In a setting of citrus trees and prickly pears, on the headland of Capo Schisò, lie the ruins of the Naxos excavations, the site of the first Greek colony in Sicily. This site has been inhabited since 735 B.C., and has gone through the various tribulations of all such colonies, thriving and prospering until conquered and devastated -- only to rise again out of the ashes.

If you're driving, head out on Via Naxos, which becomes Via Stracina. The ancient site lies in the dusty, barren scrubland above Giardini-Naxos. The actual excavations are behind a rusted iron fence facing the uphill (landward) side of the main road leading into Giardini-Naxos. Inside, you'll find the repository of artifacts that remained after Dionysius of Syracuse razed the city in 403 B.C.

This is not Pompeii, so don't be disappointed. What the tyrant didn't raze to the ground, centuries of builders carted off for other structures. Little remains today, with the exception of some structural foundations and the pavement stones of ancient streets.

The best of what was dug up is displayed in the Archaeological Museum, on two floors of an old Bourbon-built fort. The most evocative artifact is a statuette of Aphrodite Hippias from the 5th century B.C. As a curiosity, one exhibit displays objects removed from a surgeon's grave, including a strigil, a speculum used to examine injuries, and tiny ointment jars.

The site is open daily from 9am to 6:30pm in summer and until dusk the rest of the year. Admission is 4€ for adults, free for children 17 and under. For information, call tel. 0942-51001 (no website)

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