-top town. By largely abandoning the original hill town—now called Ragusa Ibla—they ended up preserving it virtually intact as a quiet, medieval-meets–early baroque Sicilian city... » more

The ceramics of Caltagirone - If you're into hand-painted Italian ceramics, head to Caltagirone. Caltagirone (from the Arabic for "castle-cave") was founded in the Bronze Age on a trio of hilltops, giving the medieval city a intricate street plan today lined by baroque and Art Nouveau buildings, many studded and decorated with painted ceramics and tiles. They've been making pots in Caltagirone for 4,000 years, but it was with the Arab conquest in the 9th century that the ceramics industry really picked up and the local craftsmen refined their majolica art. Today the little city thrives on the tourists and collectors who visit its some 130 ceramics studios and showrooms, and it is home to Sicily's regional ceramics museum.... » more

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