5. From Taormina: Full-Day Guided Tour of Syracuse
For those traveling to Sicily, Syracuse is not to be missed. Once the most important city in Magna Graecia, it defeated the mighty Athens in 413 and was home to many a great Greek, including the inimitable Archimedes. At the height of its economic, political, and military power, the city had a population of 300,000 and, according to Cicero, was "the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all.” Join a full-day guided bus tour of this great city, which includes a visit to its archaeological sites as well as the island of Ortygia.
First, visit the archaeological site, which is situated in the northwest of the town and is home to a staggering number of well-preserved Greek and Roman remains. The main attraction is undoubtedly the Greek theater, which dates back at least until the 5th Century BC. Its cavea is amongst the largest ever built, its 59 rows could accommodate up to 15,000 spectators.
Just over the ridge from the theater, you will see the old stone quarries where today there grows a fragrant lemon orchard. Also, visit the famous Ear of Dionysius, a 20m-high, slender pointed arch cut into the rock face about 65m deep. The rock was once used by Dionysius the Tyrant as a prison for his bitterest enemies. After stopping by the Roman amphitheater, continue on to the Archaeological Museum, which contains a great collection of exhibits from all over the Syracuse area.
Spend the second half of your day wandering around the beautiful island of Ortygia. It may be a small island, but it's packed with over 2,500 years of history. Architectural styles vary widely, encompassing Greek and Roman remains, Medieval Norman buildings, and a great deal of understated Baroque visible in the main cathedral. In the afternoon, take a break to relax in one of the island's many restaurants, trattorias or bars, as you take in the sights of the lagoon.