The four elements

Introduction to the path

Fire, air, water and earth are the four natural earthly elements that will guide the children in their exploration of Syracuse and Pantalica on this route.
Thanks to the history, richness and variety of its territory, the site has always been a destination for travellers fascinated by the white limestone rock, the blue rivers and the sea reflecting the island of Ortygia, which becomes a silent background for the most significant monuments of Syracuse. Architecture, sculptures and archaeological remains are in fact tangible presences from a glorious past. The sea infiltrates the interior of the island, turning into a spring and at the same time giving life to the city’s mythological aspects. Between alleys and squares, the sea gives its places a sad and melancholic beauty, an intimate expression of the union between nature and humankind.
By analysing the different stages, we can identify the close link between Syracuse and all the natural elements.

  • Fire embodies the blood of life. A symbol of light and warmth, this element can be associated with the human feelings and passion performed during the tragedies at the Greek Theatre, as well as with the cooking of food during ancient sacrificial rites, and with culinary traditions.
  • Air, the vital energy we breathe, recalls the heavens and therefore the world of the divine and the afterlife: religion. In our itinerary, this element embraces the places of worship of the city of Syracuse, which underwent continuous transformations over the centuries. A perfect example is the Cathedral of Syracuse, built in Byzantine times on the solid structure of the Greek temple of Athena, which is still visible.
  • Water, the source of life, plays a favoured role in Syracuse. From the sea that laps Ortygia and its two ports, to rivers and springs, like the Ciane river or the Fountain of Arethusa, the flow of water is inextricably linked to the events of gods, heroes and humankind, whose memory is intertwined with the history of the city.
  • Finally, earth, solid and luxuriant, symbolises the primordial matter, welcomes life and thus recalls the world of physics, archaeology, and what lies beneath the ground, becoming the mouthpiece of history.
Ortygia and the air element. The Gods of Olympus and the Temple of Apollo.

The naumachiae: naval battles at the theatre

Pantalica and water: the Myth of the Anapo River

Giudecca and air. The Basilica of San Giovannello

Ortygia and water. The Fountain of Arethusa

A journey to Pantalica

The Neapolis

Neapolis and fire. The Altar of Hieron and the sacrificial fire

Pantalica and air. The skies of Pantalica: from hawks to bats

Pantalica and the earth element


Giudecca and water. The ritual baths: the Casa Bianca mikveh

Ortygia and the earth element. Piazza del Duomo: discovering the origins.


Ortygia and fire. Archimedes and the invention of the burning mirrors

Neapolis and the earth element. Places of performance: the Greek theatre and the Roman amphitheatre

The Cathedral of Syracuse

Neapolis and the air element. The Ear of Dionysius

Pantalica and fire. The Metal Age: objects from the culture of Pantalica

Neapolis and the water element. The Nymphaeum

Giudecca and fire. Cooking and the Jewish religion

Nature in Neapolis

Giudecca and the earth element. Between gardens and artisan workshops

The fountain of Diana in Piazza Archimede

The interior of the Cathedral of Syracuse