Enchanting and seductive, this charming Sicilian city amazes with its timeless beauty. Covered in layers of white stone, the old town Ortigia tells the three thousand years long history of what was once the largest city in the ancient word. And while one day in Syracuse don’t seem much, you can pretty much explore all of its gracious sights, hidden gems and still find time to soak up its distinctive atmosphere.
What’s the best time to visit Syracuse?
Syracuse enjoys mild Mediterranean winters with occasional rain and warm, sunny summers. It is popular as a summer getaway destination among Italians, and many decide to spend their Ferragosto vacations here. However, summer can be insanely hot as the Sahara heat spreads itself all over the island of Sicily with the temperatures reaching more than 40C. It’s also the time of the year with the biggest crowds. If you want to enjoy Syracuse’s sunny weather to the fullest without the extra sweat, pick April-May and late September-October.
a Few facts about Syracuse
This 2,700-year-old city founded by ancient Greek Corinthians and Teneans was at the time one of the most important ancient cities. The city of rich history, culture and architecture was also the birthplace of the mathematician and engineer Archimedes. Today, Syracuse is one of the most famous summer destinations in Italy with its old town Ortigia being listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city gained fame at the beginning of the century, when the Malena movie, starring Monica Bellucci, was filmed there.
One Day in Syracuse Itinerary
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Syracuse.
Start your day by exploring the Neapolis archaeological park
Neapolis archaeological park is a vast area featuring many important ancient buildings and structures. Since it‘s located on the northern side of the city, far from the city center and Ortigia island, it’s better to visit it right in the morning. It’s also the best time to skip the crowds and the unbearable heat in the summer months. Inside the park you can admire a Roman theater, Greek theater, the altar of Hieron II and the Ear of Dionysius – an old, 20 meters high limestone quarry impressive because of its ear-resembling entrance.
Visit the Syracuse market
Make the Syracuse market your first stop on Ortigia, since it‘s the best place to indulge in the city’s laid back atmosphere and soak up all the colors and smells of the Sicily region. You can shop for seasonal fresh fruit and even buy some spices and herbs to bring back home. Don’t miss trying Sicilian pistachios and the pistachio products – they are the best in the whole world.
After you’re done exploring the stalls, it’s time to taste the best Italian sandwich. Caseificio Borderi, located right in the center of the market, makes fresh sandwiches (yes, they make it in front of you) so rich in their ingredients and taste that you can hardly find anything as delicious. On top of that, they are super cheap eats because they are quite big, so two persons can share them easily.
Stroll the Ortigia island and visit the Duomo
Ortigia island is the Syracuse old town and one of the most picturesque places in Italy and the whole world. Only a small part of the island is accessible by car, so it’s mostly car-free, which contributes to its overall calmness and serenity. Start your Ortigia stroll in front of the Temple of Apollo, located at the entrance, a short walk from both of the bridges. The ruins of the ancient Greek temple dating to the 6th century BC are free to explore from the upper street level (no entrance allowed).
Continue your walk on Corso Giacomo Matteotti street until you reach Fontana di Diana. Pass one of the small streets to reach Piazza Duomo – the splendid main square and the symbol of Baroque reconstruction of the city after the earthquake in the late 17th century.
There are many interesting historical and religious buildings lining the square, but the most impressive one is the majestic Duomo cathedral dedicated to the Nativity of Mary. The church was built in the seventh century on the remains of an ancient Greek temple and fully restored in Baroque style after the earthquake. After you’re done with the cathedral, get lost in the numerous alleys and streets of Ortigia island. Find your favorite bar for a coffee break and don’t forget to snap some amazing photos along the way.
Visit Castello Maniace
When you’re done with your own Ortigia tour, walk towards its top point until you reach Castello Maniace. It’s the rectangular citadel of Syracuse constructed in the 13th century featuring four cylindrical towers on the sides. During the history, it served as a fortification castle, residence of royal families and even a prison. The fortress tour includes spectacular views out into the Mediterranean and back across the island and two rooms with the information focusing on the archaeological heritage found on here.
Have an amazing lunch at Kantunera
You’re probably starving by now. Luckily, Syracuse offers a wide selection of great Italian and Mediterranean cuisine restaurants. If you want to eat delicious pastas, salads and delicious seafood – search no further than Kantunera restaurant. Their Pesce spada alla siracusana (swordfish in local sauce) is a must-try. Leave some space for the desert since they make the best pistachio mousse in the world. Make sure to arrive during the lunch hours, since the restaurant closes in the afternoon and reopens for dinner. They also serve healthy breakfast in the morning.
Do the afternoon boat tour
Some Syracuse attractions can’t be explored on foot and can be reached only by boat. Booking a boat tour in the afternoon is a great idea because you’re going to experience Ortigia from a whole different perspective and enjoy Maniace Castle’s full appearance. On top of that, you will visit a few sea caves in the vicinity and have some free time to enjoy a swim in the sea. In case you want to make it even more magical – book a sunset tour. If you crave more sea after your boat tour, hit the only beach on the island located on the southeastern cove.
Stroll the seaside promenade in the evening
Evening is Syracuse is the most enchanting part of the day when traveling during the warmer months. During the day the sun is so strong, you can barely see any local people going around. In the evening the streets get packed with the young and the old, locals and tourists. Stroll the seaside promenade from Passeggio Foro Vittorio Emanuele I all the way to Lungomare Alfeo. Pick your favorite bar or a restaurant you find along the way and enjoy the magical Sicilian evening.
Where to stay in Syracuse?
Via Alagona 52, Ortigia, 96100 Syracuse
Hotel Alla Giudecca is a charming and stylish hotel set in a restored 15th-century building in Syracuse’s historic centre, only a short walk from the sea shore. The spacious rooms are decorated in earth tones and elegantly furnished. The property features the breakfast room, reading room and lounge with fireplace. There is an ancient Jewish ritual bath underneath the property that could be visit during your stay.
Algilà Ortigia Charme Hotel
Via Vittorio Veneto 93, Ortigia, 96100 Syracuse
The Algilà Ortigia Charme Hotel is another stylish hotel located on Ortigia, right on the seafront. The hotel is set in 3 buildings dating from the 18th century and decorated with antique furniture and decorations. The elegant rooms provide antique furnishing and private bathrooms with decorated tiles. Suites offer a roof terrace with the stunning views overlooking the Ionian Sea.
Extra tips for visiting Syracuse
– Syracuse lifestyle is very laid back. Most of the restaurants won’t work early in the morning, since Italians mostly have only a shot of espresso coffee (ristretto) and a croissant (cornetto) instead of breakfast. Most of the shops open after 9AM-10AM. Restaurants open for lunch and close in the afternoon, so no matter how much you try, sometimes you simply cannot find any place to eat at 5PM. Restaurants reopen for dinner later in the evening.
– Most of the bars and restaurants have included cover charge in the price, known as coperto. Additional tipping is not customary.
PIN FOR LATER!
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Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).