Guide to Siracusa: The Fascinating Melting Pot of Sicily
Food & Wine
Arts & Culture
Siracusa in the South-Eastern part of Sicily truly has an identity of its own. Founded by the Greek Corinthians in the eight century b.c Siracusa grew to become one of the most powerful cities of the Mediterranean even rivaling the importance of Athens. Having been occupied by the Romans, the Arabs and later the Spaniards the city carries the identity of all these cultures in its food, language and architecture. After the earthquake that shook the Eastern part of Sicily in 1693 the historical centre was moved to Ortigia, the small island in front, giving birth to a historical center of splendid Baroque architecture. To truly understand the nature of Sicily a visit to Siracusa is mandatory - for centuries the capital city of the island it continues to invoke awe and fascination in anyone who has the good fortune to come experience it.
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Where to stay in Siracusa, Sicily
Set on cliffs overlooking Siracusa, this luxury hotel in a protected area offers a quiet location, outdoor pool, 2 private beaches and unbeatable views.
Refined boutique hotel just outside Ortigia with spacious suites.
€20 food / beverage credit.
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UNAHOTELS One Siracusa
A lifestyle hotel with unique bold design just a short walk from the historic center of Siracusa.
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Things to do in Siracusa, Sicily
Siracusa consists of the main town and the island Ortigia, home to the historical center and probably where you as a visitor will be spending the most time. If you are staying in Minareto and feel like exploring, hop on their boat taxi which will take you to Ortigia in a matter of minutes.
Piazza Duomo and its cathedral is a must. There is also a small church on this square called Chiesa di Santa Lucia alla Badia which used to house one of the last masterpieces of "il Caravaggio" (Italians consistently refer to him as "the Caravaggio" so as to not leave any room for doubt). This piece has since been moved to the church in Piazza Santa Lucia, but both churches are worth a visit.
The Fountains of Diana are a unique example of Art Nouveau in Siracusa. The fountains are located in Piazza Archimede with several good cafès where you can rest your legs and enjoy the view. Fun fact: unbeknownst to many, Siracusa is the birthplace and hometown of Archimede. Most will think of him as Greek, but Siracusa was for all intents and purpose a Greek polis located in Sicily. Unfortunately Archimedes was killed during the Roman siege of Syracusa in 212 b.c., but his scientific legacy still lives on today. Who hasn't heard of the Archimedes' principle? Allegedly he was in the bath when a realization came to him upon which he exclaimed "Eureka!". He had realized that the rising of the water would have to correspond to the volume of the object submerged in it. Legend has it that in his excitement he ran naked through the street of Siracusa announcing his revolutionary finding.
The Temple of Apollo is considered the world's oldest example of a Doric temple. It is in ruins and it is not possible to enter, but you can still admire it from the outside and really take in the multifaceted nature of this city.
The Fonte Aretusa is a freshwater spring in Ortigia. It is linked to the ancient legend of the nymph Aretusa. Allegedly she had fled from her origins in Arcadia beneath the sea and came to life again as a freshwater spring on the island of Ortigia. Due to this the waters of the spring are said to hold healing powers and whether you believe it or not, it is a sight to behold.
The market in Ortigia
Open every day from 7 am until 2 pm (except Sundays), this is where you will want to go and take in the culinary diversity of this place. If you are staying in an apartment pick up some some local cheese, bread, vegetables and charcuterie and prepare an al fresco lunch on your terrace.
Whether you are shopping for cooking or not, roaming around the market for a couple of hours is a fascinating experience and you can easily pick up some edible souvenirs to bring home. Might I suggest a jar of "pesto ai pistacchi" (pistachio nut pesto)? You will never want go back to the basil and pine nuts stuff again.
Swimming and sunbathing
In Ortigia there are a couple of beach clubs with sun loungers, restaurants etc. The most famous ones are Solarium Nettuno and Zefiro. If you are not a fan of sand, you can use the public baths in the cliffs at Forte Vigliena. If you want pristine white beaches and crystal clear waters are your thing head on down to Fontane Bianche, about 30 mins South of Siracusa.
Places to eat & drink in Siracusa, Sicily
Ristorante Don Camillo: High-end, classical Siclian restaurant. Known to be one of the best in town. They do tasting menus (highly recommended) as well as a la carte.
Regina Lucia: This is a great restaurant in beautiful Piazza del Duomo, slightly high-end but not as much so as Don Camillo. They also do both tasting menus and a la carte.
Siculish: This is a fun place to experience the best of Italian street food. It is not a formal restaurant setting however, so better left to a lunch or an aperitivo setting. Try their multiple variations on Sicily's number one snack - arancini.
Caseificio Borderi: If you happen to be in the market and see a long line of people you are likely looking at this legendary food stall. Grab a sandwich filled to the brim with local delicacies and skip lunch.
Enoteca Solaria: Intimate little winebar with a solid selection of Sicilian wines. The perfect place to sit down for a glass and some cheese and end up spending the whole night.
Retroscena: A pearl of a restaurant in the Jewish quarter of Siracusa. Run by a Greek-Italian couple who knows how to respect the history of the town it has become somewhat of an institution. Expect an eclectic mix of Greek, Arab, and Italian inspired cooking.
La Foglia dal 1984: No guide to Siracusa would be complete without mentioning this restaurant. At La Foglia you feel like you are a guest in the host's home rather than at a public restaurant. It feels like homestyle-cooking and very genuine.
Need to Know
Looking for more Sicily inspiration? Check out my guide, 3-Day Itinerary in Taormina: The Pearl of Sicily.
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This is part of our ongoing series on travel to Italy.