Archaeological Park of Neapolis ★★

Siracusa's Greek theater, famous quarry, and Roman ruins

This vast archaeological park contains Siracusa's greatest concentration of ruins.

It's divided into three main sections: the latomie (stone quarries), the Greek theater, and the Roman amphitheater, all of which you can see in about two hours.

The first two (latomie and Greek theater) are together beyond the main gate. Hold on to your ticket, for upon exiting the Greek theater / latomie area you backtrack up the souvenir stand–lined road to enter the Roman amphitheater area.

The Latomie

After the ticket desk, veer right onto the path down to the Latomia del Paradiso, an ancient quarry now planted with a jungle of orange and lemon trees.

In the back wall is a narrow cavern 76 feet high, 214 feet deep, and only about 25 feet wide.

It was dubbed by Caravaggio the "Ear of Dionysius"—either due to its pointy shape, like the ear on a satyr, or its remarkable acoustics, allowing you to stand at one end and hear a whisper spoken at the other.

Dionysius' name enters the picture from a local legend that this ancient tyrant used this cave as a prison and its acoustics to spy on his captives. Not that Dionysius was a tyrant or anything. "Tyrant" was actually the official name of the ruler of Syracuse in that era—like saying "king" or "president" or "governor." That isn't to say he wasn't above playing hardball politics; just that he wasn't tyrannical in the modern meaning of the word. (Oh, and aside from similar-sounding names, he had nothing to do with the Roman god of wine, either—that "Dionysus.")

Next door to the "ear" is the pretty Grotta dei Cordari ("ropemaker's cave"), a wide quarry fissure romantically filled with water and maidenhead ferns. Its preservation is in a precarious state, so it has been roped off for years. Pity.

The Greek Theater

Return to the ticket office and take the left path, which leads to the stark white curve of seats comprising the Greek theater, one of the largest in the world at 455 feet in diameter.

Built in the 5th century BC and later expanded, its 42 rows of seats were hewn directly out of the living rock, and probably saw the first productions of some of Aeschylus' plays.

The Romans, who felt serious drama was to be taken only in moderation, adapted the thing so they could occasionally flood the stage and stage tiny mock sea battles.

They still use the theater for summertime productions (mostly classical plays)—wonderful if you can attend one, but the modern stage and fill-in-the-gap aluminum grandstand seating they erect during the season kind of spoils the antique mood for daytime sightseers.

At the top of the cavea are niches that once contained little votive altars, plus a little niched pond that collects the cold water flowing from an ancient aqueduct—great for dipping your tired feet.

The Roman Amphitheater

On the path down into the Roman amphitheater area you'll see on your left the few columns still standing and the long stone base of the 3rd-century BC Altar of Hieron II, at 653 by 75 feet, the longest altar ever built.

The AD 1C Roman amphitheater, was where Siracusans held bloody gladiator fights and the like when they tired of the plays at the Greek theater.

It, too, is used today for productions (mainly musical) in the summer, when bright red poppies bloom against the green wash of the overgrown seating sections.

Siracusa tours
 
 
 

Tips

How long does Siracusa's Neapolis archaeological park take?

Expect to spend a minimum of two hours here.

There's plenty of walking from place to place, and it takes a while to explore each one.

Cumulative tickets

There are two cumulative tickets you can get covering the archaelogical park plus a museum:

Performances in Siracusa's ancient Greek theater

The city sponsors summertime events held in the ancient Greek theater.

These tend to be of classical plays translated into Italian—some of which even premiered in this very theater... 2,500 years ago.

Contact the tourist office for specifics, or check out indafondazione.org.

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
     
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
     
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).