Syracuse, in Sicily, is a place I remember because of its light. This ancient port city glows under skies that are a little bluer than normal, next to turquoise waters that are a little clearer than expected and its buildings change colours from blindingly bright at noon to rose-coloured at sunset. This quality of light is so vibrant that I am instantly transported to Syracuse when I see a similar hue!
Syracuse is special because it has ridden the waves of history from times immemorial.
Rocky’s favourite spot!
From its official founding as a colony of Corinth and Tenea, as part of Magna Graecia, in 734 BCE, it was successively ruled by every major culture of the Mediterranean basin. The Greeks, Carthaginians, Etruscans, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Aghlabids, Hohenstaufens, Normans, Genoese, Aragonese, Spanish and Italians have all either possessed or coveted Syracuse!
Each culture has left its marks on a city that has thrived despite the frequent changes of rulers because it is one of the most beautiful and perfectly situated cities in the world! Perhaps its most famous resident was the great mathematician, philosopher and engineer; Archimedes. It was Archimedes who yelled “Eureka” (meaning, “I have found it!”) when he discovered the law of buoyancy, by legend, while taking a bath! In recent history, Syracuse was even briefly held by the British as a supply port during World War II. There are few inhabited places on the earth that have seen so much and have still maintained their beauty, majesty and hospitality. Today, Syracuse, which has been undergoing substantial renovation since the 1990s, is a fabulous place to visit for its beauty, history and style!
The nearest airport to Syracuse is Catania-Fontanarossa Airport; around 47km (29.2 miles) away. The quickest way to reach Syracuse is by taxi that takes about 45 minutes. If you’re looking for a bargain, take a bus which is comfortable and only takes a bit longer. Walking within Syracuse is easy as many sites are located on Ortygia Island which is mostly pedestrianised.
Here’s a Pro-tip: I recommend that you adopt the “Isabella Method” to visiting Syracuse so you don’t experience “historical burnout”. Simply spend each alternate day during you stay visiting the many wonderful historical sites while spending the other day relaxing, lounging by the pool or beach and indulging yourself with the local foods and wines.
There is a lot to see in Syracuse and its surroundings! Here are my favourites:
- Your first stop should be Ortygia Island, across a bridge that connects the new and old city. This charming district with its Baroque architecture will enchant you. A lot of the main attractions are here:
The Piazza Baroque my spirit!
– Arethusa Fountain – this fountain has an enchanting legend and, if you visit at sunset, it is breath-taking and you can really feel the magic!
– Ortygia Local Market – this wonderful marketplace offers an array of colours and exotic smells. Take home some local specialties such as pistachios, dried citrus fruits, almonds and sun-dried tomatoes!
- Parco Archeologico della Neapolis is an archaeological park where you can find impressive historic ruins:
Where ancient Greek’s ‘played’!
– The Roman Amphitheatre was constructed way back in the 3rd Century CE and was partially carved from living rock! This is a place of beauty where the greenery combines with the ancient ruins to transport you back in time.
- Local Beaches – Syracuse has wonderful weather and relaxing beaches:
– Ortygia Beach – you don’t even need to leave city to have a swim! Walk along the pebbled shore or pontoons for a day at the seaside.
– Calamosche Beach – with its crystal-clear waters and beautiful natural surroundings, is a favourite spot for residents! It is situated within the Vendicari Nature reserve and thus offers wonderful and relaxing walks.-
– Parco Marino del Plemmirio – this beach is speckled with beautiful coves and crystal-clear waters! It’s not far from Syracuse and is the perfect place to spend the day.
- Vendicari Nature Reserve – this gives you the chance to see wild flamingos! Thousands of migrating birds stop here on there way to and from Africa, making it an amazing place to spend the day!
- Mount Etna – from Syracuse, it is a short trip to one of the most active volcanoes in the world! In fact, it is often possible to see the glow of eruptions at night form the city!
- Wineries – the wonderful soils of the wine-region are the gift of Mount Etna and produce enticing white wines that are refreshingly served very cold! Why not take a winery tour and then sample the vintner’s best products?!
The Syracusans have enjoyed wines and the bounty of excellent food for millennia. Their food is fresh, clean and remarkably different from traditional Italian. Here are my favourite places to eat in Syracuse:
- L’Ufficio Ristorante – which translates to “The Office” and is a cool and relaxed seafood restaurant. It is perfect for a special occasion! Its dishes and service are impeccable.
- Siculish: Street Food Experience – this is actually a restaurant! With its unique take on traditional burgers and pizzas, this 5-star experience is not to be missed. You should try their octopus burger; it’s a tasty treat!
This dish is strong; it’s covered in mussels!
- Cod da Saretta – this delightful and reasonably priced restaurant serves up some of the best seafood spaghetti you will ever taste!
Here’s a pro-tip: Don’t forget to try the local specialty, Caponata. This Sicilian dish contains fried eggplant and other vegetables, seasoned with olive oil, tomato sauce, celery, olives, and capers, in an agrodolce sauce. It’s a wonderful unique and fresh flavour of Syracuse!
As a resort area, Syracuse enjoys a relaxed but vibrant nightlife. Here are my favourite nightspots:
- Cortile Verga Ortigia – Tucked away from the crowds in a beautiful courtyard, you can enjoy a romantic atmosphere with jazz music, candles and creative cocktails.
- Barcollo – This funky bar also features a lovely courtyard and creative drinks with live music. Their most notable drink is their version of a Moscow Mule; it is cool and refreshing!
- Enoteca Solaria – This old school wine shop is amazingly stocked with floor to ceiling bottles, set among old fashioned, rustic wooden tables! Enjoy some nibbles as you sample different wines. With their wonderful selection of wine by the glass you can sample the very best of Syracuse and Sicily!
Here’s another pro-tip: You can’t leave Syracuse without trying ‘Granita’, a semi-frozen dessert made from sugar, water and various flavourings. This was once the refreshment of Muslim rulers and Norman kings! My favourite is made from the local citrus fruits!
Your stay will be equally as beautiful as your surroundings! Here are my favourite spots to recharge:
- Ortigia Boutique Palace – this is an amazing aparthotel. Situated just 800m from Cala Rossa Beach, this seaside stay offers relaxation and comfort. These beautifully designed apartments have a bohemian feel which have all the comforts of home.
- Hotel Henry’s House – this wonderful property overlooks the sea with beautiful coastal views! It is traditionally decorated with elegantly styled rooms and reception areas. It is located only a five minute walk from the Duomo, so it’s perfectly positioned in the centre!
- The Ortea Luxury Palace – this luxury hotel features an incredible spa & wellness centre, an indoor pool and a restaurant. In a converted Art Nouveau post office, the hotel offers modern rooms right on the Marina on Ortygia!
Hot time, summer in the city!
Syracuse is an exciting, relaxing and convenient place to visit. Marvel at its beautiful quality of light and remember that your friend Isabella loves this ancient city!