The two souls of Ortigia’s Piazza Duomo
The splendid Piazza Duomo in Syracuse, on the island of Ortigia, is a magnificent baroque semielliptical space, located on a sacred area where Greek temples were built in Antiquity. One of them was the 5th-century Doric temple dedicated to Athena, later incorporated into the beautiful Cathedral of the Nativity of the Holy Mary, completed in 1753.
“Piazza Duomo, so ample in its fresh asphalt, with the red 1700s’ buildings placed around a semicircle, with the stink of priests that came from the archbishopric mixed with the fragrance of lemons, and the staircase of the Duomo from the top of which you could see, beyond all the roofs, a strip of white sea.”
With these words, local writer Elio Vittorini (1908-1966) described Piazza Duomo in his novel, “Il garofano rosso” (1948). The square’s current layout dates back to the reconstruction of the city after the Noto Valley earthquake in 1693, which destroyed the Norman façade of the church. The area has always been a place where the Greek and Baroque souls of the Sicilian city merge, as symbolized by the Temple of Minerva and the 18th-century cathedral that incorporated it, now inscribed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.