Parco Archeologico della Neapolis

Top choice archaeological site in Syracuse

For the classicist, Syracuse's real attraction is this archaeological park, home to the pearly white 5th century BC Teatro Greco. Hewn out of the rocky hillside, this 16,000-capacity amphitheatre staged the last tragedies of Aeschylus (including The Persians), first performed here in his presence. In late spring it's brought to life with an annual season of classical theatre.

Beside the theatre is the mysterious Latomia del Paradiso, a deep, precipitous limestone quarry out of which stone for the ancient city was extracted. Riddled with catacombs and filled with citrus and magnolia trees, it's also where the 7000 survivors of the war between Syracuse and Athens in 413 BC were imprisoned. The Orecchio di Dionisio, a 23m-high grotto extending 65m back into the cliffside, was named by Caravaggio after the tyrant Dionysius, 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 Sd'A Trasporti minibus 2 (€1, 15 minutes) from Molo Sant'Antonio, on the west side of the main bridge into Ortygia. Alternatively, walking from Ortygia will take about 30 minutes. If driving, park on Viale Augusto (tickets are available at the nearby souvenir kiosks).

The ticket office is located near the corner of Via Cavallari and Viale Augusto, opposite the main site.