The Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica

Eleonora Ruzzenenti | Live the World

November 23, 2022

With its more than 5,000 rock-cut tombs, the Necropolis of Pantalica is the largest in Europe. The site of Pantalica is well worth a visit not only because of its historical value, but also for its stunning scenery. Indeed, this archaeological site is located not far from Siracusa on a cliff that overlooks the gorges of the river Anapo. The necropolis is set in a Nature Reserve and UNESCO placed it on the World Heritage List due to its archaeological, ethnic, anthropological and natural value. This area, as well as being rich in history is also a valuable natural oasis and to swim in the cool waters of this river is a unique opportunity for fans of canyoning.

There are two possible access points to Pantalica, from the small towns of Ferla and Sortino, in the province of Siracusa. If you have only few hours to visit the site we suggest to choose Ferla as access point because it's closer to the most famous archaeological remains. The trail on the side of Sortino is very beautiful but a longer walk is needed to reach the bottom of the canyon, go up on the other side of the creek and arrive to some monuments like the Anaktoron (palace of the prince).

Arriving at Pantalica you walk down into the gorge which has over 5,000 late bronze and early iron age tombs (13th to mid 8th century BC), dug into the rock, along with the Anaktoron positioned at the top of a hill, a reminder of the grandiose Mycenaean palaces. The Pantalica plateau supported several ancient villages, and families threw ropes over the cliff edges to dig their tombs. Over time these were raided by Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans and the myriad other conquerors of the country. By the 12th century many peasants farmers from the plateau had dug out the tombs to make houses from the caves. They still spoke Greek even though the ruling classes spoke Latin, and this variation can still be seen in the underground churches. Some of the catholic churches still show Byzantine-style frescoes, and some such as the Church of St Micidiaro from the 12th century show the separate iconostasis and gabled roof. In the Medieval Age the villages became refuges for peoples exhausted by enemy incursions.

I went to visit the area during a day trip from Siracusa but I had never visited the necropolis of Pantalica with my son and I did not look at things with the eyes of a mother. I want to come back with my little boy soon because he is a big fan of prehistory, we have many books that tell the story of primitive men and I am sure he will be absolutely fascinated by this magic place. I am sure this is a must-see place for children, just remember they must walk holding hands with parents and parents never have to lose sight of them.

After visiting the necropolis we discovered the Porta Pantalica Agriturismo, in a slightly remote location with nice views an amazing restaurant welcomed us warmly. Everything is homemade, produced on their farm, great cheeses, delicious pasta and bread (they make the flour as well), assorted olives, sausage, squash, zucchini, sun dried tomatoes…and superb wine. If you need they also have basic but very comfortable and perfectly clean rooms. The location is very convenient to visit the necropolis and the park.

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