Ortigia: What to see, do and eat

Mary Youlden
Authored by Mary Youlden
Posted: Thursday, February 8, 2024 - 15:06

Ortigia, also known as Città Vecchia, is a charming little island in Syracuse that is definitely worth your visit. Known for being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's a top destination for those seeking an enriching cultural experience.

Ortigia has rich cultural influences of Greek and Roman heritage, it’s an island with an incredibly suggestive atmosphere surrounded by emerald Mediterranean waters.

Already curious? Let’s explore it together:

Start your excursion by contemplating Ortigia’s architecture. The city’s buildings are a true Italic patrimony, which is best enjoyed early in the morning when the streets are not loud and crowded. Among them, The Cathedral of Syracusa, showcasing a mixture of difficult artistic techniques dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, is a highlight. Greek Doric columns with Norman and Baroque elements are an ode to the civilizations that have influenced the island’s history over time and centuries.

A visit to the medieval Palazzo Bellomo will be a great opportunity to better learn the artistic history of Syracuse through a curated collection of Italian artists who impacted Sicilian history such as Antonello da Messina and Domenico Gagini. You will be able to admire art pieces dating from the Middle Ages to the Baroque era.

After that, go and see the mythological greenery of the Fountain of Arethusa. The natural freshwater spring is situated near the waterfront, close to the sea, and we promise the setting will leave you breathless. The fountain of Arethusa is associated with the Greek nymph Arethusa. Legend says she was transformed into a spring by the goddess Artemis to escape the persistent river god Alpheus.

Now, the Fountain of Arethusa is considered one of the most romantic places in Italy and Europe.

Ortigia is the perfect place just to take your time and relax. The sea is emerald clear and even if the beach Cala Rossa isn’t large, the landscape is memorable. Here you can always choose whether to relax and sunbathe under the hot Sicilian sun, alternating it with a swim in the Mediterranean, or going on a boat excursion to better see the picturesque caves nearby.

We particularly recommend you to go to markets like Mercato di Siracusa to see and try the local goods. Ortigia's traditional dishes are the very reflection of Sicily, incorporating fresh seafood, Sicilian lemons and olives, arancini (rice balls), and, of course, the true Italian pizza. Try local restaurants such as Cod da Saretta for fried seafood and the traditional swordfish, Apollonion for the fresh anchovy with shrimps and raw oysters, and Cortile Spirito Santo for the complete fine gastronomic journey — we guarantee you, you will fall in love with the local food.

Of course, to truly enjoy your vacation, book your stay at quality places and not at the last minute. We recommend seeing the luxury Roma Hotel in the Ortigia Island, in the historic center of the city which has an incredible view and the most delicious breakfasts.

Have you ever been to Ortigia? What did you like most about the island?

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