182km (113 miles) S of Messina, 87km (54 miles) S of Catania, 330km (205 miles) SE of Palermo.
You'll be following in the illustrious footsteps of the scientist Archimedes, statesman Cicero, evangelist St. Paul, martyr St. Lucy, painter Caravaggio, and naval hero Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, on a visit to Syracuse (Siracusa). Seeing its ruins will be one of the highlights of your trip to Sicily, because of all the Greek cities of antiquity that flourished in Sicily, Syracuse was the most important, a formidable competitor of Athens and, in its heyday, it dared take on Carthage and even Rome. What remains of the city's classical past—among some unattractive modern development—is impressive, and the still-functioning Teatro Greco amphitheater is where Aeschylus premiered his plays and Archimedes is said to be buried.
Much of what you'll want to see is on the miniscule island of Ortygia (Ortigia), accessible via the Ponte Nuovo ("New Bridge") built in 2004. The picturesque island is crammed with ancient monuments clustered around one of the most attractive squares in Italy, the Piazza del Duomo, and its beautiful Duomo (cathedral) is the oldest church in Europe. Where Archimedes ran through the streets shouting "Eureka!", Ortygia is a must on a trip to Sicily because of its temples, castle, palazzi, churches, and bustling market. Allow yourself at least 2 hours to explore, plus another hour to visit its labyrinthine alleys lined with crafts shops, boutiques, restaurants, bars, and cafes, which make it a lively spot during the summer. The local specialty is swordfish, freshly caught by local fishermen.
Syracuse is a cauldron in summer, when it's incredibly humid. Do as the locals do and head for the sea to the beaches at Fontane Bianche, about 19km (12 miles) away, and Lido Arenella, only 8km (5 miles) away.