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 history of the once 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 where many decide to spend their Ferragosto vacations. However summer can be insanely hot bringing the Sahara heat all over the island of Sicily with the temperatures reaching more than 40C. It’s also the time of the year with the biggest crowd. If you want to enjoy its 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
Top things to do in Syracuse, Italy
Follow this guide and make the best of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do on your one day in Syracuse.
Start your day exploring 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 unbearable heat in the summer months. Inside of 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 cause of its ear resembling entrance.
Visit the Syracuse market
Make Syracuse market your first stop on the Ortigia island since it‘s the best place to indulge in a city’s laid back atmosphere and soak up all the colors and smells of the Sicily region. You can shop for the seasonal fresh fruits 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 – you can hardly find anything as delicious. On the top of it, they are super cheap eats since they are quite big, so the two persons can share it.
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 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 an 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, however the most impressive one is a majestic Duomo cathedral, dedicated to the Nativity of Mary. The church is built in the seventh century on the remains of 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 make sure to capture 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 The Castello Maniace. It’s the rectangular citadel of Syracuse constructed in 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 archaeological heritage found on the site.
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’re making 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 the 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 cause you’re going to experience the Ortigia island from the whole different perspective and enjoy Maniace Castle full appearance. On top of that you will visit a few sea caves in the vicinity and at the end you’ll have some free time to enjoy the 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 Ortigia island, located on the southeast 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 going around. In the evening the streets get packed with young and 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?
Hotel Alla Giudecca is a charming and stylish hotel set in a restored 15th-century building in the 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
The Algilà Ortigia Charme Hotel is another stylish hotel located in Ortigia Island, right on the seafront. The hotel is set in 3 buildings dating from 18th 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.
– Make your trip to Syracuse even more exciting! Check out Tripadvisor for all the activities and organized tours in Syracuse or around the area. Make sure to purchase your tickets to all the attractions right away to skip the queues.
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