The Necropolis of Pantalica

Located in the folds of the Iblei Mountains about 40 km west of Syracuse, Pantalica is the most grandiose and scenic rock necropolis in Sicily , consisting of thousands of tombs carved into the rock in five different points along the sides of the deep gorge where the Anapo river flows. .

Multiple skeletons have been found in each tomb, suggesting that thousands of people once lived in what is now largely a rugged wilderness.

This extraordinary place is a bit difficult to visit by public transport , while by car it is an easy and well-marked detour along the route to Ragusa and Catania .

The tombs are divided into five distinct necropolises: the oldest, with an elliptical plan, are the north-west necropolis , the north one (the most spectacular) and the central group of the south necropolis, dated to the 12th and 11th centuries BC; the others , with a rectangular plan, date back to the 9th and 8th centuries BC

The rocky plateau of Pantalica is wedged between the deep and very narrow valleys of the Anapo and Calcinara rivers, dominating the confluence and looming over the two gorges with its very high sheer cliffs, in which the artificial cell grotto tombs are excavated. they make them look like a beehive.

The site was initially used between the 13th and 10th centuries BC, late Bronze Age, by Sicilian refugees from the coast. It is thought that this plateau after the eighth century BC was the site of Hybla , whose king invited the Greek megarese to colonize first Thapos and then Megara Hyblaea; Some remains of that period are visible, but they pale in front of the 5000 tombs carved into the beautiful walls, wild gorges below: it is above all to these rocky necropolises that we owe the great charm of Pantalica.

In some, traces of several skeletons have been discovered, probably belonging to members of the same family, others show traces that indicate that the same caves were used as cave troglodyte dwellings, probably in a much later period, when the Syracusans were forced to take refuge in the hinterland to defend itself from the incursions of the barbarians.

The Englishman Vincent Cronin in his The Golden Honeycomb wrote: “It is the Sicily of the stone age, a time when the only occupations were to find food and bury the dead”. For Cronin, the free play of nature in this gorge embodies Sicily's particular contribution to the marvelous works of man whose conquerors later enriched the island.

The road ends in a parking lot near the entrance to the northern necropolis, the most spectacular, 6 km from Sortino. A mule track crosses a plateau and descends to the river and then goes up on the opposite bank.

About halfway down the river you will find the " bat cave ", a 270 m long cavity in which many species of bats live. You can also see the tombs which, at the beginning dot the rocky walls of the gorge in groups and at the end cover the entire surface of the rock; the artificial caves that contain them were dug into the sheer cliffs of the rocky walls, and their large number creates a mysterious and highly suggestive atmosphere.