The "latomies" and caves belong to the most famous sights in the Neapolis Archaeological Park along with the theatres. The area started as a quarry used to build the neapolis itself when Siracusa was founded, and today consists of huge rock walls (as in my travelogue) and caves, of which the Ear itself is the biggest with its length of at least 20 metres. The Ear is so called since that is what it looks like (especially once you are inside and can see the curve) and because of the weird acoustics in it. Even the faintest sound can be heard and it is said that the evil Dionysius himself eavesdropped on prisoners he had inside. The fact that the quarry was in the north of the city can also have helped saving the city when it needed defending as the rock walls really are steep. The gardens outside are excellent for your children to spot lizards in :-)))
Neapolis (The Archeological Zone)
"The Greek Theater"
The theater is approached up a path to the left after the ticket office where there is access to the cavea, which reveals itself as 9 wedgesof 42 rows of seats hewn out of the rock! (this was once 59 but the destructive Charles II of Spain removed lots of stonework hereabouts for his own inartistic uses].At its largest it seated 15K and may be the biggest theater of the age.Below is the orchestra and the bases of a scena. These are Roman alterations in size and appearance to accomodate gladiatorial and Naumachia type combats (the Romans were not into drama).There is also a recess (trench) for a curtain. The board seats are a "comfort" for attendees of the present day biennial drama festival which takes place in May and June in even # years. A full picture of the cavea is in our Things to Do Tip as are many better views by others.
"Orecchio di Dionisio (The Ear)"
The entrance to this artificial cavern does look like an ear. The size is great (23m high, 11m wide and 65m deep). It is situated in the back wall of the extensive limestone quarry (latomia) which is the base of the hill with the city above and beyond. The acoustics allow the male guides to show off their machismo with"shower-stall" renditions of "Santa Lucia" (real money tip?) a la Pavarotti. You will hear it incessantly.
"Grotta dei Cordari (rope-makers)"
This cavern is somewhat NW of the previous one in the same rock face. The humidity in it made it possible to twist marine ropes more tightly. Access is no longer allowed because the humidity today is polluted ground water and the heavy traffic and urban construction above on the hill makes authorities wary of lethal rock falls. The vegetation in the area is interesting and there are big rocks around under which you can stand and pose.
"Altar (Ara) of Hieron II"
The altar all of which was "reutilized" by Charles II (the destroyer of Anitique Art} is gone except for its base which was hewn into the resident rock mass.The nearest thing to it is the next biggest Altar(and luckily "preserved"} whose base is in Pergamon Turkey and whose artwork is in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. The altar here lasted in some state until the 1530's when Charles did it in. Unfortunately you can only see it through the iron fence, but do not miss it.
"Necropoli delle Grotticelli"
We did not get a good picture of this are. The best place to see them (since rock-climbing is not allowed) is from the busy main street, via Teracati . You can see the edgeof the city at the top of the picture close to the rock face.( You should locate the viewing site on a map)
"The Roman Amphitheater(Background)"
On entering theadmissin gate (on our right as we ascend from the lower sites) , we walk past a lane of stone sarcophagi of the period (1C AD) placed there for color. They do not have carved surfaces that would make them worthy of museum display. (It reminds me someswhat of the Alyscamps in Arles). The arena is approached from its North ( the real entrance is S. but we cannot go there. This is unusual for a Roman structure since it is built int a hillside (Greek style) instead of free standing. It measures 140x119m. It is the same size as the one in Pozzuoli and thus is the 4th largest (a little smaller than the one in Verona) in Italy. The only one we have missed is #2 in Santa Maria Capua Venere, 19 miles N of Naples. (We will never get to that area again) (Next page)
"The Arena (details)"
There is a parapet and a corridor for wild animals and gladiators as well as subterranean area for storage and machinery, Lying in the infield weree modern flooring and stacks of nice plastic chairs suggesting that some outdoor performances now occr but I could not find any such details.(Or is this a storage area for the Theater performance materials?)
"Church of S. Nicolo"
This little church sits in a fenced-off area on your right (as you enter) and now on the left as we leave the Zone. There were no tourisst stands all around when we were there (it was out of season). The Church dates from the 11C and is Romanesque. They are digging under it for prehistoric remains as many old churches sit on previously sacred grounds.