WHS: Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica, Italy

As a grand finale to our tour around Sicily from Mount Etna to the Baroque Towns, today’s World Heritage Site visit is to a site that combines relics of all three millennia of Sicilian civilization:

Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica


The site consists of two separate elements, containing outstanding vestiges dating back to Greek and Roman times: The Necropolis of Pantalica contains over 5,000 tombs cut into the rock near open stone quarries, most of them dating from the 13th to 7th centuries BC. Vestiges of the Byzantine era also remain in the area, notably the foundations of the Anaktoron (Prince’s Palace).

The other part of the property, Ancient Syracuse, includes the nucleus of the city’s foundation as Ortygia by Greeks from Corinth in the 8th century BC.

The site of the city, which Cicero described as ‘the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of all’, retains vestiges such as the Temple of Athena (5th century BC, later transformed to serve as a cathedral), a Greek theatre, a Roman amphitheatre, a fort and more. Many remains bear witness to the troubled history of Sicily, from the Byzantines to the Bourbons, interspersed with the Arabo-Muslims, the Normans, Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen dynasty (1197–1250), the Aragons and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Historic Syracuse offers a unique testimony to the development of Mediterranean civilization over three millennia…

The main things to see at the Syracuse Archaeological Park which contains the Classical remains of ancient Syracuse are the Greek and Roman ampitheatres — here’s the Roman ampitheatre, carved out of the living rock for gladiator fights and other such Romanesque diversions:

Interesting enough to be worth a visit if you’re nearby, but not dramatically different from Classical cities elsewhere.

The Necroplolis of Pantalica, now that’s something a bit different. You can see from the lead photo there that the rock face is pockmarked with tomb entrances — that’s just one of the five main cemeteries scattered around the valleys:

Unfortunately, there’s no artifacts to visit on the site; what tomb robbers didn’t plunder over the years has been removed to the Archaeological Museum in Syracuse, which is conveniently located a short walk from the Archaeological Park.


p dir=”ltr”>It does make a pleasantly scenic afternoon hike around the valley visiting the various chambers though; so this is a good site to compromise on for the historians and the athetes to enjoy!

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  1. […] our tour of Sicily ending up in Syracuse, the next country on our list was the holiday destination of Malta — but less well known is that […]

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