Ortigia (Siracusa)

Discover some of the most beautiful monuments of the Baroque Sicily. Live local celebrations of the Patroni (Saints of the town), or attend local & international art festivals.

ORTIGIA (Siracusa)

The heart of ancient Syracuse, recently restored and revived, Ortigia is a bridge-linked little island off the tip of the modern city.

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”.

Some Highlights

  • Piccolo Teatro dei Pupi (puppets)
  • Archeological museum Paolo Orsi
  • Catacombe of San Giovanni
  • Garibaldi theatre
  • Parco Neapolis
  • Prison of the Capuchins
  • The Caravaggio “Burial of St Lucy”
  • Palazzo Vermexio
  • Palazzo Beneventano del Bosco
  • The May festival of Santa Lucia
Il Duomo

Lawrence Durrell, English writer and famous traveller said about the Duomo and Santa Lucia cathedral : “Start with a Greek temple, embed the whole in a Christian edifice to which you later add a Norman facade which gets knocked down by the great earthquake of 1693. Undaunted by this, you get busy once more and, completely changing direction, replace the old facade with a devilish graceful Baroque composition dated around 1728-54. And the whole thing, battered as it is, still smiles and breathes and manifests its virtue for all the world as if it had been thought out by a Leonardo or a Michelangelo”. What a perfect description! Yes, the Duomo of Syracuse is a blend of styles and history, and in its most original singularity it is a must in your Sicilian journey.

Greek Theatre

The Greek origin of Syracuse is proudly presented in this imposing stone-made half circle theater. And to go there during the classical performances in May and June will bring you back in time to a long ago past. Only second after the Parthenon of Athens, it could sit 19’000 visitors, against Athens’ 24’000! Its construction was conceived keeping in mind the natural shape of the Temenite hill and its neighbouring valleys, and also the search for maximum acoustic. Still today the view over Ortigia and its port remains as it was wanted by the Greek architect 2’500 years ago!

Temple of Apollo

Dating back to the 6th century BC, it is the most ancient Doric temple of Sicily. Like the cathedral of Santa Lucia, it underwent many changes : it was a Byzantine church, which you can recognise from its frontal staircase and the traces of a median door; it then became an Islamic mosque. Later, a Norman church was built over it, which then was incorporated in a Spanish military compound and various private buildings in the XV century. The temple was uncovered around 1860 inside the compound and brought back to view thanks to tremendous work done from 1938 to 1942. In the Orsi museum, well worth visiting, you can see many artifacts from the temple.

The choice of visits will depend on the season and the events taking place in Siracusa Ortigia.

8 stunning days to discover the real Sicilian culture!

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