March 12, 2011

Necropolis Pantalica, Sicily, Italy

The Necropolis Pantalica is a large necroplis located in southeastern Sicily, not far from Siracusa. It contains over 5000 tombs which date back from between 1300-700 BC. It is located in a remote landscape of limestone hills and deep gorges. It is an absolutely beautiful area, especially in the spring when the wildflowers are out.

Most of the tombs are primarily of early Greek origin related to their colony of Syracuse. But, the necropolis dates back much further. The first peoples on the island were the Neolithic Sicani peoples. They were displaced by the Sicels, who were later replaced by Mycenaeans and Greeks. There is a fascinating history that unfolds in this place. The tombs are the most obvious feature, but there are many settlement sites all along the area.

The site is located on the Anapo River, which has carved a deep gorge into the limestone. You can access the site by driving to the town of Sortino on the SP30 coming from E45 Autostrade. The town is about 32 km from Siracusa. From the town, you will drive down the hill about 5 km on via Pantalica to the parking area From there, a well worn trail drops into the ravine taking you past dozens of tombs.

The trail will drop to the bottom, crosses the creek, and then heads up the other side to the ridgetop. From there is a spectacular view of the entire landscape. The trail continues in the ridgetop and then drops back down into another ravine. At the bottom is a dirt road which comes in from Ferla. At this stage, take a left on the road and follow it as it contours the bottom of the of the ravine.

The road will eventually take you to a point where you can cross the creek again and climb back up the hill through some old orchards to the ridgetop and back to the car for a wonderful loop hike.

I warn you that this can be an extremely hot and exposed hot in summer time. Sicily is the southernmost and hottest part of Italy. So, spring or fall would be the best season. But in our week of adventures in Sicily, this was actually our favorite site of all of them. The remoteness, the beauty, the history all made it really stand out.

Plus, we did not even see any other tourists that day. So, despite being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is not really that well known or over touristed yet. Perhaps this post will change that.

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