A day in this corner of Sicily awakens profound sensations, as if one were crossing the threshold of time into thousands of years ago. You will be able to feel it as you will be walking through Syracuse’s streets, where precious testimonials recall the splendour of Magna Graecia. Ortigia (Sicily) is Syracuse old town and certainly the most attractive district.
Once you cross the bridge that connects Ortigia island to the city, you will be surprised by the calm that reigns there. Situated in a halfway between East and West, between Carthage and Rome, Ortigia (Sicily) welcomed Greek and Christian ships in the arms of its port, and that’s why along its labyrinthine alleys and through its many squares, you can live a unique experience and breathe the scent of the Mediterranean Sea!
Right in its heart you will find one of the most evocative spots of the entire island, the Arethusa Fountain. Around the fountain, there is a Greek myth that you can’t miss out.
In ancient Greek myth, the origin of the water spring was attributed to the fate of a nymph, Arethusa, who was transformed by the goddess Artemis into a spring to escape the stalking courtship of the sea god Alpheus (son of Oceanus). He, in despair, was in turn transformed into a river by Zeus and succeeded in this way to finally mix his water with that of Arethusa.
Near the Arethusa Fountain you will also find a beautiful seafront street (Lungomare Alfeo) full of bars, hotels and restaurants and a panoramic view of the Maddalena Peninsula.
In addition, in Ortigia (Sicily), you can’t miss the visit of the Temple of Apollo and the Duomo square with its beautiful white Cathedral of “Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception”, erected on the Ancient Greek temple of Athena.
This big pedestrian only area is surrounded by many white stone buildings that will dazzle you, and not only because the sun reflects very strongly on them!
Syracuse travel tips:
- Take a stroll through the many narrow and quiet alleys. There is no risk of getting lost, Ortigia (Sicily) is very small and no matter which way you go, you will always find the seaside.
- Enjoy a wonderful sunset with a drink in one of the many restaurant’s terraces on the Piazza del Duomo or enjoy a homemade ice cream on the steps of the cathedral. In the evening the square lights up and it’s even more beautiful and romantic!
- Due to its coastal location, Siracusa lies in close proximity to several world class beaches where tourists can enjoy the fine Sicilian weather. Parco Marino del Plemmirio was my favourite place to swim in the area with its several beautiful small coves very close to Syracuse. Off-season, it’s a very quiet spot!
If you are a passionate history lover:
The Archaeological Park in the western part of Syracuse is undoubtedly one of the main attractions of the region. Within this fantastic area is a series of ancient ruins and the most renowned is the Greek Theatre. Created in 470 BC, this ancient amphitheatre played host to some legendary play writes such as Aischylos and Sophocles, and has a diameter of 138 metres.
Today, much of the original semi-circular seating survives in fantastic condition, although it is sometimes covered with wood to preserve its quality.
Another must-visit in the park is the Ear of Dionysius. It is an old limestone quarry of more than 20 meters high. Its name comes from the entrance shape, which looks like the inside of a giant ear.
Legend has it that Denys the tyrant of Syracuse was there to listen to the conversations of his prisoners. Inside, the echo is impressive.
The visit takes around 2 hours. Admission is 10€ and free every first Sunday of the month.
In the afternoon you can visit Noto (35 km far from Siracusa). Noto is a city in the Province of Syracuse(Sicily), perched on a plateau overlooking the Asinaro valley, covered with citrus, olive and almond trees.
Noto is considered a baroque architectural paradise with one of the most beautiful historic centres in Sicily. It’s possible to visit the historic town centre in a half day.
Everything in Noto is an architectural gem, whether it’s a fountain, an arch, a church, a palace, or even a staircase or a balcony. In 2002 Noto and its church were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Noto was completely destroyed by the earthquake in 1693 and then rebuilt.
The principal tourist activity in Noto is simply a wander around the narrow streets, admiring the golden-coloured stone buildings, the fantastical facades and balconies.
The Corso Vittorio Emanuele is the main street and if you are in Noto for a quick visit, this is the street to explore!As you walk down the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, you will see quite a few churches, cute piazzas, fountains, intricate Baroque style facades of historical buildings.
You access Corso Vittorio Emanuele through the Royal Gate. There are some symbols that decorate the door (a tower which is a symbol of fortitude and a Cirneco, a dog symbol of faithfulness). These symbols origin from Bourbon monarchy. Next to the Royal Gate there are public gardens filled with bougainvillea, flowers and palm trees.. It’s the perfect place for a relaxing stroll under the sun!
Noto flower festival called “Infiorata di Noto”. It is a festival that attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world. The main street of this event is Via Nicolaci, which is decorated with flower petals to create real mosaics. It takes place on the third Sunday of May.