Friday, February 8, 2013

Discover the Roman treasures of Sicily

June 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel Guide

Sicily enjoys a significant position right in the heart of the Mediterranean region, which has allowed for settlers and conquerors from the medieval Normans, Aragonese Spanish, Moorish North Africans, ancient Greeks, Phoenicians, and Romans to come here and thrive. What few people know is that Sicily’s Roman ruins are on par with the ruins of Rome itself, and anyone with an interest in Roman archaeology will love exploring the ancient ruins of Sicily.

Ancient Sicily has a very diverse history which you will see if you visit the Museo Archeologico Regionale in Palermo. One of Italy’s best archaeological museums, it has unique treasures that show the multiple foreign occupations. You will have the opportunity to examine treasured artifacts from the island’s various civilizations, including the Phoenician, Punic, Greek, Roman and Saracen times.

Here are some of what we believe to be the greatest Roman ruins on show in Sicily:

Cape Boéo: The Marsala Roman ruins in this area consist of a villa with baths and variegated mosaics, as well as the San Giovanni Church, constructed on top of a cave made into a home in the Roman era. Punic era ships are on display at the Baglio Anselmi Archeological Museum on Lungomare Boéo.

Catania: There are two Roman amphitheaters in Catania, including one that is similar to Rome’s Colosseum. The smaller of them, off Via Vittorio Emanuele, built on a pre-existing Greek theatre, held an audience of 6,000, while a larger one, near the central business district in Piazza Stesicoro, is entirely Roman, and was constructed in the 2nd century.

Solunto-Palermo: The ruins of a town rebuilt by the Roman conquerors 50 years after the Greeks had expanded it in 396 BC, are located just seventeen kilometers east of Palermo. The ruins are mainly made up of floors with several mosaics, and the bottom parts of the walls, with a few murals and columns. Even though they have a little archaeological museum here, nearly all of the initial artifacts come from the Palermo’s Regional Archaeological Museum.

Taormina: The Greek amphitheater located here was constructed in the 3rd century BC and later underwent an expansion by the Romans, who increased the stage size. There is an amazing view of Mount Etna and the sea beyond the theatre. There are drama performances during the summer at the theater. Close by Santa Caterina church is the odium, a considerably smaller Roman theater.

Tyndaris: In 396 BC, Dionysius the Elder founded Capo Tindari Tyndaris, which was destroyed later by ravaging conquerors, but now it has been excavated to display the wreckage of everything including a basilica and a Roman theatre. The setting overlooking the sea is simply amazing.

Villa Romana del Casale: Piazza Armerina is a Roman villa, several kilometers from the outskirts of town, which was constructed between 330 to 360 AD, and it is one of the biggest existing classical era Roman buildings anywhere. The villa has 40 rooms, and features Western Europe’s most fabulous mosaics illustrating scenes from everyday life, such as hunting, and one particular mosaic showing 10 young women wearing strapless 2 piece swimsuits that could well be in style nowadays.

Anybody who loves archaeology on a trip to Sicily must visit the Valley of Temples, the biggest and greatest collection of ancient Greek ruins worldwide. As well, you will discover necropolises, houses, streets and other things usually present in an ancient city. Make sure to visit the small amphitheater, the various auditoria, as well as the excellent archeological museum.

Don’t miss the Concord Temple which has 13 large wind eroded columns. Situated outside the city of Agrigento, on Sicily’s southern shore, the temples have a dramatic appearance at night with floodlights accentuating their shape and form.

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