Veduta di Pantalica
Una delle vedute di Pantalica

Visiting the necropolis of Pantalica

One of the most impressive archaeological sites in Sicily and an Unesco world heritage is the rocky necropolis of Pantalica, in eastern Sicily, in the province of Syracuse. This site is somewhat off the beaten track but surely worth a visit. Pantalica is a prehistoric site of the late bronze age (from the 13th to the 8th century BC) and is famous for its necropolis: thousand of tombs dug in overhanging walls of the Anapo canyon. But Pantalica is also famous for its breathtaking nature and is part of the Anapo valley nature reserve, a paradise for trekking.

The necropolis of PantalicaIn this post we give information for an "archaeological" visit of Pantalica's plateau. In an other post we will talk about the Anapo valley and it's nature trails. Pantalica is the name of the plateau surrounded by the canyons formed by the rivers Anapo, Bottigliera and Calcinara. It has always been an optimal position to built a fortress against enemies and today it's possible to admire wonderful panoramas from there.

There are two possible access points to Pantalica, from the small towns of Ferla  and  Sortino, in the province of Syracuse. If you have only few hours to visit the site we suggest to choose Ferla as access point because it's closer to the most famous archaeological remains.  The trail on the side of Sortino is very beautiful but a longer walk is needed to reach the bottom of the canyon, go up on the other side of the creek and arrive to some monuments like the anaktoron, the so-called "palace of the prince".

The Anaktoron in PantalicaAlso driving to Pantalica is impressive thanks to the beautiful landscapes but there are also a lot of curves and low speed is necessary so it takes about 1 hour from Syracuse to Ferla.  Unfortunately it's not possible to reach Pantalica with public busses. Few busses from Syracuse stop in Ferla and Sortino but there are still several miles to the entrance to the reserve and no taxi services in this small towns. So an own car is required or it's necessary to book in advance a private transfer.

Pantalica is in Unesco's world heritage list but at present there are only few services for tourists. Have a break in Ferla or Sortino for postcards or for a drink or a snack. In that area there are also good "agriturismi", rural restaurants. Arriving to Pantalica from the side of Ferla, few miles before the site and the area "Filiporto", there is an infopoint of the rangers.  Here it's possible to take a map and there are also toilets. There is also a ranger checkpoint at the other access point in Sortino, with maps but without toilets. The access point Ferla is always open, Sortino opens at 8 am and closes at sunset.

What to see in Pantalica

What can you see in Pantalica? First of all there is the famous rocky cemetery. The tombs are dug in the rocks on every side of the plateau in incredible positions and seem a behive. It's possible to reach some tombs and have a look inside. They look like small stoves or artificial grottos with one or more rooms. Archaeologists have found a lot of objects: ceramics, jewelry and weapons but they are not on site. If you are interested in the finds of Pantalica you have to visit the sector A of the "Paolo Orsi" archaeological museum in Syracuse.

In the middle of the plateau there are also the foundations of the so-called anaktoron, probably it was the palace of the prehistoric ruler or a sacred building. Unfortunately only few stone blocks are still on place but the megalithic stones are impressive and were an incredible technological goal for the Sikels, the population of the bronze age in Sicily. The anaktoron is similar to some Mycenean constructions in Greece.

It's also possible to see Byzantine and medieval ruins in Pantalica like some rocky churches: San Micidiario, Crocifisso and San Nicolicchio where it's still possible to see parts of ancient frescoes on the walls.

Every corner of Pantalica is wonderful for it's panorama. Spring and autumn are the best seasons for a visit.

The main trails in Pantalica

Pantalica mapIt's possible to take a map at the chekpoints of the rangers. The main archaeological trails in Pantalica are the following:

- Ferla access: few miles after Ferla it's possible to park the car at the "Sella di Filiporto" and from there walk along the hillside track visiting the medieval ruins of San Micidiario, San Nicolicchio and then the Anaktoron. With a longer walk it's possible to reach the downhill track to the Calcinara creek.

- Sortino access: you start with the descent to the Calcinara creek, passing near some tombs and having a great panorama over the north necropolis. With a side trail it's possible to arrive at the Bat's grotto (closed for security reasons).From the river it's possible to go up on the other side, passing near the Crocifisso oratory and arriving to the anaktoron after a lonk hike.

There is very few shadow on the Pantalica plateau. In the summer months we suggest to avoid the central hours of the day for the visit and to take a hat and water with you.

Guided tours of Pantalica

A guided tour in PantalicaA guided tour is a good option to visit Pantalica. A guide will lead you along the best trails giving information about the archaeological sights and the nature reserve. At present there are no regular group tours. It's possible to book a private guide with Hermes Sicily Guides, a group of licensed tour guides who offer half-day and full-day tours and trekkings. It's possible to have a look at Hermes Sicily's tour guides website for further information about the tours and the rates. Usually the walking tours will be with meeting point on place but small groups can also ask for an additional transfer service with minvan/minibus with departure from Syracuse.




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