Siracusa Sicily: guide to Ortigia and more
Here are my tips on what to see and do in Siracusa Sicily, where I recently spent one week, running away from Rome’s metropolitan summer. Siracusa has something for everybody, and you should definitely stop by if you’re interested in authentic Sicilian cuisine and ancient history. It will be a perfect destination for you if you decided to take your time and breathe in the brisky breeze of the Italian coast leaving behind all your duties and worries. I highly recommend visiting Sicily in the off-season, to avoid the extremely hot weather: go in May, June, September or October to make the best out of it. As a base, I decided to get accommodation in Ortigia, a very tiny island which is the historical core of Siracusa. If for any reason you opt for staying off Ortigia, make sure you don’t go too far.
View from Ortigia boardwalk
SIRACUSA SICILY: FAVORITE THINGS TO DO AND SEE
Explore Ortigia by foot
Ortigia island is very small. Get lost, enjoy the architecture of the common houses in all their shades of white and ivory, explore the Cathedral of Syracuse (Cattedrale della Natività di Maria Santissima), and find interesting ancient architecture in the alleys. The history of Siracusa’s cathedral is incredible. In very ancient times, before the Greek’s invaded Sicily, it was a place of worship for the indigenous population, the Siculi. During the 5th Century BC the Greeks appointed the temple to Goddess Athena, and nowadays, you can still see the columns in place in and outside the cathedral. Evidences suggest that it was the first Christian temple in Europe. The front facade of the cathedral is baroque, instead. The square surrounding the cathedral is the core of Ortigia and hosts more beautiful architecture. The bright marbles dominate the scene, changing nuances as the day passes. The square is even more beautiful in the night, and invites you to sit in one of the cafes having a drink immersed in a magical atmosphere.
Here is more interesting architecture and sculpture to visit in the Ortigia district in Siracusa Sicily:
Fonte Aretusa – Aretusa Spring
Tempio di Apollo – Temple of Apollo
Chiesa dello Spirito Santo – Church
Fountain of Diana
Castello Maniace – Castle
Bellomo Palace and Gallery
Chiesa di San Martino – Church
Ipogeo di Piazza Duomo – underground
Browse a list of photos and reviews about the accommodation on the Ortigia island in Siracusa Sicily.
Where to eat in Ortigia – Siracusa Sicily
There are plenty of places to sit and eat genuine Sicilian food in Ortigia. Treat yourself with granita & brioche, the traditional Sicilian summer breakfast. Try the granita in different cafeterias as flavours and prices vary (cafes just off Ortigia Island are cheaper). If you’d like more consistent food but you are in a hurry, get a sliced pizza (it’s different here than in other parts of Italy) or arancino (balls of rice, green beans, ham, tomato sauce, ragu and mushrooms, fried in oil) or other street food specialties at “Pizza e Altro” (address: Piazza Archimede, 28).
When you wish to sit and have your meal in a very romantic, special place, head for “Trattoria La Foglia” (address: Via Capodieci, 21) . This restaurant surprised me with the unique, handcrafted, colorful decoration of its interior. It’s a family-run restaurant, founded by a local hippy chef and her artist husband. The dishes are sensational, and for the quality offered, they´re more than affordable! You’ll find original variations of traditional Sicilian cuisine. Don’t miss the fettuccini with shrimps, walnuts, pachino tomatoes, and wild fennels and the Sicilian almonds’ pudding. I went back to this restaurant several times, charmed by the atmosphere. La Foglia is a pleasure for both the eyes and the palate!
Fettuccine with seafood, nuts, herbs at La Foglia
FAVORITE ACTIVITIES IN SIRACUSA SICILY
Relax on Ortigia Beach and swim
In Ortigia, there is one special spot where it’s nice to swim and relax, but it´s quite small. Once you reach Fontana Aretusa, walk to the left to a bay perfect for snorkeling.
Take a bike to the Siracusa’s bike trail and swim more.
Once you’re familiar with Ortigia, go ahead and explore the coast on the mainland. When the old railway line connecting northern Sicily to Syracuse was dismantled, a bike path was created which stretches for 6.6 kilometers along the wild landscape of the coastline. The bicycle paths are mostly unpaved, used by a few local runners, and they are most enjoyable in the hours before sunset. Your first sight of this part of the Sicilian coast will leave you breathless from the colours of the sea and the cliffs, the fragrances of the plants and the tranquillity.
I checked out a few bike rentals and found that the cheapest, with a super-friendly staff, was the Ortigia Service. They’ll give you a map together with your bike, which will help you reach the starting point of the bicycle track (near the Monumento ai Caduti d’Africa in the Piazza Cappuccini). Anyway, it’s very easy to find, and you can also get there in half an hour by walking from Ortigia.
Along the way, several rocks that have been made accessible in order to allow locals to get into the water. Be sure to wear your swimsuit!
View from the bicycle trail
VISIT THE ARCHEOLOGICAL PARK OF SIRACUSA SICILY
Approximately a half hour by foot from Ortigia lies the Neapolis Archaeological Park (Parco Archeologico Neapolis), with the Greek amphitheater and the monumental cave called “Dionysus’ Ear” (Orecchio di Dioniso), dug in limestone in an “S” shape, which is still a mystery for archeologists. What was its purpose? How and why was the natural echoing quality of the limestone used? Adult tickets for the Neapolis Archeological Park cost €10.
Every summer, between May and July, the Greek theater hosts presentations of Greek tragedies, recreating the ancient atmosphere of the 5th century BC. Consider seeing one if you travel to Syracuse during the right season. You’ll find updated info on the INDA foundation website.
DAY-TRIP FROM SIRACUSA SICILY
Fontane Bianche Bay
The town of Syracuse offers breathtaking views and historical landmarks, but lacks a long stretch of sandy seashore. If you want to spend time on a proper beach, all you need to do is rent a car and head for Fontane Bianche, 18 km south on the coast from Ortigia. There, you’ll find a tropical paradise of white sand and blue water. Only a few little restaurants where you can enjoy a seafood meal based on the catch of the day.
Vendicari Oasis and Calamosche Bay
About 45 km south of Syracuse, you’ll have other chances to hike the deserted coast and swim in secluded bays in the Vendicari Nature Reserve. The area was made a reserve in order to protect several species of birds, and the coast is unspoiled for kilometers. Look at the photos to have an idea of how beautiful this natural oasis is. The bay of Calamosche, that you can reach in 45 minutes on foot after entering the reserve, holds what is considered to be one of the most attractive beaches in Italy.
Approaching Calamosche Bay in the Vendicari Natural Reserve
Fishermen’s village of Marzamemi
Roughly one hour by car from Syracuse lies the little fishing village of Marzamemi. In here there is plenty of spots where you can chill out by the sea and taste local dishes. The old town spreads out around a central square with the church of San Francesco. As soon as you get out of the car, you’ll perceive the relaxed atmosphere that envelops this place. That will immediately make you feel quieter and more serene.
How do you feel about traveling to Siracusa Sicily, now?
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