7 attractions you can’t miss in Siracusa Sicily
What to see in Syracuse Sicily
The Italian island of Sicily is one of those destinations you need to see to believe.
A frequent traveler to the island, I’ve been to many Sicilian cities such as Taormina, Noto, Ragusa and Modica. However, one of the most memorable places I’ve visited is Syracuse (Siracusa). This beautiful city has a historic center on the island of Ortygia (Ortigia), and is an itinerary must. This post highlights the 7 top sights to see in Siracusa, in which I’ll also be pointing out the good places to eat!
The main characteristic that stands out in Siracusa is its Ancient Greek past. It’s something that becomes clearer the more of the city you explore. Siracusa used to be the most powerful city of its time, before handing over the title to Palermo.
A good time to visit Syracuse Sicily
Like many destinations during the summer months, Siracusa is packed around July and August. However, when we there in early August, it wasn’t as busy as I’d expected.
The weather in Syracuse Sicily
Average temperatures in July and August in Sicily range from 26° to 32°. Saying that, it’s essential to carry a bottle of water and wear sunscreen with the right SPF.
Wearing the right footwear goes without saying, as this is one place you’ll be racking up the pedometer count. Choose clothing that’s light in fabric and breathable. Maxi dresses might look great in the pictures, but the reality is, you’ll be sweating buckets.
1. Ortygia — what to see in Syracuse Sicily
The center of Syracuse is pretty enough, but you’ll find the best sights in Ortygia. At the eastern end of Syracuse is a narrow channel with 2 bridges that connect visitors to the mainland. Ortygia island became a natural fortress during the Ancient Greek period, given its surrounding harbors and ideal geography.
Though it’s the busiest season, Ortygia comes to life during the summer months. Cafes and restaurants are full to capacity, and granita and gelato stands have uniformly long waiting lines. Ortygia is one of those places where you’ll want to get lost, for every street leads to a welcome surprise.
2. What to see in Syracuse in 1 day — Piazza del Duomo
Take the incredible Piazza del Duomo. You weave through many narrow streets to get there, but once you arrive, it’s overwhelming. As you first set eyes on the oval-shaped piazza, you begin to feel a level of excitement. On every side is an impressive façade, from the UNESCO Cathedral of Syracuse, to the Palazzo Beneventano del Bosco.
Reflecting its Ancient Greek influence, the Cathedral of Syracuse’s structure is based on a Greek doric temple. The doric columns were incorporated into the walls of the present church during the reconstruction in the 7th century. It was rebuilt again in 1700 after the earthquake of 1693, and shows off the Sicilian Baroque architecture, popular of the time. There’s a small entrance fee, but it’s a small price to pay to see what’s waiting inside.
We wouldn’t have discovered nearly half the things we saw in Syracuse had we not joined a group tour. There are plenty of great, and affordable ones to choose from, with something to suit every type of traveler.
“Take the incredible Piazza del Duomo. You weave through many narrow streets to get there, but once you arrive, it’s overwhelming.”
FOLLOWING THE RIVERA
“Reflecting its Ancient Greek influence, the Cathedral of Syracuse’s structure is based on a Greek doric temple.”
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“The theatre itself is on a sloping hill, and when seated, draws you into the magic and mystery.”
FOLLOWING THE RIVERA
“Literally meaning the ‘Ear of Dionysus’, this limestone cave is an awesome tear-drop shaped structure 23m in height.”
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3. What to see in Siracusa Sicily — Santa Lucia Alla Badia
A short walk to the south of the cathedral is the smaller, yet equally beautiful, Santa Lucia Alla Badia. The basilica pays homage to the city’s patroness, St Lucy, to which they celebrate her feast day in May and December.
Its current appearance dates back to the 15th century, with the oldest parts of the building still preserved there. The main attraction however, is the Caravaggio painting of the Burial of St Lucy.
However, you can’t get close to the painting, and the viewing area is quite a distance. Saying that, if you want a good spot, you’ve to arrive early. Photography, however, isn’t allowed here, so keep cameras and phones in your bag/pocket.
4. Palazzo Beneventano del Bosco — top attractions to see in Siracusa
Before laying eyes on the incredible Duomo di Siracusa, you first pass by the Palazzo Beneventano del Bosco. Once the home of local government, Baron Guglielmo Beneventano bought the house and refurbished it in classic Sicilian Baroque style.
The townhouse is built around a courtyard, with a dramatic façade that includes twin columns. It’s not open to the public, though you can request entrance by special permission from the owners. For me, just seeing the intricate exterior and discolored façade was more than enough.
5. What to see in Siracusa — Tempio di Apollo
The Temple of Apollo is one of the most important Ancient Greek monuments. It’s hard to miss, given it’s in front of the Piazza Pancali when you walk further into Ortygia.
The building dates back to the 6th century BC, and is the oldest doric temple in Sicily. It’s gone through many transformations — a sign of the island’s different civilizations — from Byzantine, to Islamic and then Norman.
6. Fountain of Arethusa — what to see in Syracuse Sicily
It’s hard to miss the Fountain of Arethusa, as it’s full of sprouting green papyrus plants. In fact, this place and the Fiume Freddo in Catania, Sicily, are the only 2 places in Europe where papyrus grows.
The natural fountain takes its name from Greek mythology. According to the tale, Arethusa returned to earth’s surface in the fountain after escaping from her undersea home in Arcadia.
7. What to see in Syracuse, Sicily — Teatro Greco di Siracusa
The Greek Theater of Syracuse is one of the most popular sights in the city. It was first built in the 5th century BC, and renovated 2 more times — the last by the Romans. The theater itself is on a sloping hill, and when seated, draws you into the magic and mystery.
There are 67 rows in total, which are divided into 9 sections with 8 aisles. It was adapted during the Roman times to include some of their activities, like circus games. While the theater’s the main draw, the site has many other places of interest.
I particularly liked visiting the Orecchio di Dionisio, mainly to take some shade from the blazing sun. Literally meaning the ‘Ear of Dionysus’, this limestone cave is an awesome tear-drop shaped structure 23m in height. According to the legend, Greek tyrant Dionysus I held political prisoners in the cave and eavesdropped in on their conversations. The unique S-shape also gives the cave good acoustics, and you can still hear the echo effect when inside.
There’s an entry fee to the Greek theater (around €10*), but the lines weren’t too long, even during August.
When we visited there were some refurbishment works in progress, which put a slight downer on the day. Saying that, I suggest you check the status before visiting to ensure nothing disturbs your trip.
“They have a good selection of fish, seafood, and light summery salads to complete your meal.”
FOLLOWING THE RIVERA
Where to eat in Siracusa Sicily
Lunch — Darsena da Lanuzzo — what to see in Syracuse Sicily
There are many great places to dine in Syrcause, Sicily, that it’s hard to know where to start. If you’re craving for seafood, you may want to stop by Darsena da Lanuzzo.
This pretty restaurant is right by the water, and immediately on the other side of the bridge when entering Ortygia. They’ve a good selection of fish, seafood, and light summery salads to complete your meal.
Aperitif —MOON — where to eat in Syracuse
We stumbled across this charming restaurant while looking for a place for a quick aperitif before dinner. MOON, which stands for Move Ortygia Out of Normality, is one of the only vegetarian/vegan places on the island.
We only stayed for a glass of wine, but the food looked delicious, and the ambience, chilled. MOON also has its own art gallery, (check out the paintings on the wall) and live music nights. I’ve already added MOON as a restaurant to try on our next return to Ortygia.
Places to eat in Syracuse Sicily — Don Camilo
This family-run restaurant has been serving classic and high-quality dishes since 1985. It’s a perfect setting for dinner, whether with family, friends, as well as couples.
For fellow wine lovers, you’ll certainly appreciate the restaurant’s cellar. It contains over 800 types of local, regional and international wines. Cin to that!
Where to stay in Syracuse Sicily
For a short 1-night stay, we booked a room at the Grande Albergo Alfeo in Syracuse. A standard double room is generous in size, and the location’s around 6-minutes’ walk to Ortygia. The hotel also has free off-street parking for its guests, and is close to cafes if you want to have an al-fresco coffee.
Have you been to Siracusa Sicily? What did you enjoy most about it? Let me know in the comments below!
Happy and safe travels xx
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Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience; a demographic (late 20s onwards) that enjoys glamping over camping, staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels, sampling the local food and wine, cultural activities, and indulging in a spot of wellness on their travels. Read more here…