Cant decide whether to visit Ortygia? Here’s what you will be missing.
If you are going to visit Syracuse in the south east corner of Sicily, you will definitely want to spend most of your time on the beautiful island of Ortygia which is joined to the mainland by three bridges.
Syracuse was first inhabited by the Greeks in 734 BCE. Initially, they founded their settlement on the island of Ortygia, soon expanding and spreading to the mainland. In its day, Syracuse was one of the most powerful Greek cities in the Mediterranean and was larger than Athens.
One of Syracuse’s claims to fame is that Archimedes was born there and it is down one of the streets in the city that he would have run naked shouting, ‘Eureka!’ if the legend is to be believed. There’s something to imagine while you are visiting – you’re welcome!
How long should I stay there?
Ortygia is a very small island which can be explored in one day.
Tight on time? It is possible to spend half a day at the archaeological park on the mainland and half a day in Ortygia.
Plenty of time? Stay there and explore at leisure or use it as a base for other baroque towns in the area.
What to see
If you cross the central bridge from the mainland, the first point of interest will be the ruins of the Temple of Apollo which date back to the 6th Century BCE.
Turning left will take you to the open air market filled with colourful seasonal produce. I love to visit food markets wherever I am and discover all the delicious ingredients that I am likely to be eating at dinner time! If you turn right, you will head into the main part of town down a labyrinth of narrow lanes just waiting to be explored!
Wandering down the lanes past boutiques and cafes, you will soon come across Piazza Archimede dedicated to Archimedes, of course, with its art nouveau fountain: Fontana di Diana.
From here, the Piazza del Duomo, which is the centrepiece of town, isn’t far away. It is a a lovely rectangular open space lined with an array of impressive buildings.
The Duomo is just beautiful. it is built on the skeleton of a 5th century BC Greek Temple – a great bit of upcycling! If you look at the walls of the building, you will notice the original Doric columns. At the top of the building, there used to be a golden statue of Athena which served as a beacon to Greek sailors making their way home. A statue of the Virgin Mary now stands in her place.
If you keep walking to the very tip of the island then you will reach Castello Maniace, Ortigya’s 13th century castle, which you can wander around for a small fee!
For free views of the sea, you could always walk around the perimeter of the island. Just walking along one side of it is a lovely stroll. Why not take a gelato?
Do also spend some time just wandering down some of the side streets exploring. I loved leaving my map in my bag and just ambling wherever the fancy took me!
Have you been to Ortygia? Where were your favourite spots?