Parco Archeologico della Neapolis

sights / Historic

Parco Archeologico della Neapolis information

Location
Syracuse , Italy
Address
Viale Paradiso
Telephone
+390 93 16 50 68
Prices
adult/reduced €10/free-€5
Opening hours
9am-6pm Apr-Oct, 9am-4pm Nov-Mar
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For the classicist, Syracuse's real attraction is this archaeological park, with its pearly white, 5th-century-BC Teatro Greco , hewn out of the rock above the city. This theatre saw the last tragedies of Aeschylus (including The Persians ), which were first performed here in his presence. In late spring it is brought to life again with an annual season of classical theatre.

Just beside the theatre is the mysterious Latomia del Paradiso , deep, precipitous limestone quarries out of which the stone for the ancient city was extracted. These quarries, riddled with catacombs and filled with citrus and magnolia trees, are where the 7000 survivors of the war between Syracuse and Athens in 413 BC were imprisoned. The Orecchio di Dionisio (Ear of Dionysius), a grotto 23m by 3m deep, was named by Caravaggio after the tyrant, who is said to have used the almost perfect acoustics of the quarry to eavesdrop on his prisoners.

Back outside this area you'll find the entrance to the 2nd-century Anfiteatro Romano , originally used for gladiatorial combats and horse races. The Spaniards, little interested in archaeology, largely destroyed the site in the 16th century, using it as a quarry to build Ortygia's city walls. West of the amphitheatre is the 3rd-century-BC Ara di Gerone II , a monolithic sacrificial altar to Heron II where up to 450 oxen could be killed at one time.

To reach the park, take bus 1, 3 or 12 from Ortygia's Piazza Pancali and get off at the corner of Corso Gelone and Viale Teocrito. Alternatively, the walk from Ortygia will take about 30 minutes. If driving, you can park along Viale Augusto (tickets available at the nearby souvenir kiosks).