Siracusa is a city rich in facets and great beauties. Perhaps even more than other places in Sicily. It has maintained the extraordinary mutability of civilisation. Each district is a mixture of Greek, Arab, Byzantine civilisations, in a labyrinth of streets and architecture.
These are a few reasons to organise a holiday in Siracusa:
Experience a real life Sicilian fairy-tale at the Ortea Palace, a grand, restored post office overlooking the dazzling Gulf of Ortigia.
Historical research can get a little heated under the bright rays of the Sicilian sun, so if you want a break from the beams, why not head inside and continue your classical education at Sircausa’s Museo Archeologico Paolo Orsi, which just so happens to be one of the most prestigious museums of archaeology in Europe!
With four different sections which chart the development of Siracusa, from its humble beginnings in pre-history to its pre-eminence as a key player in the ancient world, this museum will give you a clear over view of how this stunning settlement has evolved throughout the centuries.
Budding Classicists will have their breath taken away as they meander the ruins of the former 16,000-seater amphitheatre and imagine the ghosts of ancient actors donning masks and performing legendary Greek tragedies by the greatest playwrights of them all, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. (Fun fact, Siracusa’s Greek theatre was where the last tragedies of Aeschylus were performed… in his presence!
But if you visit in May or June, you won’t have to imagine yourself back in time, as this is when the Greek Theatre Festival takes places, which is one of Sicily’s foremost cultural events.
If your more of a fan of Baroque architecture than classical antiquity, make your way to the Piazza del Duomo, Siracusa’s masterpiece central square sits upon what was once the city’s ancient acropolis.
The square is named after the stunning cathedral that overlooks it, which has an imposing Baroque façade, but was actually originally built as a 5 th century temple to Athena, making it a potent symbol of how history is ever evolving. Whilst there is now an efigy of the Virgin Mary on the rooftop where there once stood a golden statue of the goddess of wisdom, if you look very closely you can still see some remnants of the Duomo’s ancient origins, namely the Doric columns which are visible both from the exterior and interior of the cathedral.
Top Tip! Whilst on the Piazza you should also visit the smaller church of Chiesa di Santa Lucia alla badia. Whilst it doesn’t sport such a grandiose frontage as the Duomo, it does have some hidden gems concealed inside its walls, namely “The Burial of St Lucy” an artistic masterpiece by the Renaissance master Caravaggio himself!
Castles more your thing than churches? Well Siracusa’s got you covered! Head to the southernmost tip of the island of Ortigia to visit the cream coloured Castello Maniace, the 13th Century castle built by Holy Roman Emperor Fredrik II.
Originally used as a royal residence, the castle went on to become a prison, then a fortress, and now is enjoying its life as a tourist attraction!
The Syracusan coast is one of the most evocative stretches of coast in Sicily and the beaches of Syracuse are absolutely worth seeing. You can find white beaches with tropical charm, headlands, cliffs and coves with crystal clear sea.
From Arenella to the crowded (in summer) Fontane Bianche, to the magical Pineta del Gelsomineto or Spiaggia della Marchesa. The Vendicari Nature Reserve is a must: thousands of bird species land and stop here in flocks. Dwarf palms, myrtles and olive trees, agaves and flowering shrubs surround the soft beach, which can be reached by foot.
You'll see waders, pink flamingos, and herring gulls in the morning and at sunset. The most beautiful beach in Italy, according to the Blue Guide of Legambiente, Cala Mosca features clear water full of amberjacks and bream, as well as a solitary and austere sighting tower, which served as a bulwark against the Saracens in the fifteenth century.
A little taste of paradise in the form of a counter located inside the Ancient Market of Ortigia. Cheese makers since 1930, a penchant for quality cheeses and a passion for traditional local food. You can find ricotta, pecorino, provolone cheese, jams, jellies, pickles, and salami here - perfect for a sandwich or cutting board. Order wine by the glass.
La terrazza sul mare, Grand Hotel Ortigia
The terrace overlooking the sea, the pride of the Grand Hotel Ortigia, enjoys a unique view of Ortigia and the Gulf. The menu is creative and elegant, in contrast to the tourist offer of the area. The wine list is extensive, curated by the sommelier Marco Campisi. Proposals for coeliacs and vegetarians for both lunch and dinner. Excellent desserts, impeccable service.
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