A treasured, cherished destination in which light, air and the remarkable colour of sea are interwoven.
Lying at the SE part of Sicily the one and only island of Ortigia holds an area of 1sq km. It’s a place full of history, mythology, legend and poetry. Is separated from Syracuse by a narrow channel and is connected to the island by three bridges. The island is also known as the Cita Vecchia (Old city). The history of Ortigia goes back 2,750 years and unquestionably is called the historical heart of Syracuse. Sunny and hot full of remains of a glorious past.
Its name originates from the Ancient Greek word ‘Ortyx’ which means quail. The charm of Ortigia is its mix of styles: Greek and Baroque but also Roman, Medieval and Norman.
The best way to appreciate Ortigia is on foot. Wondering in the narrow alleys through the medieval district of Giudecca you can admire the medieval houses. Many buildings were built around a country yard which had a palm or a lemon tree.
Enjoy the everyday life of the locals. Sitting on their balconies which are full of flowers either enjoying their coffee chatting away or strolling in the near food markets for their daily supplies. Spend some time around the markets. Enjoy the smell and sight of local products such as fish, vegetables, and cheeses. Is worth it, an enjoyable experience for your eyes and taste.
Temple of Apollo
Crossing the oldest bridge, you will arrive at the impressive Temple of Apollo which was built in 654BC. This Doric Temple is the second oldest Greek temple in the world. At the museum Paolo Orsi of Syracuse, you can see a complete model of the temple as well as a video reconstruction of the internal parts of the building.
The Fountain of Arethousa
At the Promenade the Fountain of Arethousa an ancient source of water that flows out of a cave. There is a legend that Goddess Artemis metamorphosed Arethousa into a source so that she can escape from Alpheus. Today the fountain is full of ducks wandering around as well as papyrus plants.
Castle of Maniace
A Byzantine captain George Maniace in order to protect the harbour of Ortigia built in 1038 a fort. In later years, this was turned into a castle by Frederic of Swabia.
Cathedral of Syracuse (Duomo)
Originally was built as a Greek temple but after the 1693 earthquake a large part of it was destroyed and was built later in Baroque Style.
The square is completely white a magical sight at night when the lights make it glow. The impressive Cathedral was first built as a temple of Athena, with a magnificent gold statue of the goddess on its roof. The Doric columns of the temple are still there although not in a very good state. Inside there is more evidence of the original structure. Near the exit is a small room, a sanctuary to Santa Lucia patron of the city where gifts offered to Santa Lucia are kept.
Sit for a while, in a cafeteria in the square, relax and enjoy the view, the passing by tourists or locals or even watch a wedding taking place while having a coffee or a snack.
Church of Santa Lucia
This magnificent church is on the square where the patronage of Ortigia Santa Lucia is worshipped. Inside you can admire the Michelangelo Caravaggio masterpiece which shows the burial of the Saint.
The street is full of shops, restaurants, cafes. Find exquisite essences, soaps, perfumes, candles, creams with olive oil and almond. This is the area where the noble families used to build their Baroque palaces.
Piazza Archimedes and Fontana di Artemide
Geographically the centre of Ortigia. Is named after the Archimedes a brilliant mathematician of Greek origin an exceptional mind whose work and thoughts form the basis of many sciences today. A fantastic fountain of Artemis stands in the centre of the square. The sculptor Corrado Piceno Guliano Muskets presents the legend of Arethousa in a very expressive way. Alpheus stretching his arms to grab the nymph but Artemis in the centre of the group shields the girl.
Ipogio Duomo – Jewish Ritual Baths
If you cannot bear the hot weather or is raining, visit two out of the ordinary attractions of the city the Ipogio Duomo a set of underground tunnels with the entrance in Piazza del Duomo which were used as shelters from bombing at Second World War. These rock-cut passages are very old constructed to store water under the Archbishops Palace. The exit of the tunnels is on the waterfront.
Ortigia is full of beautiful piazzas, magical places, narrow medieval alleys, historical sites full of myths and legends which make you feel for a while you are in a place out of time. The perfect getaway for people who are in love with history and traditions.
As for where to stay we have picked three of our favourite hotels to share with you:
– Grand Hotel Ortigia! A lovely hotel at a great location with splendid sea views and amazing sunsets from the rooftop bar.
– Ortea Luxury Palace! A new addition to the market, Ortea Luxury Palace opened its doors in 2017 for the first time. Location wise is great and close to the bridges that connect the island of Ortigia with Siracusa.
– Algilà Ortigia Charme Hotel! Another beautiful hotel with a great location in the historic centre of Ortigia not far from the Museum of Leonardo Da Vinci & Archimedes.