Wander the narrow, often black-paved streets that offer up gems at every turn. In contrast to the relative architectural homogeneity of the Ragusa area, here you’ll find everything from the great Greek Temple of Apollo to Byzantine, Norman, Medieval, Baroque and Neoclassical palazzi, courtyards and churches. To one side is the large protected harbour that made Syracuse one of the greatest trading centres in the world. Today Ortigia has an understated liveliness, with intimate wine bars and fresh fish restaurants.
Syracuse (or Siracusa) was the most important city of Magna Graecia. It defeated the mighty Athens in 413 and was home to many a great Greek, including the inimitable Archimedes. At the height of its economic, political and military powers, the city had a population of 300,000 and, according to Cicero, was “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all”.