An amazing journey back in time discovering Greek theatres in Sicily.
Greek theatres in Sicily: the history of Greek Sicily
To recount the history of Greek Sicily, we need to travel back to the 8th century BC, when a group of ancient Greeks left their native land and sailed to Southern Italy, looking for new farming lands. There, they occupied vast virgin lands that went down in history as Magna Grecia.
To this day, evidence of their presence in Italy can still be found in the regular structure of ancient towns, in the temples, the Greek theatres and in some traditions that stood the test of time.
The Greek theatre
Among the many, well-known monuments typical of ancient Greece, besides the temples, we find the theatre: a place devoted to entertainment, education and spirituality. The theatrical performances of the time involved the entire community and took place during religious festivals, such as the Great Dionysia. Tragedies and comedies were often based on real, everyday life: they targeted eminent personalities of the time and allowed the public to fully relate to the story that was brought on stage. Mythology was the main source of inspiration for Greek tragedy, because it led the spectator to reflect both on the past and the present.
In terms of architecture, the Greek theatre is divided into two main parts: one for the scene and the other for the audience. Originally, these two areas consisted of wooden structures that were arranged before each play. From the 5th century BC, however, these structures were made permanent and built of stone. The plays took place in the orchestra, a large circular area with two entrances, where the chorus and the dancers performed.
The audience sat in the cavea, a semicircular seating space right in front of the stage. From there, spectators could enjoy perfect acoustics and view. Costume changes would take place in an area called skené, which was hidden behind a painted scene wall. Over time, the chorus became less relevant and a stage was added for actors to perform.
Ancient Greek theatres in Sicily: Tindari, Taormina and Syracuse
Every Greek colony in Sicily, large or small, had its own theatre. A large number of these magnificent monuments survive to this day and still host beautiful plays and performances.
Tindari Greek Theatre
One of the most picturesque Greek cities in Sicily was founded in 396 BC by Dionysius of Syracuse, on the slopes of Mount Tindari. Although most of the town ruins were destroyed by a landslide and Arab raids, archeological excavations were able to bring to light the original layout of the city and the structure of a beautiful ancient theatre that had been restored in the Roman period. Built on the slopes of the hill, the theatre offers a splendid view of the sea and every year it hosts the Tindari Festival, a wonderful festival featuring classical music, drama, theatrical performances and more.
Syracuse Greek Theatre
In Syracuse, considered by Cicero the most beautiful city of the ancient world, we find another magnificent Greek theatre, carved out of the hillside of the Temenite hill. Situated inside the Neapolis Archaeological Park, this theatre is Syracuse’s most famous attraction. It was once used to host theatrical performances but also as a place of worship and venue for popular assemblies. First built in the Archaic period, the theatre was renovated in the 3rd century BC, following the design principles of eastern Greek architecture. Today, the theatre comes to life every year thanks to the outstanding performances it hosts: an unmissable opportunity for Greek tragedy enthusiasts.
Taormina Greek theatre
The Greek theatre of Taormina, the second largest in Sicily after that of Syracuse, was built around the 3rd century BC and was intended for theatrical and musical performances. In Roman times, columns, statues and awnings were added to the original structure and the orchestra was expanded and adapted for water games and the staging of naval battles. Today, it is still possible to admire the ancient layout of the theatre: the skene, the auditorium, the stairs and the portico.
The skene, the pivot of the entire complex, retains its original form. However, nothing remains of its beautiful ornaments. According to scholars, the first order comprised nine columns arranged in groups of three, while the second order included sixteen equally distanced columns. The auditorium, carved into the rock, could seat up to 5400 spectators and its steps were intended both for seating and to accommodate the feet of the viewers. The audience could also enjoy the performance from the portico, a structure surrounding the upper part of the cavea with two terraces reserved for women and humble people. Today, the theatre of Taormina still hosts theatrical and musical performances, offering a unique experience in a breathtaking place.
Splendid villas near the Greek theatres in Sicily
If you want to treat yourself to an amazing holiday in Sicily, full of art, history and culture, here is our selection of beautiful holiday villas near some of the most famous Sicilian ancient Greek theatres.
Estella in Capo d’Orlando
Estella is a splendid villa near the city of Capo D’Orlando with private pool and panoramic terraces offering a wonderful sea view. Thanks to its elegant and refined interiors, this villa is the perfect solution for those who love luxury and comfort and wish to easily reach both the lively seaside resorts and the historical and cultural sites of the area.
Villa Greta in Letojanni
If you are looking for a luxury villa near Taormina, our suggestion is Villa Greta. With its contemporary style, this villa has all the amenities you need: private swimming pool, a beautiful garden with lawn and panoramic terraces where you can relax and relish a glass of Sicilian wine.
Torre Isola Bella in Taormina
Also located in Taormina, Torre Isola Bella is an ideal dwelling for your holiday. This elegant property used to be an old, historic tower that was later restored and converted into a luxury apartment. From its stunning panoramic terrace, also equipped with a Jacuzzi, you will be able to enjoy a picturesque view of the sea and the bay of Isola Bella.
La Boheme in Taormina
La Boheme, situated close to the Greek theatre of Taormina, is the perfect base for exploring the city. With its elegant and refined furnishings, this villa is the ideal place for those who like to relax and spend time in the open air, swimming in the pool or reading a good book in the garden.
Artemare in Syracuse
Artemare is a splendid modern villa with private pool, located a short distance from Syracuse. This property enjoys a great position and boasts a well-tended garden with lawn and spacious panoramic terraces. Its beautiful infinity pool overlooking the sea will also offer you moments of pure relaxation.