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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Discover the Roman Delights of Sicily

One of the earliest visual documentations of a...Image via Wikipedia

By Mark Scriven

Sicily's key location in the middle of the Mediterranean Basin has meant that, in the past, it has hosted settlers, and conquerors, from everywhere, including the medieval Normans, Aragonese Spanish, Moorish North Africans, ancient Greeks, Phoenicians, and Romans. They have all arrived at some time and, with the exception of the Romans, for the most part, departed.

Many people believe that Sicily's Roman ruins are the equal to those in Rome. Whether this is true or not, anyone who loves Roman archaeology should definitely spend some time exploring Sicily's amazing treasure trove of ruins.

To understand the diversity of Sicily in ancient times and specifically the range of artefacts dating from the Greek and Roman occupation of the island, spend some time at the Museo Archeologico Regionale, which is located in Palermo. Among Italy's most noteworthy archaeological museums, it is a treasure-trove of unique finds that help you understand the many occupations by foreigners. Also, you'll have an opportunity to compare invaluable artefacts from the island's various civilizations, including those from the era of the Phoenicians, Punics, Greeks, Romans and Saracens.

Following is a list of what we believe to be the best Roman ruins found in Sicily:

Cape Boéo - Marsala Roman ruins still have a villa with its baths and colourful mosaic tiles; also, you can see the Church of San Giovanni, which was constructed on top of a cave that served as a residence in Roman times. One of the exhibits at the Baglio Anselmi Archeological Museum, which is located on Lungomare Boéo, is a ship dating from the Punic era.

Catania - Catania is home to two Roman amphitheatres, one of which will remind you of the Colosseum in Rome. The smaller one, located off Via Vittorio Emanuele, was constructed on top of an earlier Greek theatre, which sat 6,000 spectators, while a larger amphitheatre, found close to the commercial centre in Piazza Stesicoro, is totally Roman and was constructed in the second century AD.

Solunto - Palermo - Less than twenty kilometers east of Palermo, looming over the coast, and on a site that had its origins as a Phoenician village that the Greeks enlarged in 396 BC, sits the remains of a town that was reconstructed by the Romans who conquered it 50 years later. For the most part, the ruins consist of floors, with some mosaics, and the bottom parts of walls, although there are a few murals and columns to be seen. While you will find a small archaeological museum located here, the majority of the original artefacts are found in Palermo at the Regional Archaeological Museum.

Taormina - The Greek amphitheatre found here dates back to the third century BC; it's stage was later expanded by the Romans. The scenery surrounding Mount Etna, not to mention the sea beyond the theatre, is awesome. In the summertime, the theatre hosts dramatic plays and performances. A smaller Roman theatre, the odium, is located close to the Santa Caterina church.

Tyndaris - Capo Tindari - Tyndaris was founded by Dionysius the Elder in 396 BC. Later pillaging conquerors laid waste to it, but it has been dug up to show the ruins of everything that stood there, including a basilica and a Roman theatre. The setting, overlooking the sea, is amazing.

Villa Romana del Casale - Piazza Armerina - This Roman villa, which is located a few kilometers beyond town limits, was built somewhere between 330 and 360 AD. It is thought to be one of the biggest classical-era Roman dwellings in the world that is still standing. The 40-room villa houses western Europe's most noteworthy mosaics showing scenes of day-to-day life, like hunting; there is also a mosaic depicting ten young women wearing strapless two-piece bathing suits that would be fashionable in modern times.

If you love archaeology, then when you are in Sicily, you must go see the Valley of the Temples, the biggest and most noteworthy collection of ancient Greek ruins found anywhere. You'll also find necropoli, residences, avenues and all the other artefacts you would expect to see in an ancient metropolis. You will definitely want to see the small amphitheatre, the several auditoria, and the world-class archaeological museum. Don't leave out the Concord Temple; it has 13 tall columns that show the effects of the wind. Located outside the city of Agrigento, situated on the southern coast of Sicily, the temples appear dramatic in the evening when floodlights outline their shape and size.

Mark Scriven is an online marketing expert and has written many articles on business, travel and the internet. For a wide selection of holiday villas in Sicily visit Cottages to Castles, specialists in luxury vacation accommodation in Italy.

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