We want to take you somewhere special today –– one of Italy’s prettiest spots, in fact.
If we could crown any corner as “classic” Sicily, Syracuse would probably take the cannoli.
And yet, you may question whether you’re in Italy when you get there: the reign and influence of the Greeks are strongly rooted in the foundations of this little town.
Syracuse, Sicily is crumbling and faded, but also tidy and pretty, all at once.
It’s paved with limestone and creates the most gorgeous turquoise color in the sea.
That’s just brushing the surface of this tasty timeless town.
Read on to see why we think you should go to Syracuse, Sicily –– and what to do there.
Why Visit Syracuse, Sicily?
Even though spots like Taormina and the Aeolian Islands both have remnants of their former Greek rulers, Syracuse has had a whole slew of rulers roll through: the Byzantines, Bourbons, Arabs, Normans, and Aragonese…
The result: gorgeous architecture that transports you through the ages, one medieval lane at a time. Syracuse was actually the greatest city in the ancient world (once even dwarfing Athens) and it remains a golden-hued testament to its intricate, layered history.
It’s no surprise that the historical city center in Ortigia, the most ancient part of Syracuse, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Speaking of Ortigia –– we stay here on our Sicily Tour, because it’s actually a little island! But it doesn’t feel that way because it’s connected by bridges with the rest of the city.
Ortigia alone is reason enough to go to Syracuse –– it’s a tiny town-within-a-town, pedestrianized with easy access to harbors, pretty shops, and grand piazzas alike. Whether you’ve been to Sicily before or it’s your first trip, Ortigia is otherworldly in its own way.
What’s Worth Seeing in Syracuse, Sicily?
But if you only have a couple of days, here are some of our favorite things to do in Syracuse in between swimming, shopping, and strolling through the city.
Explore the Duomo
This temple-slash-cathedral was once renowned throughout the Mediterranean –– in the 5th century BC, it was a Greek temple devoted to Athena. When Syracuse was converted to Christianity by St. Paul, the Duomo underwent a lil’ reno work to become the cathedral it is today. Instead of a golden statue of Athena perched on the rooftop, you’ll see the Virgin Mary standing tall.
Why you should see the Duomo in Syracuse: It’s a cathedral merged into a gorgeous Greek temple, and it’s beautifully baroque! It’s definitely the grooviest Duomo we’ve come across, set in a picture-perfect piazza.
Visit The Greek Amphitheater
Built into a rocky hillside, the gorgeous Greek Amphitheater overlooking the entire city of Syracuse, Sicily is just as stunning (if not more so) than the one in Taormina. Picture: 16,000 people listening to tragedies like Prometheus Bound back in the 3rd century. We know. Mind-boggling.
Why you should see the Greek Amphitheater in Syracuse: It’s one of the largest Greek theaters in the world! Whether you visit to see it on its own or to watch a play under the stars, it’s equally stunning in our books.
Meander Through Ortigia’s Market
If there’s anything you should do as much as you can in Syracuse, Sicily –– it should be eating! We love strolling through Ortigia’s street market and tasting our way through this tiny town.
Ortigia’s market is where you’ll find towering hills of herbs, watermelon, juicy peaches, and peppers. Trays of sausages and salamis. Artisanal beers and sandwiches made to order. Take-home goodies like olive oil, pecorino cheese, almonds, and capers. And if you’re staying a while –– in a place with a kitchen –– it’s where you must pick up local fish like arricola and lampuca, or large tuna and swordfish for dinner.
Why you should see Ortigia’s street market in Syracuse: It’s not only the best way to taste what Syracuse serves up in their little slice of Sicily, it also provides a fab opportunity to chat with locals and learn more about the city! No better way to pick up more intel than from Syracusians themselves and over olive tasting, no less.
Cruise Through The Countryside
Syracuse is gorgeous, but you’ve gotta take a drive out of the city to really experience classic Sicily. We love the drive through the strangely green countryside between Syracuse and Cefalú, along a collection of curving back roads that have you switching gears between quiet beaches and gorges with prehistoric tombs.
Why you should see the countryside surrounding Syracuse: If you ask us, our favorite moments happen during relaxed lunches, al fresco, in the countryside with a local Sicilian guide showing us some under-the-radar spots. The Sicilian countryside is where you can really and truly put the brakes on life for a sec, and where your biggest concern will be whether your almond granita is gonna melt in the sun.
What does a perfect day look like on your tour in Syracuse, Sicily?
Syracuse is sandwiched between our stops on the Aeolian Islands and Taormina on our Sicily Tour (and you can come with us this year –– more deets at the end of this post) because it’s where we go to slow down while seeing the sights and diving deep into Sicily’s charm.
Our perfect day starts at our super charming hotel smack-dab in the center of Ortigia –– where you have easy-peasy access to anything. (A night stroll to the Duomo? It’s just a few minutes away. Last-minute saunter over to the boutique that had a silk scarf calling out to you? Done.)
We’ve just arrived the night before, and we know you’re eager to explore. We begin with a delish breakfast and cappuccino at our hotel, and then we’re off on a historical walking tour of the city. Our local guide has the intel that most guidebooks don’t, so this is the perfect way to truly absorb and appreciate this ancient city.
After taking in a couple of monuments, we stroll through the street market in Ortigia for lunch, where we must try some local wine. If we’re knackered, we spend the rest of the afternoon catching up on beauty rest or shopping… If our crew is feeling energetic, we dip down to the harbor for a boat trip around this limestone town –– the best way to see it.
We head back to our hotel with a fresh tan and new market finds wrapped in paper for a quick siesta. At sunset, we gather for dinner together at our favorite restaurant and enjoy a traditional Sicilian menu –– cooked by the best.
We tuck into our silky soft sheets, brimming with new ideas (and recipes) to take back home –– in the company of fab friends.
Want in on this Sicilian dream?
You can totally come to Syracuse with us this year!
We’ve still got a few spots left on our Sicily 2019 Tour (we only have one date left):
October 12 – 22.
There’s a glass of Moscato wine at our table, with your name on it.
Leave a comment below or book a call with Bianca here!