The ancient Greek town of Siracusa (Syracuse) is an atmospheric port town that is well worth a visit to see the remnants of one of the largest cities of the ancient world. I took the train from Palermo via Catania to get to Siracusa. It’s a nice way to see the wild interior of Sicily.
Siracusa is a great walking town and is one of the better preserved old cities of Sicily with a significant medieval center dotted with ancient artifacts.
The old town, which was founded by the Greeks around 730 BC, is contained on a separate island, Ortigia. You’ll walk it in a day, although spending a couple of nights in Siracusa gives you enough time to absorb the place.
If you enter Ortigia from the north, the first major site is the Temple of Apollo, a large open ruin from the 6th Century BC. Further south is the main square and cathedral, another early 18th century baroque example.
The site has had previous lives under Greek, Roman, Arab and Norman inhabitants. Here some of the interior and exterior Doric columns come from the 5th century BC Greek temple to Athena originally on this site, which has a mention by Cicero in the 1st Century BC.
As well as the tight streets of the old town and a beautiful waterfront, other things to see include the 13th century castle at the south tip of the island, and the old Jewish quarter of La Guidecca.
About 2km northwest of Ortigia is the Archaeological Park, which contains a Greek amphitheater from the 5th Century BC and a later Roman amphitheater from the 1st Century AD. This is worth a small expedition as a break from walking around Ortigia.
The park also contains some old quarries and a large cave, the Ear of Dionysius, which was also quarried out and used to hold prisoners. Dionysius was a Greek ruler of Siracusa who is said to have used the cave acoustics to listen in on his prisoners.
There is a large market on Sundays in the Piazza Santa Lucia, to the east of the new town.
And as ever there are interesting markets in the old town for browsing and buying. The main market area in Ortigia is around the north of Via Trento and Via Emmanuele de Benedictis.
Logistics and Tips
I stayed at the Grande Albergo Alfeo which is a good 19th century hotel in the new town, and just 5 minutes to cross over the bridges into Ortigia. Good breakfasts and very comfortable. It is also closer to the bus and rail stations located in the new town.
These places were good –
Osteria del Vecchio Ponte. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187891-d7029468-Reviews-Osteria_Del_Vecchio_Ponte-Syracuse_Province_of_Syracuse_Sicily.html Small place just outside the old town, killer seafood. Seafood’s the way to go in Siracusa.
…and Taberna Sveva, a more local place at the south end of Ortigia.
Barcollo has a great bar where you can also sit out in the courtyard. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187891-d3540353-Reviews-Barcollo_Siracusa-Syracuse_Province_of_Syracuse_Sicily.html
Two good and popular lunch places next to each other:
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187891-d4509117-Reviews-Fratelli_Burgio-Syracuse_Province_of_Syracuse_Sicily.html They do some nice antipasti plates which I didn’t try, have micro beer and you can sit down.
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187891-d2441975-Reviews-Caseificio_Borderi-Syracuse_Province_of_Syracuse_Sicily.html Go early for this one, sexcellent panini – I got there at 2:30 having just arrived off the train and there were about 25 people in line. The owner makes the panini on a table outside. I gave up.
Read about the Palermo trip here http://wp.me/p7Jh3P-a3