Syracuse - Ortigia district - the ancient city of Syracuse in Sicily

Photo of Ortigia

Visit Ortigia

Ortigia is the historical part of Syracuse and stands on a peninsula to the south of the more modern city. More than 2400 years ago Ortigia formed the centre of the most important Greek city in the entire nation, and apparently at that time it was almost the most impressive.

Explore Ortigia, the ancient district of Syracuse

As you can see from the aerial photo, Ortigia is reasonably compact and easy to explore. Ortiga is contained on an island connected to mainland Syracuse by two bridges. This is the part of Syracuse that will take up most of your time though there are some excellent Roman and other historical sights in the rest of Syracuse.

This part of the town includes a great deal of important baroque architecture constructed during the 17th and 18th centuries, and various other places of interest..

The Piazzo del Duomo is the central point of the city, and features the Syracuse Cathedral (duomo), the most important monument here in Ortigia - the cathedral facade was built in the 18th century in front of a 5th century temple (the Temple of Athena). Some columns from the original temple can still be seen.

Syracuse cathedral

Piazza Duomo is surrounded by cafes and restaurants and is an excellent place to stop for a drink or a beer. Check the prices however as the attractive setting can inflate the prices!

Underneath the Piazza Duomo are a set of tunnels which were used to escape the bombing during the Second World War. Times for visits are listed on the entrance door.

Other highlights include the impressive baroque architecture of the Palazzo Beneventano del Bosco across the square from the cathedral); the Basilica of Santa Lucia; the 13th century Maniace Castle; the Lacrime Church, the Spring of Arethusa and the catacombs of San Giovanni.

You can also see the tomb which is thought to be that of Archimedes, the great physicist and mathematician who called Syracuse his home, and lived and died in Ortigia.

In the Palazzo Bellomo is the Syracuse art gallery and works date from the Byzantine to the 18th century with the highlight being the Annunciation by Antonello da Messina.

Don't miss a visit to the Jewish baths which were blocked up and hidden when the Jewish population were thrown out of the city in the 15th century. The baths fill with fresh spring water which arrives in narrow chanels created to fill the baths. They can be visited from the hotel 'Alla Giudecca' with a guide from the hotel.

In Ortigia you can also see the oldest Doric temple to be found anywhere in Sicily at the Temple of Apollo. This is close to the bridge onto the island.

Castle Maniace

At the tip of the island at the opposite end to the bridges and the Temple of Apollo is the imposing Castle Maniace built in the 13th century.

Places to Visit Nearby

As well as the sights to be seen in mainland Syracuse there is a lovley seaside resort to the south at Cassibile. You may want to stay here and visit Syracuse as an excursion from here.

Another beautiful Baroque town can be found further south at Noto.

See also:

Map of Ortigia & places nearby

Selected places to visit in or near Ortigia, Sicily