The most beautiful city of Magnagrecia ”, thus was defined Syracuse by Cicero. Of ancient origins, it is a UNESCO heritage site and by visiting it you can immerse yourself in its millennial past, discovering its wonders, which are a reminder of the different cultures and civilizations that have followed one another there.
Syracuse was founded by the Corinthians in 734 BC. over time becoming a political and cultural greatness like the other powers of Magna Graecia. But, with the Roman conquest of 212 BC, the city began to lose its importance and splendor and was also conquered by Arabs, Byzantines, Normans, Swabians and Aragonese.
The earthquake of 1693 destroyed the city in rubble, damaging much of its architectural beauty and like other cities in this area of Sicily, Syracuse was reborn in Baroque style. But in every corner there are Greek, Roman and Byzantine testimonies that recall what is its past, which tell millennia of history.
Syracuse is therefore one of the most popular destinations in the whole of Sicily and in the Val di Noto. In fact, in this area there are other very important cities from the historical and cultural point of view such as Ragusa, Scicliand Modica.
What to see in Syracuse: Complete tourist guide
What to see in Syracuse: Complete tourist guide The characteristic of Syracuse is that the historic center actually stands on an islet, the island of Ortiga, connected to the rest of the city by two bridges: Ponte Umbertino and Ponte Santa Lucia. Here you cannot miss one of the symbols of Syracuse: the Arethusa spring, whose name evokes an ancient myth of the nymph Arteusa who was transformed into a source of fresh water by Artemis. The source is circular with a terrace from which you can look out to admire the bottom and the papyrus plants that grow green from the rocks. The same papyrus plants can be found along the banks of the Ciane river, which reaches almost as far as the port of Syracuse. Precisely the presence of this plant and that of the salt pans determined the establishment, in 1984, of the homonymous nature reserve. Itis a pleasant adventure to travel along the river by boat, to discover an unusual and fascinating habitat.
Walking through the narrow streets of this wonderful historic center, there are many churches that will attract your attention, for example the Duomo. The most important religious architecture of the city stands where once there was a temple dedicated to the goddess Athens, so it recalls ancient Greece. Its facade is a mixture of baroque / roccocò elements and is one of the most beautiful of the Sicilian churches. In the same square you will find Palazzo Vermexio, of which you absolutely must note the small gecko that Vermexio carved in the left corner of the building. The Church of Santa Lucia alla Badia, dedicated to the Syracusan Patroness, houses one of Caravaggio’s works, painted during a stay of the painter in the city: a canvas depicting the “Burial of Saint Lucia”.
Palazzo Bellomo, Palazzo Mergulese Montalto, Palazzo Chiaramonte, the church of San Martino and Palazzo Gargallo will arouse interest in looking at them, and always on the island of Ortigia you must visit the remains of the oldest Doric temple in Sicily: the Temple of Apollo, which, over time, it was transformed into a mosque, in the Norman period into a church and, during the Spanish domination, into a barracks.
After a pleasant walk along the Alfeo seafront you will arrive at the Maniace Castle, an expression of the Swabian Syracusan period. The castle was built by Emperor Frederick II around 1200 and was supposed to present itself as a threat to the enemies that came from the sea. Today visiting it and walking on its towers and ramparts, you can admire the panorama and the coast that is bathed by a turquoise and crystalline sea.
Crossing the bridge, go to the Archaeological Park of Neapolis: located in the north-western part of the modern city, and covering approximately 240,000 square meters. It is one of the largest archaeological areas in the Mediterranean, a true open-air museum with artifacts ranging from the Bronze Age to the Norman domination. The center of the park and one of the most popular destinations for tourists is the Greek Theater, home to classical performances organized by the National Institute of Ancient Drama. Here you can witness the works of Sophocles, Euripides and Seneca andrelive the golden times of ancient Greece.
The park is also an opportunity to get to know the Sicilian fauna and flora more closely, in fact it is surrounded by nature made of olive trees, cypresses, pines, palms, carob trees, pomegranates, pomegranates, oranges, lemons, without forgetting myrtle and oregano, which constitute a naturalistic heritage of enormous value for the region.
Under the theater is the curious Dionysius Ear, a huge rock characterized by a particular acoustic effect. In fact, this one, which is said to have been excavated by Dionysius, boasts exceptional acoustics, and each sound is amplified up to 16 times. You will still find the Ara di Ierone and the Amphitheater roman
For an authentic testimony of what was the greatness of Syracuse you must visit the Catacombs of Syracuse, a vast system of necropolis begun in the fourth century and continued throughout the fifth century AD. In the catacombs you descend from the Church of San Giovanni, a building now without a roof, which has become an ideal place for the natural growth of bushes and palm trees. It is a truly evocative place, to be visited even at sunset, when the light of the twilight creates a magical play on the roofless church.
The city that gave birth to Archimedes, to whom a square and various statues are dedicated, is home to the Archimedes Technopark, a large play area with reproductions of machines and some inventions of the Syracusan genius.
A little outside the center there is the largest castle dating back to the Greek erawhich has survived to the present day. It is located in the hamlet of Belvedere and was dug directly into the rock: the Eurialo castle. It was probably built by Dionisio, as a fortress for the city; in fact the castle seems to dominate all of Syracuse, thanks to its strategic position, directly in front of the sea.
A testimony of Jewish Syracuse is Giudecca in the area bounded by via della Giudecca, via Larga, via Maestranza and via Alagona. There isn’t much left of the past houses but you can visit an ancient miqweh, a system of tubs fed by running water that was once connected to the synagogue.
Not only architectural monuments and remains of ancient buildings, but, to cheer and make your Syracusan itinerary interesting are: the Puppet Museum and the Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum. The puppet museum of one of the most famous puppet families in the city is exhibited in the Pupi museum, near the Duomo. Christian knights, Saracen pirates, wizards, witches, and many other more or less fantastic characters, who take you into their fantastic world. The museum also organizes shows focused on what is the story of Charlemagne, Rolando and the paladins, who are at the center of the Sicilian tradition of puppets. The museum and the work with its puppets are declared by Unesco Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
The museum, named after the homonymous archaeologist Paolo Orsi, is instead considered one of the most important in Europe. Today located in the Villa Landolina, a huge three-level structure surrounded by a beautiful green park, it houses finds located in 3 rooms ranging from prehistory to the Hellenistic-Roman age.
Its history, rich and well present in the artistic and architectural landscape of the city, makes Syracuse one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in Sicily and of the entire Italian cultural and artistic heritage.
What to eat and where to eat in Syracuse
What to eat and where to eat in Syracuse Along with the cultural tour, in the name of history and traditions, visiting the destination of your trip, you must embark on a food and wine tour, to savor the specialties and delicacies that the place offers.
Syracuse boasts a spicy and tasty cuisine, based on fresh and local fish, but also rich in land dishes with typical products of the Iblei Mountains. In Piazza Pancalli, behind the temple of Apollo, every morning the merchants display their merchandise and Mediterranean smells and fragrances, coming from every counter. Various types of local and fresh fish, Ragusan caciocavalli and Nebrodi pork salami, Pachino aubergines and tomatoes, Bronte pistachios and Iblee and Moresche olives, these are the main elements of Syracusan cuisine.
One of the typical dishes is “Pasta alla Siracusana”: the main ingredient are anchovies, accompanied by olive oil and toasted breadcrumbs.
For those wishing to savor a dish rich in spices, the pasta with Moorish sauce is famous, made with tuna bottarga, cinnamon, orange and lemon juice, and is a very special dish in which spices and citrus fruits are combined.
Among the main courses, typically Syracusan is tuna alla ghiotta, seasoned with potatoes, tomatoes and onion, and then octopus, shrimps, mussels and swordfish for a very tasty seafood soup. Or, a ground dish, is the “farsumauru” or “falsumagru” in dialect, a roll of meat cooked in the oven and stuffed with cured meats, cheese, hard-boiled eggs and other ingredients.
Sicily is well known, it is famous for its granite of various flavors, its cannoli and cassata, but the most famous Syracusan sweets are the almond paste sweets. Avola almonds are used both for pastry and for flavoring drinks. The pastries are presented either in the form of pastries with a more delicate taste, flavored from time to time with dried and non-dried fruit, or in the form of marzipan fruits (“martorana fruit”), with a much more decisive and sweet taste, which imitate in the shapes and colors of the “real” fruits. Almond milk, on the other hand, is a real fresh and thirst-quenching panacea with a delicate and very characteristic scent.
In Syracuse you can eat really well, and there are many clubs and restaurants where you can taste its delicacies. In the heart of Ortigia is the “Don Camillo” restaurant, a reference point for Syracusans whose cuisine is simple and immediate but at the same time refined. With a unique view of the gulf is the terrace overlooking the sea of the restaurant of the Grand Hotel in Ortigia: a creative and refined cuisine that perfectly recalls local flavors. A few steps from the Duomo, there is the Monzù restaurant, welcoming and well-kept or, to enjoy a good pizza, a few steps from Ortigia, there is “Piano B” which offers you the classic Neapolitan pizza, with a high cornice and fluffy, or the typically lower Roman-style pizza.
For breakfasts, brunches, and aperitifs of various kinds, there are many bars and clubs that populate the city and cheer the days of its visitors and beyond: bar Rizzo, Pasticceria Leonardi By Peruch, Bar Tunisi, Alfio Neri and others .
Holiday homes in Syracuse
If you want to immerse yourself in the city of Syracuse and in the neighboring towns to spend an intense and fun holiday in South Eastern Sicily, you can take a look at our holiday homes and apartments in the area.
Ragusa, Modica, Scicli, are just some of the places where Cento Sicilie can offer you different structures, suitable for every specific need, in which to stay for your holidays.
How to get to Syracuse
Reach Syracuse by car:
• From Messina and Catania take the A18 motorway towards Catania, up to Syracuse and continue along the SS124.
• From Palermo take the E90 (A20 motorway) towards Messina; at Buonfornello, take the A19 Palermo – Catania motorway and continue to Catania where it is necessary to continue along the A18 to Syracuse.
Reach Syracuse by plane:
• Catania airport
• Comiso Airport (Ragusa)
Reach Syracuse by train:
Syracuse is served by direct trains from Palermo, Messina and Catania. Also there are several direct trains that depart from Rome.