The Tonnara of Santa Panagia in Syracuse: ancient, frail beauty
In his “Travels in Sicily”, Dominique Vivant Denon mentions, in passing, the Tonnara of Santa Panagia in Syracuse.
The French art historian and writer (1747-1825) was searching for the circuit walls built by tyrant Dionysus I, who ruled over Syracuse between the 5th and 4th century BC: “The more we progressed towards the Trogilo harbor, the more obvious the walls’ traces became; after we went past the so-called Tonnara ‘Santa Buonacia’ – a place where the sea enters the city, forming a small, narrow, and deep inlet – we found the famous walls…”
Denon calls ‘Santa Buonacia’ the area that today is known as Santa Panagia (from the Greek “pan”, meaning “everything” and “àghia”, “saint”: Mary the mother of God, “all saint”), northwest of Syracuse, rising where the ancient neighborhood of Tiche used to be.
The first tonnara was built here in the early 12th century, re-built in the 18th century after an earthquake, and finally abandoned in the 1950s.
It has waited since then to be renovated, with the church of Santa Panagia right next to it.
It is a splendid place, that cannot wait for much longer.