What to see in Siracusa Sicily in 1 day

 

 

 

What to see in Siracusa Sicily in 1 day

The incredible island of Sicily is just one of those destinations that needs to be seen to be believed.

A frequent traveler to the island, I’ve seen Taormina, Noto, Ragusa and Modica. However, one of the most memorable places in Sicily is Syracuse (Siracusa). This beautiful city has a historical centre on the island of Ortygia (Ortigia), and is an itinerary must. If you’re planning on visiting, or want to add Sicily to your Italy travel plans, read on.

The city has a strong influence of Ancient Greece, which is evident from the many structures you come across. Syracuse used to be the most powerful city of its time, before handing over the title to Palermo.

When to visit Siracusa Sicily

Like most destinations during the summer months, Siracusa is full of tourists around July and August. However, when I went there in early August, it wasn’t as busy as I’d imagined.

Average temperatures in July and August range from 26° to 32°. Saying that, it’s essential to carry a bottle of water and wear suitable sunscreen. 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, it’s far from comfortable!

Things to see in Syracuse Sicily

Ortygia

The centre of Syracuse has many sights to explore, but to see some of the best attractions, head to 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 harbours and ideal geography.

Ortygia springs 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 want to get lost, for every street leads to a welcome surprise.

Piazza del Duomo

Take the incredible Piazza del Duomo. As you enter its grand space, your eyes don’t know where to look first. You weave through many narrow streets to get there, and so are wonderfully surprised when you see the oval-shaped piazza. 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.

I wouldn’t have discovered nearly half the things I learned in Syracuse had I not joined a tour. There are plenty of great, and affordable, tours to choose from, with something to suit every type of traveler.

 

 

Luxury experience in Vienna - Vienna State Opera
Luxury experience in Vienna - Vienna State Opera

“Take the incredible Piazza del Duomo. As you enter its grand space, your eyes don’t know where to look first.”

FOLLOWING THE RIVERA

Luxury experience in Vienna - Vienna State Opera
Luxury experience in Vienna - Vienna State Opera

“Reflecting its Ancient Greek influence, the Cathedral of Syracuse’s structure is based on a Greek doric temple.”

FOLLOWING THE RIVERA

Luxury experience in Vienna - Vienna State Opera
Luxury experience in Vienna - Vienna State Opera

“The theatre itself is on a sloping hill, and when seated, draws you into the magic and mystery.”

FOLLOWING THE RIVERA

Luxury experience in Vienna - Vienna State Opera
Luxury experience in Vienna - Vienna State Opera

“Literally meaning the ‘Ear of Dionysus’, this limestone cave is an awesome tear-drop shaped structure 23m in height.”

FOLLOWING THE RIVERA

Luxury experience in Vienna - Burggarten
Luxury experience in Vienna - Burggarten
Luxury experience in Vienna - Burggarten

What to see in Siracusa – 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. That said, come earlier to get a good spot, but keep the cameras away as photography’s not allowed.   

Palazzo Beneventano del Bosco

Before I laid eyes on the incredible Duomo di Siracusa, I was first captivated by the Palazzo Beneventano del Bosco. Once the home of local government, Baron Guglielmo Beneventano bought the house and refurbished it in the 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 incredible exterior and its discoloured façade was more than enough.

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, as 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.

Fountain of Arethusa

You really can’t miss seeing 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.

What to see in Syracuse Sicily in 1 day - Fountain of Arethusa

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.

What to see in Syracuse, Sicily – Teatro Greco di Siracusa

The Greek Theatre 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 theatre 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 theatre is the main draw, the site has many other places of interest.

I particularly enjoyed 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 gives the cave good acoustics, and you can still hear the echo effect when inside.

There’s an entry fee to the Greek theatre (around €10), but the lines weren’t too long, even during August.

Luxury experience in Vienna - Kunsthistorisches Museum

“They have a good selection of fish, seafood, and light summery salads to complete your meal.”

FOLLOWING THE RIVERA

Word of warning though: there are refurbishment works in process, so check the progress before visiting.

Where to eat in Syracuse, Sicily

Lunch – Darsena da Lanuzzo

There are many great places to dine in Syrcause, Sicily, that it’s hard to know where to start. If you’re craving for some good 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 have a good selection of fish, seafood, and light summery salads to complete your meal.

Aperitif – MOON

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 was chilled. MOON also has its own art gallery, (check out the paintings on the wall) and live music nights. If I return to Ortygia, this is one restaurant I’ll be re-visiting for sure.

Dinner – 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, or just for two. For wine lovers, like myself, 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

For a very 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 Syracuse Sicily? What did you enjoy most about it? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy and safe travels xx

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