Сиракуза / Syracuse

Sicily… the other Italy! We had a whole week in February to travel far and wide the largest island in the Mediterranean… Yeah, the hot summer sun that attracts millions of tourists to the beautiful beaches of Sicily it wasn’t there, but it’s definitely worth a visit even in the off-season… Although we landed in Catania, our Sicilian affair started with Syracuse and continued with Noto, Modica, Ragusa… We’ll get there! We drove over 1000 km using a rental car from our partners Autoeurope, who I recommend for a relaxing and hassle-free holiday!

 See car rental options in Sicily.

We start with Syracuse

Siracusa is located on a limestone cliff on the east coast of Sicily and is about 70 km from Catania airport, which made us choose it as the first stop on our trip. It’s divided into a new and an old city, with the old one located on a small island and called Ortigia. The new part was almost entirely built after the Second World War and definitely does not attract the interest of tourists.

We arrived in Syracuse shortly after 21:00 and directly checked into the hotel, which was literally on the port – Boutique Hotel Molo S Lucia. It’s nothing special, but the price was low (double room – 40 euro with breakfast), and in the end we only spent a few hours sleeping in it… The good thing was that we could park completely free in front!

See more places to stay in Syracuse

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A quick dinner

After a slightly delayed flight and a later arrival than planned, we were very hungry… We had our sights set on a few places to eat around the market and here came our first disappointment… We hadn’t anticipated that some of the establishments might only be seasonal… Google gave us that they were working but… alas… It took quite a lot of wandering around until we found a working restaurant on via dei Mille – Ristorante Porto Grande. They managed to feed us right before closing and we were happy with the pizza and pasta we ordered! Unfortunately the venue closed permanently shortly after the Covid pandemic…

Night Syracuse

Although it was already around 11:00 PM, life in Syracuse was bubbling! The streets of the old town were filled with people! Nice jazz tunes floated through the Piazza del Duomo, which kept us on it longer… We had planned the evening for a leisurely walk, no camera in hand, and the morning for a sightseeing tour, but we still managed to walk all over the old town and see almost everything of interest. I don’t have any pictures of Syracuse at night, I’ll let you imagine it yourself… with baroque charm, lively with young people and with a jazz melody…

The morning rain

The torrential morning rain decided to drastically change our plans… It didn’t look like it was going to stop, so we had to abandon a visit to the Archaeological Park, which is one of the most significant historical sights of Syracuse… We also decided to skip the Catacombs of San Giovanni, as they are also a bit further from the city center. We headed to Ortigia, hoping that the rain would subside and that we would be able to take a day walk through the familiar streets…

The port where I already mentioned we were staying was about a 10 minute walk from the two bridges (Ponte Umberto I and Ponte Santa Lucia) connecting the modern part and the old town of Syracuse. It also reveals a beautiful view of Ortigia and the boats parked around it…

More about Syracuse

Besides being the birthplace of Archimedes, Syracuse is known for its ancient Greek origins and its former greatness. It was home to some of the most famous Greek poets, historians, scientists, and Plato himself taught history here… Founded in 733 BC. city, was a worthy rival of Athens, Carthage and even Rome. According to many sources, for two centuries (between the 5th and 3rd centuries BC), it was the most powerful European city! In 212 BC the city falls under Roman rule and is looted…

💡 During the defense of the city from the siege of the Roman troops, Syracusans used flamethrowers designed by Archimedes, which destroyed a significant part of the enemy army. He was such an authority that the Roman general ordered that he shouldn’t be touched! But probably by mistake, when the city fell, Archimedes was killed by a Roman soldier…

The first sights in Ortigia

You will hardly be surprised that the historic center of the city is part of the UNESCO world cultural heritage… As soon as we set foot on the small island, we find ourselves in front of the partially preserved Temple of Apollo – the oldest Doric temple in Sicily (6th century BC). During its existence, it passed through a Byzantine church, an Arab mosque, a Norman church, and subsequently it was part of barracks and residential buildings and remained hidden from the public until 1943.

In the immediate vicinity is the Syracuse market, which unfortunately is closed on Sundays and we were not able to enjoy it… However, we took shelter from the rain for a few minutes by going into one of the working fish shops.

To Piazza Archimede and popular streets

Today’s medieval appearance of the city was mainly built after a severe earthquake in 1693. The Baroque style in construction is extremely pronounced in the buildings of Piazza Archimede, which surround another popular landmark – the Diana Fountain. It’s like a mythological scene recreated! It depicts the young nymph Arethusa fleeing from the river god Alpheus while Diana (with bow and dog) tries to protect her…

Several of the streets in Ortigia give the best opportunity to enjoy the wonderful baroque balconies. More popular are the shopping street Corso Giacomo Matteotti, the smaller Via della Maestranza and Via Roma, as well as the coastal Lungomare Alfeo (we didn’t manage to get to it during the day). They weren’t so welcoming during the increasing rain…

The central square – Piazza del Duomo

The square was deserted and quiet, only the sound of the drops falling on its yellowish tiles could be heard… There was no mention of the pleasant jazz tunes and the multitude of revelers on Saturday night… But and this appearance also has its own charm. Surrounded by pale stone baroque palaces, Piazza del Duomo is undeniably among the most beautiful squares in all of Italy!

The Cathedral of Syracuse – Duomo di Siracusa

Naturally, the Cathedral of Syracuse (Cattedrale della Natività di Maria Santissima – Duomo di Siracusa), built on the remains of a great ancient temple from the 5th century BC, dedicated to Athena Minerva, dominates all other buildings… It was built in the 7th century, and several Doric columns from the ancient temple have been preserved inside. The ornate facade was made in the Baroque and Rococo style in the 18th century, after the great earthquake that I have already mentioned to you. It opens its doors from 09:30 and you are free to enter inside…

For a final

At the other end of the square is the small church Chiesa di Santa Lucia alla Badia, which hides one of Carvaggio’s masterpieces, the painting Il seppellimento di Santa Lucia (The Burial of Santa Lucia). Unfortunately, it didn’t open until 11:30 and we couldn’t get in… We were already very wet and decided that it was unnecessary to continue to the Arethusa Spring (Fonte Aretusa), given that we had seen it the night before. It is another pleasant place to walk, related to the continuation of the legend of Arethusa and Alpheus, which I will leave you to find for yourself. We definitely didn’t get to see everything we wanted to in Syracuse and fully enjoy this ancient and charming city… But luckily, it didn’t rain any more during our stay in Sicily… we started with water or as they say – by luck!