Easily navigated to from Palermo, Agrigento or Catania, Siracusa also known as Syracuse to foreigners, is a picturesque and quintessentially Italian coastal city.It’s adorable charm makes this a must see on the Sicily itinerary. Here’s how I would recommend spending 48 hours in this beautiful city!
One of my favorite things about Italian cities is walking around the streets. There are so many nooks and crannies! Since Italy is so full of history, many of the buildings have served multiple purposes and have seen many different facades. I love the intersection of culture that happens in these types of places.
We started our DIY walking tour along the coastal side of the island of Ortigia. The streets themselves are like works of art and make it easy to spend an entire day wandering the small alleys and finding hidden gems –think small winding alley ways which turn a corner into a pallazzo and tiny plant lined balconies hanging over the streets as people dry their laundry across alleyways.
I particularly loved the little residential alley ways that run down to the ocean. Views of the ocean from almost every street with sail boats coasting into the harbor. The crashing waves on the volcanic rock is a alluring sight to say the least.
We stumbled onto a few places of note, including Duoma de Siracusa. With its bright white limestone façade facing onto a large open square, it’s impressive Doric columns and hand carved statues dominate the plaza. We stopped inside the Duoma for a quick tour around. The current church is actually built on top of the ruins of Gelone’s temple constructed in the fifth century BC. It captures the history of the island in one simple structure, since it has been influence by all the major empires of the island. It is currently a catholic church with a gorgeous two-tone marble floor and a nave on the side with a hand-painted mural ceiling.
Another popular area is the east side waterfront and the Fonte Aretusa. A natural water spring is filled throughout the year with swans, fish and foliage at the end of an impressive tree line promenade. The waterfront is lined with a adorable trattorias and ristorantes with a bevy of different selections, especially fresh fish and pasta. On a sunny day, it’s hard to beat this walk.
Sam’s mom, Diane, was dying the check out some Italian food and craft markets. So we were thrilled to find that only two blocks from our hotel, there is an entire street dedicated to local food and craft. The stalls were lined with fresh vegetable from the nearby rural communities, including bright purple eggplants, zesty lemons and citrus, and some of the healthiest looking cabbage I have ever laid eyes on.
Throughout the market, there is also many different types of pistachios. One of the major crops of these region, there were so many different types. And all so fresh and plump. We stocked up on a big bag of fresh pistachio cores, but we managed to put a nice dent in the bag before leaving the market.
Another pleasant sight in the market was freshly caught fish. From early this morning, the fishing boats come in and drop off the daily catch. We noticed a lot of swordfish and barracuda today. And they were fileting and making cuts right there. You can’t ask for much fresher than that!
After spending our entire first day exploring Ortigia, the next day we expanded out to explore other parts of Siracusa! Our first stop — the archeological park
Just on the north side of town, there are several ancient relics there, including a Roman amphitheater and Greek teatro. The Roman amphitheater was slightly smaller and held gladiator and animal battles. The ruins were slightly overgrown, but very well preserved. Some of the ancient arches were still standing!
In the same area, was the Greek teatro. One of the best preserved in Europe, its prime the theatre could hold 15,000 people. It had a gorgeous ocean view. Unfortunately, they are running live shows there this time of year and have put up temporary seating over the ruins, so we didn’t get to experience all of its glory.
Just the the east of the teatro, is a beautiful garden. Grown in what used to be the rock query of Siracusa, it is filled with native plants. Sicily is known for its lemon and citrus groves, so we got to see some of those trees up close and person. The lemons are huge and so juicy and surprisingly sweet! We also saw some flowering trees and shrubs that were quite beautiful.
At the end of gardens, is the ear of Dionisio. Dug out of the side of the query, this cave was specifically designed for its acoustic properties. Over 150 feet tall, it’s sharp walls and curved ceiling enable you to hear someone talking at the back of the cave. It was amazing how well and clear the cave echoed.
Next, we walked along the canal that divides Ortigia and Siracusa. With some simple arched bridges to connect the two cities, it was lovely to walk along and see all the fishing boats coming in next to the cruise ships that were parked nearby. Quite a contrast. There were even some men playing kayak polo, a sport I had never seen before! We also made a quick stop at the Madonna delle Lacrime memorial, which can be seen throughout the city. It is a hideous metal roof, but inside is a beautiful carved statue.
For our last night in Siracusa and Ortigia, we decided to make our own little Italian dinner on the rooftop terrace of Hotel Posta. This should be the selling point of this hotel. It is so gorgeous and well worth the 89 euros we’ve paid a night. I would highly recommend this hotel without the terrace, but with it, there’s no contest! In one direction is the Mediterranean and in the other is the gulf. With a few tables & chairs, wooden trellis, and adorable potted plants, this terrace is a little oasis.
As our dinner, we decided to do tapas style and just buy a bunch of little snacks at the nearby market. Diane & Joe picked up some truffle goat cheese, spicy chorizo and shaved ham from the Caseificio Borderi family owned meat & cheese shop. They also grabbed a spicy giardineria with lots of green and kalmata olives. We also got some fresh baguettes and locally grown olive oil and lemons.
Sam & I grabbed some fresh cherries & strawberries, plus some local red wine to add to the mix. It turned out to be quite the feast. With no one else on the terrace that night, it felt like our own private part of the city. We enjoyed all the delicious treats (especially the truffle cheese and olive oil!) while watching the sunset over the Mediterranean. There is not much else I could ask for on a beautiful day like today and it was a wonderful way to say goodbye to a city we have all managed to fall in love with.