The historical center of Syracuse is located on the island of Ortygia, connected to mainland via two bridges. Visitors will appreciate the baroque architecture as well as the city’s 13th century Castello Maniace. Other popular stops include the Graziella, Bottari, Mastruarua, Spirduta, Maestranza and Turba districts, as well as the Piazza del Duomo and the Fontana Aretusa.
The Duomo is considered the most important church in Syracuse and is under the protected of UNESCO. Its origins lie in the worship of the goddess Minerva, but its most striking feature has to be the combination of beautiful baroque and rococo architecture. The edifice was constructed in 1753 and is a magnificent sight, best admired from one of the cute cafés in the piazza.
Duomo, Piazza Duomo, 5, Siracusa SR, Italy, +39 0931 6532888
Fontana Aretusa, is a pretty fresh-water spring found on the island of Ortygia. It has a long literary history, having inspired Greek poets to create a myth about the water nymph Arethusa, who chose to be a spring rather than accept the advances of the river god. After that, the spring became a source of inspiration for many of the great poets, and is mentioned in John Milton’s Lycidas as well as Alexander Pope’s The Dunciad and Wordsworth’s The Prelude. It’s a lovely place for a bit of quiet reflection before continuing to explore the island.
Lovers of history should be sure to check out Syracuse’s Parco Archeologico della Neapolis, which includes a 5th century BC Greek theater, still used for classical shows in the spring. The archeological park is also home to an ancient limestone quarry, catacombs and the Orecchio di Dionisio, which is grotto named after Dionysius who used the perfect acoustics to hear his prisoners. Tickets are available as the souvenir kiosks on the road leading up to Ortygia.
Opening hours: 9am – 5.30pm
Mostly overlooked, the Syracuse Giudecca, or Jewish Quarter, is home to Europe’s oldest mickveh, ritual bath, known as the Miqwe in Giudecca. The Jewish community of Syracuse in Sicily during Roman times used the fresh water baths as a sacrament of absolution, which has been in practice since at least 322 BC. In the 1980s, a Sicilian woman found the old synagogue and hoped to convert it into a hotel. During the reconstruction, workers found the ancient baths and it is now a historical site. Guided visits are available in English and reservations are only required for groups of five people or more.
Opening hours: 9am – 7pm (mid May – Sept)
Miqwe in Giudecca, Via Alagona 52, Siracusa SR, Italy, +390 931 2 22 55
One of the main archeological museums in the continent, Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi, was established in 1780, when the Bishop Alagona inaugurated the museum. More finds were added when Paolo Orsi oversaw the museum from 1895 to 1934. The venue is organized into four sectors, all which showcase archeological finds from the prehistoric, Greek and Roman periods. if that’s not enough, the ancient Villa Landolina, just outside the museum, houses even more ancient remains as well as the tomb of August von Platen.
Opening hours: Tues – Sat 9am – 6pm; Sun 9am – 1pm
Viale Teocrito, 66, 96100 Siracusa SR, Italy, +39 0931 489511
Art enthusiasts will love the Museo Regionale di Arte Medoevale e Moderna in Siracusa, or the Galleria Regionale, which includes baroque and Renaissance works housed in the 13th-century Palazzzo Bellomo. Visitors should not leave the gallery without having seen Caravaggio’s Deposition of Santa Lucia (1608) and Antonello da Messina’s Annunciation (1474). The collection also includes items from the Byzantine period to the nineteenth century.
Opening hours: Tues – Sun 10am – 10pm
Dating back to the 6th century BC, the Temple of Apollo is located just in front of Piazza Pancali. The edifice has gone through a number of uses; everything from a church during the Byzantine times to barracks for Spanish soldiers during the 16th century. Paolo Orsi pursued excavations during the 20th century, which allowed for the integrity of the ruins to be restored. The original terracotta from the temple can be found in the Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi.