Modern Syracuse (Siracusa in Italian) is a medium-sized city with a population of about 125,000, the fourth largest in Sicily, and is both a cultural and a commercial centre. The city is head of a province covering very diverse territory, occupying the south-eastern corner of Sicily, that includes a long coastal strip, the Hyblaean Mountains and the famous Baroque town of Noto. To the north up the coast, about an hour’s drive away, lies Catania with its international airport, close to Mount Etna, the greatest volcano in Europe.
In ancient times, Syracuse was also known as Pentapolis, or five cities, for her five inter-connecting districts of Ortygia, Achradina, Neapolis, Tyche and Epipoli. These districts still exist and the modern city has expanded to cover much the same area as in ancient times.
The main features of the modern city are:
- Ortygia, the historic centre, containing most of the ancient buildings, built on a promontory sticking out into the sea
- The two harbours, with Ortygia’s open market situated near the Little Harbour
- The shopping and residential streets around Corso Umberto, a district built in the 19th century joining Ortygia to the modern city
- Corso Gelone, the main shopping centre and wide boulevard that leads towards the Archaeological Park
- Belvedere and the Euryalus Castle on the Epipoli hill behind the city
The ancient monuments are mostly to be found in:
- The Archaeological Park
- The Archaeological Museum
- The Epipoli Hill