Archaeological Park Neopolis: A captivating park consisting of phenomenal Roman ruins, a Greek theater with a unique history, along with an impressive Roman amphitheater, and fantastic stone quarries.
When visiting Siracusa, whether you choose to make the Archaeological Park Neopolis your first stop or your last, you definitely need to make sure it is on the top of your list of places to see.
The Archaeological Park is conveniently located in the mainland of Siracusa, Sicily just about twenty-five minutes away on foot from the other main attraction, Ortygia Island. When visiting the Archaeological Park, allow for about two to three hours to soak in the design and history of this area. The Archaeological Park Neopolis is comprised of three main sections: latomie or stone quarries, the Greek theater, and Roman Amphitheater.
When visiting latomie or the stone quarries, expect to see a plethora of vivid, colorful lemon and orange trees in place of what was once a limestone quarry. Also located in this area is a tall, narrow cavern. History tells us prisoners were strategically kept in this particular location due to its phenomenal acoustics, allowing the ruler of the time to spy or listen in on the the captives’ conversations. The cave’s pointy shape, resembling an ear and its great acoustics are why this cavern is referred to by Caravagio as the “Ear Dionysius”.
Nearby the “Ear Dionysius” is another awe-inspiring cave, that was referred to by rope makers as Grotta del Cordari. Unfortunately, due to an earthquake this site is currently closed and can’t be visited.
In addition to visiting latomie, while at the Archaeological Park Neopolis, it was great to see the two historical theaters and learning about their very different purposes. Seeing and exploring the Greek theater at Archaeological Park Neopolis is an incredible experience. Here in Siracusa, Sicily sits this theater whose original construction dates back to 5th century BC. Although renovated since during the third century BC and has undergone renovations in the Roman era, it stands almost completely how it was in the third century BC.
Interestingly enough, the material used to build this theater was abstracted from the hill that provides structural support for this territory.
Currently one of the largest theaters in the world, comprised of about forty-two rows, allowing seating for somewhere around 15000 people, historically, the Greek theater satisfied a variety of purposes. Originally tragedies were performed, then comedies held their place on stage and then later in time, the people of Rome used to flood the stage with impromptu sea battles.
Presently, you can visit the park and enjoy the breathtaking views that serve as a backdrop to this theater. The seats advantageously face the ocean. Also, this arena is still utilized during the summer months for entertainment, mainly classical plays. The Greek Theater Festival runs from approximately mid May to the end of June and attracts visitors from all over.
The original theater is covered with wooden seats so that you can actually sit in the amphitheater to view a play, and not damage the original structure.
Then there is the Roman amphitheater, which just like the Greek theater is used for entertainment in the summer. However, its original intent was very different than that of the Greek’s. The use was not deemed quite as upscale. The amphitheater was used for violent, gladiator and animal fights, much like at the Roman Colosseum.
When touring the Roman Amphitheater, if you look closely, in the middle of the amphitheater there is room that is rectangular in shape. It is surmised that this room was either used simply to hold the equipment used for the fights, or a more morbid conjecture is that this room was used to gather the stage participants’ blood from the violent competitions viewed as entertainment. For peace of mind, I think I’ll assume the first guess is the most accurate.
Tips when visiting Siracusa Archeological Park:
- If you are in the age range of 18-25, you can get discounted tickets to the park.
- Bring a water bottle, as you will be doing a lot of walking, and there are no food services inside the archeological park.
- Bring your camera, there is a lot to see.
- Archaeological Park Neopolis opens as early as 9:00 am, so start your day off early, leaving time for other attractions as well.
- Get a bus ticket at the Piazza Pancali and you will have a mode of transportation all over Siracusa.
I really enjoyed visiting the Archaeological Park Neopolis. It’s incredible how the quarries, Greek theater, and Roman Amphitheater are packed into one single location. When in Siracusa, Sicily, I encourage you to come to the Archaeological Park Neopolis. You will get to see first hand, what many only get to read about in History books.
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