Situated partly on an island off the Sicilian east coast, the town of Syracuse is separated by a narrow channel from the Sicilian mainland. The modern town and the principal remains of the ancient city are located on the mainland, while the old town lies on the island. The bay of Porto Grande, cutting deep inland, is probably Italy's largest and best natural harbor. The town's location, its beautiful surroundings and the monuments and relics of its splendid past make Syracuse one of the most fascinating places to visit in Sicily.
After settlers from Corinth colonized Syracuse during the 8th century B.C., a string of tyrants followed; Dionysius left the most significant mark. During his reign Syracuse rose to become the most powerful Greek city, boasting a population of half a million. Among the most eminent men living there were great poets Aeschylus and Pindar, as well as mathematician and physicist Archimedes.