In Saracen, Byzantium and Bourbon times, the city suffered invasion and then 'salvation' from opposing forces. Siracusa, the "fairest of cities" according to the Roman Cicero, was a powerhouse of intellectual thought in that part of the Mediterranean colonised by the Greeks. It was home to Archimedes, who is reputed to have set the Roman fleet on fire by reflecting a mirror onto ships' sails. He is also the man who ran naked through the streets crying 'Eureka' ("I have found it") after making a scientific discovery in his bath.
Not surprisingly, Siracusa has a wealth of ancient remains, including the pillars in the splendidly simple Christian cathedral dating from the seventh Century. Its magnificent 15,000-seat theatre, the best preserved outside Greece, was the venue for first nights of some plays by Aeschylus, the greatest of Greek dramatists. Classical plays are still performed here today.
The island of Ortigia, joined to the mainland of Siracusa by two bridges, is a fascinating web of ancient baroque buildings and narrow streets with two main piazzas buzzing with an assortment of restaurants, bars and cafes. It boasts a wealth of ancient treasures including the Cathedral, Arethusa fountain Palazzo Bellomo housing the city's fines arts museum which includes works by Caravaggio and Antonello da Messina. From the harbour it is possible in high season to take a short boat trip across to a quiet sandy beach.
Excursions are available from Siracusa.