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 Syracuse Free Walking Tou

Syracuse Free Walking Tour

Every Tuesday & Friday afternoon (summer months and Christmas period)

  • Visiting Modica, the town of the hundred churches

    St. George's church in ModicaThere are at least two good reasons to visit Modica, in the southeastern limit of Sicily: its superbe churches in baroque style and its traditional and particular local chocolate. Modica is located on Hyblean plateau, near Ragusa. The houses of the town are on a hill and descend into the surrounging valleys remembering the seeds of an open pomegranate as writed by the Sicilian author Gesualdo Bufalino. Modica was destroyed by an earthquake in 1693 and was then rebuilt in its superbe baroque style. Thanks to the elegance of the architecture of its buildings, the town is inserted in the Unesco world heritage list.

    It is easy to arrive to Modica from Syracuse or Catania using the Catania-Siracusa-Gela freeway and the SS115 national street. Modica is also served by two public bus services and has a train station. Trains are not recommended because the service is very inefficient in Sicily excluding the nice baroque train, a touristic line active during the summer months.

    Focus point of a visit to Modica is corso Umberto, the main street. A good starting point for a trip is piazza Matteotti. The Chiesa del Carmine church is located on the square. It's one of the few churches which wasn't destroyed by the earthquake of 1693. Note the portal built in elegant sicilian-gothic ("Chiaramontano") style. The portal is decorated with a nice rosette window. The most important artwork inside the church is the marble sculpture "Annunciazione" (Annunciation). Moving up along the corso, you'll soon see the clock tower (torre dell'orologio) on the hilltop. The tower is built on the remains of the old medieval castle of Modica. In the 13th century Modica became a powerful county, the most important in Sicily, under the administration of the Chiaramonte family and the Cabrera family.

    Turning into via Marchesa Tedeschi it is possible to visit the interesting Santa Maria di Betlem church. Highlights of this church are the ancient gothic Cabrera chapel and the permanent Christmas crib with figures made of terracotta by the renowned masters of Caltagirone. The landscape and the clothes are inspired by the ancient Sicilian rural livestyle. In 1902 Modica was hit by a flood. A line drawn on the wall, near the church's entrances marks the height reached by the water during these terrible days.

    Modica, panorama viewReturning on the main street, corso Umberto, you'll soon arrive to the St. Peter's church. It's the most beautiful church of Modica togheter with the St. George's church located near the ancient castle on the hilltop. The stairway is decorated with the statues of the apostoles. The inside is decorated with superlative stuccoworks. The lateral chapels are letterally filled with artworks. Highlights are the Trapani Madonna statue and the statue of St. Peter and the paralytic, realized in a very realistic and dramatic style.

    If you like walking, the little streets which climb to the hilltop are surely worth a visit. It is also possible ti visit the birthhouse of the writer Salvatore Quasimodo, who won the Nobel price for literature in 1959.

    On the top of the hill, facing the historica centre in the lower part of the town, is the St. George's church. The stairway and the luminous baroque facade are magnificient. The inner side of the church is decorated with white and golden stuccoworks and with a lot of paintings and other artworks. The most important paintings inside the church are the Assunta of Filippo Paladini and the polyptych of Bernardino Niger behind the main altar. The meridian realized on the floor before the altar is also very interesting.

    Modica is also famous for its traditional chocolate. A stop at one of the many chocolate shops is a must visiting Modica. The chocolate of Modica is inspired by an ancient recipe brought by the Spanish, during their domination of Sicily, directly from the Aztechs in America. The chocolate is raw and is worked without milk. It is realized in many unusual flavours like orange, cinnamon or chili pepper.

    Visiting Modica with a private guide

    If you are looking for a guided visit of Modica you can visit the website of Hermes-Sicily. It is a group of tour guides which organizes visits in the south east part of Sicily. For further informations it is also possible to write an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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  • Visiting Noto, the baroque pearl of Sicily

    Noto, in the province of Syracuse, in the south-eastern part of Sicily, is one of the "baroque jewels" of the island. Thanks to the magnificent architectural details of its churches and nobiliary buildings, the town  belongs to the world culture heritage list of Unesco. The town is also known as "stone garden". If you are visiting eastern Sicily, Noto is surely worth a visit. It's possible to visit the historic town center in a half day. In a full day it's also possible to visit the surroundings: the roman mosaics of the Tellaro villa, the nature reserve of Vendicari, the archaeological area of Noto antica (ancient Noto).

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  • Visiting Palermo: top places to see

    Palermo, Sicily's largest town, is a place full of history and monuments. To visit the town and discover its beauties would take at least 3 days, but often we do not have so much time when we are on holiday. In this article we collect some suggestions for the visit of Palermo and we try to list the absolute "highlights" of the town which it's possible to see spending few hours, half day or a full day for the visit. There are many other monuments, not listed in this article which will find place in an other page dedicated to Palermo

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     If you need a free  tourist map of Palermo, you can find some examples indicating the main monuments, to download and to print in our section "Maps of Palermo" that is always updated with new materials. Now have a look at the main monuments of Palermo:

    Palermo in 2 hours

    Norman royal palace and palace chapel (Palazzo dei Normanni and Cappella Palatina)

    If you only have few hours to visit Palermo, choose to see the Norman palace in the heart of the historical centre. The name of the building remembers that it was the residence of the Norman kings of Sicily. It's architecture is impressive and today it's the seat of the Sicilian autonomous parliament. Inside the palace is located the palace chapel, built by Roger II the Norman and full of marvelous, golden byzantine mosaics representing religious themes. These mosaics belong to the most beautiful of the whole Mediterranean area.

    Opening hours: Mon to Sat from 8.15 am to 5.40 pm, Sun and holidays 8.15 am to 1 pm. Full price ticket: € 8,50. The palace chapel is closed during the holy mass. Updated infos about openings and tickets are available on the website of the Fondazione Federico II.

    Palermo in half day

    If you have half day to visit Palermo, after the Norman palace you can have a look to some of the other monuments of the old town center. Near to the Norman palace is the church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti.

     San Giovanni degli Eremiti church

    This church, built in the twelfth century, is an architectural symbol of Palermo. Thanks to its red domes it's one of the best expression of the arab-norman style which remembers the inteweaving of different cultures in Sicily. It was part of a Benedictine monastery of Norman age. The cloister is decorated with small columns and ogival arches. The garden is lovely and contains typical Mediterranean plants.

    Opening hours: every day from 9 am to 7 pm. Full price ticket: € 6, reduced € 3. Info: Assessorato Beni Culturali

    Cathedral

    The building of the cathedral of Palermo began in the year 1184 and the works soon became a real artistic battle against the near cathedral of Monreale. The façade is adorned by towers, spires and ogival arches in arab-norman style. The church contains the imperial and royal tombs of Frederick II, the empress Constance of Aragon, Henry VI and other rulers of Sicily. Very intersting is also the visit to the treasury of the cathedral among which it's possible to admire a wonderful golden tiara with pearls and precious stones of Constance of Aragon.

    Opening times: March to October, Workdays 9 am - 5.30 pm | Holidays 9 am - 1.30 pm and 4 pm - 7 pm. November to February, workdays 9 am - 1.30 pm | Holidays 9 am -1.30 pm and 4 pm -7 pm. Tickets are required for the imperial tombs, the crypt and the treasury. Full ticket: € 7 (reduced € 5), Information about openings and tickets: Cathedral website

     

    Palermo in a full day

    If you have the full day free to visit Palermo. you can continue our itinerary walking through the roads of the old town centre to discover the colors and sounds of this Sicilian town. Walking along corso Vittorio Emanuele you can have a look at some nice corners like the quattro canti or the fontana pretoria or you can visit the Kalsa or the typical market Vucciria. A little out of the way but very interesting for their peculiarity are the catacombs of the Capuchins, visited by a lot of tourists due to their fame derived by a lot of books and documentaries about them.

    Monastery and crypt of Capuchins

    The catacombs of Capuchins were used from the 16th to the 19th century and are recent, compared to other sicilian underground cemeteries. Their fame derives from the 8000 mummies, dressed in their best clothes which lie or are hung along the walls of the underground catacombs. Certainly, the catacombs of Capuchins are the most gruesome Sicilian monument but it also an unique opportunity to discover this ancient funeral tradition.

    Opening hours: Every day 9 am - 12.30 pm and 3 pm - 5.30 pm (from the end of October to the end of March, closed on Sunday afternoon). Tickets: € 3 - Taking photographs is not permitted inside the catacombs. Info: Provincia di Palermo

      

    La Martorana (or Santa Maria dell'ammiraglio)

    This church was built in the 12th century by George of Antioch, an admiral of Roger II. The building was often modified during the centuries but it maintains an eclectic arab-norman style and inside are preserved magnificent byzantine mosaics which remember those of the palace chapel. Near the Martorana it's also possible to have a look to the nice San Cataldo church..

    Tickets: € 2 Information about openings and tickets: Diocesi di Palermo:

     

    The stucco works of Serpotta: oratorio di Santa Cita, San Lorenzo and San Domenico

    Up to now we have admired. most of all, arab-norman style buildings and ancient byzantine mosaics but also the baroque churches of Palermo are worth a visit. From the end of the 16th century to the beginning of the 17th century, in Palermo worked the master Giacomo Serpotta which made incredible stucco sculptures to decorate the interior of many churches. You can have a look to these beautiful works in the oratorio di Santa Cita, in San Lorenzo and in San Domenico. In the last mentioned you can also admire paintings by Pietro Novelli, Luca Giordano and Antonie van Dyck.

     Full ticket for three oratories: € 5. Entrance free for the churches. Photographs are not allowed. Info: www.santacita.it 

    Archaeological museum "Salinas"

    This museum is one of the most important archaeological museums of Sicily. It's located near the Santa Cita church. The collection contains materials from prehistoric, Greek and Roman age. Very important are the marble and bronze sculptures and the Greek red and black figures  ceramics. Don't miss the room which displays the materials of the Greek Sicilian colony of Selinunte with its incredible sculpures from the ancient temples.

    CLOSED FOR RESTORATION WORKS - Info: Museum Website

    Regional gallery of Palazzo Abatellis

    The museum is located in an ancient monastery of the 15th century. The gallery displays paintings and sculptures from whole Sicily from the 14th to the 16th century. Some of the most famous masterpieces of the museum are the Virgin of Annunciation by Antonello da Messina, the marble bust of Eleonor of Aragon by Francesco Laurana and the Malvagna triptych by  Jan Gossaert.

    Full price ticket: € 8 (reduced € 4). Updated opening hours are published on the Website of the Museum Abatellis

     This was a small list of the most famous monuments of Palermo but more days are required for a complete visit of the town and to discover its colors, lifestyle and also its famous gastronomy. Other important monuments of Palermo are the Teatro Massimo, the Palazzo Steri, the Zisa, the botanic garden and the traditional sicilian puppets shows. The location of these monuments is a little out of the way among the monuments listed in this article. It's also very interesting visiting the surroundings with the cathedral of Monreale, Cefalù and the temple of Segesta.

    Note: We always try to publish updated information about ticket prices and opening hours but in Sicily there are often sudden variations. For this reason we suggest to control these informations on the official websites or to phone at the ticket office.

    Useful links

     


    Photo credits

    S.Leggio/Sicilystockphoto.com. Foto con licenza creative commons: Cappella Palatina (acidonucleico/Flickr), San Giovanni degli eremiti (dalbera/Flickr), Cattedrale (minifig/Flickr), Catacombe dei cappuccini (giovy.it/Flickr), Museo Salinas (A.Baldassarri/Flickr), Martorana (kristobalite/Flickr). La foto dell'Annunciata è del Yorck Project ed è sotto licenza GNU

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  • Visiting Syracuse: archaeology, baroque and nature

    Syracuse with it's ancient monuments and the great location on the seaside is a wonderful place to visit

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  • Visiting Taormina, the pearl of Sicily

    Taormina, thanks to its enchanting position, between the mount Etna and the Mediterranean sea, deserves the name of "pearl of Sicily". Taormina, Taormina has always been a "must see" for visitors coming from all over the world. The beautiful panorama, the ancient monuments, the lively nightlife and the great touristic organization are the strength of Taormina. It is the ideal place to enjoy a typical sicilian panorama, to buy souvenirs or to do shopping in fashion shops. During your Sicilian holidays a visit in Taormina, few hours or better a whole day, is absolutely to recommend.

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