• Marco Duyves

Focus on...Syracuse, Sicily

Updated: Aug 11, 2019

Where mythology and Sicilian Baroque blend perfectly.

Syracuse Piazza Duomo

Syracuse August 2019.

Syracuse was in its heyday, the 4th and 5th century BC, the most important city of the ancient Greeks, even more important than Athens. Testimony to this splendour is the archaeological site just outside the present city centre, the main feature of which is the ancient Greek theatre.

Other than the archaeological park, Ortygia is Syracuse’s main attraction. This island, connected by two bridges to the mainland, was the location of the first Greek settlement over 2700 years ago and has been the heart of Syracuse ever since. Surrounded by sea-facing bastions, a magnificent castle and several picturesque harbours, the waterfront has some excellent locations for photography.

Chiesa di Santa Lucia alla Badia, Syracuse

Syracuse too was almost completely destroyed in the disastrous 1693 earthquake, Italy’s most powerful earthquake in recorded history, which wiped out over 70 towns and villages. Like everywhere else in this part of Sicily, Syracuse and in particular Ortygia was rebuilt in the Sicilian baroque style.

The beautiful local sandstone is a photographer’s dream; it changes colour throughout the day, from warm orange with the first and last rays of the sun to a lovely light beige in full sunlight. In my opinion, Piazza Duomo is one of the most beautiful squares in Italy. Dominated by the stunning Duomo, the semi-circle of baroque palaces lining the square and the beautiful pavement convey a sense of grandeur.

As happened with many other Greek and Roman temples, the temple of Athena in Syracuse was converted to a church in the 7th century. The original Doric columns of the 5th century BC temple were incorporated into the outer walls of the Duomo and can still be seen today. Later, after the Arab conquest in the 9th century, the church was converted to a mosque, but in the 11th century was converted back into a church. The façade is late Sicilian baroque from the 18th century.

The Duomo or Cathedral of Syracuse

Greek mythology has been a presence in Sicily throughout the ages, and Ortygia’s Fonte di Aretusa (the Well of Arethusa), still in existence near the sea today, is a prime example. According to the ancient poems, the Greek river god Alpheus fell in love with Arethusa. Arethusa rejected him and fled and begged the goddess Artemis to help her. Artemis transformed Arethusa into a river that disappeared into the earth. When Arethusa surfaced in Ortygia, Alpheus seized her, and their waters mingled; she has been in his embrace ever since.

Ortygia offers some great cityscape and street photography opportunities. The combination of the historic buildings, quaint alleys, fantastic squares, colourful markets and beautiful shoreline make this one of the top photography spots in Sicily.

I Due Frati, Syracuse

Syracuse offers also a stunning coastline, with excellent features for sunrise and sunset seascape photography.

Punta Asparano, Syracuse

Focus on Sicilia specializes in Photo Tours in Sicily. Syracuse is included in the itineraries of the eight-day Eastern Sicily and twelve-day Sicily Highlights Photo Holidays offered by Focus on Sicilia. Each Photo Holiday has multiple departures in 2019 and 2020.

For more info visit

Marco Duyves

All images © 2019 Marco Duyves

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