Ano Syros

One of the two towering peaks that rise over town, Ano Syros was greatly expanded by Venetians in the 13th century, who erected a walled town over the ancient acropolis to protect themselves from pirates. It's now the second city of Syros. From the Roman Catholic bishopric of the church of St. George crowning the hill, this lofty retreat maintains its 13th-century integrity. High atop the hill is the looming Capuchin Monastery (1633), where visitors on official religious business may enjoy a sojourn in the jasmine-scented garden overlooking all of Ermoupoli. Not far away is a belvedere—the town’s high point—where a bronze bust of Pherekides commemorates that imaginative 6th-century BC Syrian philosopher, Pythagoras’s teacher, who reputedly invented the sundial and was the first to write Greek prose. The bishopric, where bishops have presided since the time of Irenaios (343 AD), is downhill from the monastery. Farther down is the Jesuit Monastery, founded in 1747, and the adjacent church of the Virgin of Carmel. As you can see, the hill of Ano Syros remains mostly Catholic, but just across the townscape is the hill of Vrodado, which reminds us that Syros is now two-thirds Greek Orthodox (happily, relations remain cordial). The Catholic-flavored Venetian influence has given the island’s culture and architecture a distinct flavor; having welcomed so many religious refugees to its shores, Syros came under the protection of Louis XIII in 1640, which accounts for the French-flavored influence. Take a taxi up, but walk down so you can explore Omiros street, a handy thoroughfare through this picturesque quarter that's dotted with castle walls and stone alleyways.

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