For travel itineraries series, today a three-day tour in Syracuse, one of the landmarks of Sicily, to visit at least once in a lifetime. For its history, its geographical position, its beauty, his food. He returned, then, with full rights, in the ten must see places if you are in Sicily. Tourists love it, especially foreign ones, who are enchanted by the sea, archeology, by that air of mystery that still reigns in this city that was the heart of the Magna Greece and one of the most powerful and important of the Mediterranean Sea. And those who live there are proud today.
The historic center of ancient Ortigia, which since 2005 has joined the UNESCO World Heritage, It reminds us that Syracuse was the home of Archimedes, which it is dedicated to a museum. Its majestic greek Theater is perhaps the best-known monument and one of the most important theaters that have remained throughout the Hellenistic civilization. And then, yet, the stone quarries (Latomie), the Temple of Athena in the Cathedral by baroque ornaments or wall fortifications that the sea can be admired, the Christian catacombs in the area, they understand the importance of this strategic place and very popular since ancient times. If you are or will be in Sicily, have a look to all my TRAVEL ITINERARY SICILIANI for ideas, inspiration and tips on where to eat, what to see and things to buy.
Cultural tourism is the primary motivation for those who choose Syracuse. The Regional Archaeological Museum “Paolo Orsi” (archaeologist and director for over 40 years) It is one of the most valuable in the Mediterranean. The numerous exhibits and works in the museum come from either Syracuse or from the surrounding countries.
Not to be missed, in particular, Roundabout Adelfia (It operates the Roman period, so named because it was found in a circular area in the catacomb of St. John). The exhibition of this work was inaugurated in May 2014 in the section dedicated to Christian and Byzantine period. Is’ a sarcophagus, a marble chest, with relief scenes, in which they are depicted scenes from the Old Testament. It 'the first archaeological document certifying the cult of Lucia, which later became the patron saint of Syracuse, martyred under the Emperor Diocletian in 304 AD.
Another work not to be missed is the Venus Anadyomene, called the Venus Landolina (named Saverio Landolina Nava, the archaeologist who found the statue in 1804). Yet, The rich collection of Kouroi and koroi, Statues young representatives and girls dating from the fourth and fifth centuries BC; the Medagliere, a rich numismatic collection of Greek engravers. in the Hellenistic, Also the statue of the goddess Cybele seated on a throne. While, in the Rome area, the precious head of the god Asclepius.
WHAT TO SEE IN SYRACUSE: Basilica of St. John Catacombs
Large Catacombs of San Giovanni arise on the old aqueduct ruins greek. It is accessed from the Basilica of San Giovanni Evangelista. The Romans expanded the aqueduct up to the fifth century AD, constructing a main gallery (decumanus maximus) from which branches off ten other galleries (outmost). The walls of the tunnels, as well as tanks, They were exploited to derive the niches to house the dead and to build the family graves. Afterwards, the entire area was enlarged.
Around the sixth century, were the Byzantines to give life to the Basilica San Giovanni, in centuries, It was also altered by the Normans (twelfth century) and embellished with a rose window in Gothic-Catalan style. Exciting visit to the crypt of San Marciano (dedicated to the first bishop of Syracuse), full of fully restored frescoes and columns with Ionic capitals.
WHERE TO EAT IN SYRACUSE: Bar San Giovanni
A short walk from the Catacombs, the advice is to take a break at the Bar San Giovanni. Modern, with a large outdoor area, This restaurant is open from breakfast until after dinner. We tried the rice balls with meat sauce, the rustic cheese, excellent chicken swivels with bacon accompanied by a ratatouille of vegetables and a granita with ricotta which still remember perfectly the taste. The marzipan fruit is another of the Bar San Giovanni specialties, which it is also open for aperitifs.
The archaeological area of Neapolis of Siracusa, together with the historical center of Ortigia, the place most seen and visited this city. Here, the protagonists are called Greek Theater and Ear of Dionysus. The Ear of Dionysus is a large cave, more than twenty meters high, which it may have been used as an area in which was placed the chorus, during performances at the greek theater; but also as a quarry for the extraction of stones and as a prison. Legend has it that Dionysius the Elder, tyrant of Syracuse, spying on his enemies by listening to their conversations through a hole at the top of the cave. On the basis of this legend, the painter Caravaggio named this cave Ear of Dionysius.
WHAT TO SEE IN SYRACUSE: Greek Theater
The other champions of this archaeological site is the majestic Greek Theater, still used for performances in the spring and summer evenings. The theater is the symbol of Syracuse. Imposing the structure of the auditorium, 46 steps to file, where they sat up to 15,000 spectators, placed according to the importance social. The top of the stones of the Syracuse greek theater were used by the Spanish conquerors to build defensive walls of Siracusa.
WHERE TO EAT IN SYRACUSE: Osteria Apollonion
Carlo is a host of the old school. In “Osteria Apollonion” welcomes you in his small room in the historical center of Syracuse, walls covered with hot stone, including bottles of wine, paintings and wooden furniture. People come here to eat a genuine seafood menu (Fix price), which it is decided by the chef according to the availability of the market of the day. Do not you order a la carte.
We suggest to book without delay, because the inn is small and always crowded. The prices charged are very affordable compared to the quality of the raw material that comes to the table. It ranges from mussels to clams, the raw prawn, oysters and shrimp flavored with citrus fruits, soups of mussels, cockles and clams, and various types of blue fish (anchovies, mackerel). Among the first, spaghetti with bottarga and, per second, the fish with the onion and sour.
WHERE TO EAT IN SYRACUSE: Olivia natural bistrot
breakfast, lunches, aperitifs, price. Olivia natural bistro is a local multitasking, opened in 2016, including the Archaeological Museum and the area of Neapolis (greek Theater and Ear of Dionysus). The difference, This bistro, They make it a team of young enthusiasts and especially the raw materials. Starting with the flour carefully selected, from Sicily, which serve to realize tasty products : loaves of Majorca flour, spaghetti and macaroni flour type Russello, sourdough pizzas, seasoned with organic vegetables (from tomatoes to salads, with olives).
The Sicilian cheese selections. In the menu, There are also pizzas with regional grains. Obviously, do not miss breakfast, croissants and brioche accompanying crushed almond and pistachio well done, smoothies and fruit extracts and vegetable centrifuges. The environment is modern, shades of white and wood, decorated with plants that enrich a comfortable gazebo. To be reported, the excellent "Olivia Beer", a blonde Sicilian handicraft, brewed with wheat and an addition of ancient grain Russello. The restaurant is vegetarian.
WHAT TO SEE IN SYRACUSE: Cathedral and Temple of Athena
The ancient history of Syracuse that, like other cities of Sicily, proceeds by layers of time, He finds himself in the majestic Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary: the dome of Syracuse, also called the Temple of Athena. The ancient greek temple, Doric, Built in the sixth century BC, after the victory over the Carthaginians peoples, It was incorporated after about nine hundred years in a Christian basilica dedicated to Mary.
Afterwards, He came under the rule of the Arabs, who transformed it into a mosque. It was enlarged by the Norman King. The current appearance, It characterized by its yellow sandstone (like most of the town buildings), is the work of Andrea Palma, around 1750, who transformed it into one of the masterpieces of the Sicilian Baroque style. Precious works contained within it, including some attributed to the famous Antonello da Messina and Peter Rizzo.
Piazza Duomo and Piazza Minerva
Cathedral Square was the site of the ancient Greek acropolis. Today, the great baroque palaces that look out on Piazza Duomo and Piazza Minerva is one of the major resources for this Sicilian city, fascinating and beautiful, but still he is struggling with a hit-and-run that tourism should be gradually transformed into an intelligent and experiential tourism. To be reported, in the historic center, less than five minutes from the Duomo, the Palace Museum Bellomo, It built on the premises of a Benedictine monastery, which houses works from the Middle Ages to.
WHERE TO EAT IN SYRACUSE: Monzù Sicily
A few steps from the Cathedral of Syracuse, in Piazza Minerva, We suggest a break to Sicily Monzù. In this elegant, simple restaurant, with walls and stone arches, we tried the classic Sicilian brioche with ice cream. Monzù is a brand with which they signed several traditional and artisanal products that taste of history: rosolio (oranges, cinnamon), sweet creams, honey, almond milk, chocolate, Almond paste, lentils, pasta, extra virgin olive oil, bottarga olive oil. A few steps from Monzù, I recommend you also try the cannoli pastry “Cannoli King”.
WHAT TO SEE IN SYRACUSE: Latomia of Cappuccini
The Latomia Capuchin is the oldest of the existing ones in Syracuse, It is located in the west of the city. For decades, It was used as a quarry for stone extraction that serve to build the whole city. Afterwards, He became a prison during the wars and, then, un'area sacred. At the end of 1500, It was donated to the Capuchin friars who built a church at the top of the quarry and transformed into a lush garden, now fully open.
If you go there in summer, do not forget to attrezzarvi with the spray anti-mosquito. The area is cool and humid and there are many insects. But this should not discourage, because the place is worth a visit. Inside the cave there are secular poplars, palm trees, giant boulders, that bear witness to the transformation of this magical place, returned owned by the City of Syracuse since 1866. Attention: It is not in the center of Ortigia, but you can reach by taxi, in bici o in autobus.
WHERE TO EAT IN SYRACUSE: Pizzeria Piano B
Friedrich Schmuck, of mixed origins South Tyrol and Sicilian, He has managed to turn this pizzeria, opened in 2011, in one of the most important and awarded in all of Sicily. Friedrich is a master of the dough, constantly focused on the future. Five dough proposed. His pizza looks at contemporary styles, with spontaneous yeast dough, Use chariot and high-quality ingredients, chosen by small producers and well-matched: from San Marzano tomatoes to mozzarella Ragusa, from olive oil with capers of Salina, the black pig of Nebrodi. Spend an evening at this pizzeria and also enjoy excellent Sicilian pastries prepared by Ms. Fiorella. VI invite you to read my FULL REVIEW the pizzeria Plan B in Syracuse, with photos and prices,
Syracuse: a seaside town
Syracuse and its sea walk hand in hand. A sea full of fish around the entire city and is crossed every day by fishermen's boats. The fish ends, in part, the great historic island market of Ortigia. Every day, Sunday excluded, the fish and land products you can buy in this crowded bazaar outdoors, that comes with the Arab domination before the eleventh century. The emerald green sea are characteristic of Syracuse. There are beaches in the city center but you can dive for a swim from the steps of the old town, or move some kilometers in the beautiful beach of Fontane Bianche.
The best way to know Syracuse is not just stroll around the center of Ortigia, but also go up in one of the many boats that offer the tour of the coast, and devote two hours to see the city from the sea: Umbertino bridge, Baroque palaces of Ortigia, Castle Maniace, the caves of crystalline colors where you can dive in some cases to take a bath. Through the view from its clear waters, Syracuse will surprise you with the beauty and tranquility. Choose times of sunset to make your boat ride, you can easily book both in travel agencies or directly to the port dock, near the Forum Vittorio Emanuele.
WHAT TO SEE IN SYRACUSE: The old town of Ortigia
The historical core of Syracuse, the city of Ortigia, It is to be discovered. Its Baroque style, the narrow streets that run through the neighborhood around the Piazza Duomo, It breathes in every corner. Take some’ free time to explore the streets of Ortigia. There are many palaces and churches visited. Not to be missed: the senate palace (Palazzo Vermexio), Beneventano palace, the church of Saint Lucia to the Abbey, in Piazza Duomo, where you can enjoy a precious canvas of Caravaggio: Burial of Saint Lucia. Obviously, do not forget to quench your thirst with one of the many soft drinks salt, you can buy in many of the waterfront kiosks.
The Fountain of Arethusa
Always crowded with tourists, the Fountain of Arethusa owes its current profile to works carried out in 1847: a fresh water source, forming a circular lake where grow rare wild papyrus. For Sicilians “to re funtana papiri” (the fountain of the papyri). For the Greek mythology, and the legend, This rise coincides with the nymph Arethusa, who was transformed into a source from the Goddess Diana. while Alfeo, in love with Arethusa, but unrequited, It was transformed by Jupiter into a river, so stay forever beside his beloved.
The temple of Apollo
Pancali Square is the largest square in Syracuse where you can admire the remains of the Temple of Apollo. Majestic greek temple, made of limestone Doric, which dates back to the sixth century BC, of which were the bases and a series of columns with a large masonry wall. In centuries, this temple admired by tourists today, It became a Byzantine church, an Arab mosque, a Norman church and a police station at the time of Charles V, King of Spain, around 1500. In the archaeological museum Paolo Orsi, we mentioned before, you can see some parts of the upper part of the temple, built and decorated in terracotta.
WHERE TO EAT IN SYRACUSE: Restaurant Don Camillo
Is’ one of Syracuse historic restaurants, famous for the quality of the culinary offerings, and for having won one of the first Michelin star in Sicily. Born in 1985, on the initiative of Camillus and the chef Giovanni Guarneri, This restaurant is located in the central Via Delle Maestranze, in the heart of Ortigia. It boasts one of the best wine cellars of all Sicilian restaurants, with over a thousand high-level labels. The rooms are old and adorned with Catalan vaults.
You can order a la carte but you should try the tasting menu: the large fish menu (70 euro), the fish menu (60), The meat menu (50 euro) and the vegetarian (35 euro). We tried the large fish menu. Among the best dishes: the black roll of shrimp in a sauce of hedgehogs, gratings prawns in the piglet network to laurel perfumes and mashed potatoes Syracuse, the noodles fresh pasta and oriental marinated raw fish, the tuna steak with peppers and jam reduction of vinegar to the Nero d'Avola.
WHERE TO EAT IN SYRACUSE: Bar Pasticceria Leonardi – PERUCHO
One of the places not to be missed for lovers of Syracuse pastry. In this restaurant, not far from the archaeological area of Neapolis, the laboratory of Peruch family (which since 1973 operates the Leonardi bars) produces every day the great classics islanders, from cannoli to marzipan fruit, cassata from the fruit granita. The laboratory specializes in both traditional cakes, both sugar paste, suitable for the ceremonies. The raw materials come from selected farms and dairies. At breakfast, you can order excellent brioche made without preservatives or colorings, but also pastries, fruit tarts.
FOR A RIDE OUT OF TOWN: Palazzolo Acreide
The town of Palazzolo Acreide is part of the group of municipalities that make up the route of the Sicilian Baroque Heritage. This lovely center of a little more than eight thousand inhabitants, in the province of Syracuse, 40 kilometers from the provincial capital, It will capture the richness of his ways, squares, churches, courtyards, palazzi. The city, like all the other towns in the Val di Noto, It suffered great damage due to the massive earthquake of January 1693.
Is’ by this catastrophic event, so strong that almost destroyed the city of Catania, even causing damage in Palermo, Messina, to Malta and the southern coasts of Calabria, that part of the reconstruction in the Baroque style. Not only Palazzolo, but also of Noto, Scicli, Modica (as you can read in this itinerary in the Val di Noto). All'opera reconstruction, and the recovery of previous buildings, We have the beauty that we see today in this part of south-east Sicily, which over the years it has been chosen by many directors (by Franco Zeffirelli in Gabriele Salvatores) for the important shots and famous movies.
Di Palazzolo Acreide is famous the longest baroque balcony of Sicily (and worldwide). Walking through Via Garibaldi, It is visible in the front wall of Palazzo Lombardo Cafici (built in the eighteenth century). The gallery is a work of art studied and admired, in which they are carved and depicted of masks and anthropomorphic figures. In total, corbels are 27 and they are all different. At the end of Via Garibaldi, is Piazza Umberto I, where both the Church of St. Paul is, a few steps, Mother Church. Do not miss the beautiful Church of San Michele, the Immaculate Conception Church and the great church of San Sebastiano, in Piazza del Popolo. Surprising decoration of the Church of the Annunciation.
EATING A PALAZZOLO ACREIDE: Pasticceria Corsino
Vincenzo e Sebastiano Monaco are the confectioners of Corsino pastry bar Palazzolo Acreide. In this historic, the first not only are several Sicilian materials: nuts, oranges, pine nuts, lemons, mulberries and figs are harvested directly from Corsino family Palazzolo; are almonds of Avola, pistachios of Bronte, vegetables and fruit orchard family. Ice cream, Granite (figs, mulberry trees, almonds), cottages are all to try, together with cassatelle, almond paste and, Obviously, the sweet young pastry chef Vincenzo Monaco. A special place, which it is always a fixed destination for Sicilians and tourists who want to enjoy the specialties of this corner of Sicily. For details, photos, menus and prices, I refer you to my REVIEW OF PASTRY CORSINO.
Walking through the streets of this town you will find traces of a precious art, the austere beauty of the Sicilian Baroque that is expressed through the ability to shape the stone: shelves, cornices, friezes, rosoni. In them they are often depicted animals, grape vines or monsters, according to the beliefs, They were able to ward off evil spirits.
The archaeological area of Akrai
To know how important this area of Sicily, those who visit Palazzolo Acreide is obliged to visit the archaeological site and the ancient city of Akrai and the archaeological park. Its Greek theater, built on top of the plateau of Akrai, worth a visit. Nearby are the remains of Aphrodite's time, an ancient Roman road. A few dozen meters, sure to visit the stone quarry from which the ancient inhabitants Dolbilina the stones to build the city of Akrai. Inside the hollow, which became the burial sites, They have visited the catacombs. Interestingly, in the lower part of the glues Akrai, those who are called the Santoni: engravings and bas-reliefs in limestone. Throughout, these are the twelve figures dating from the third century BC and dedicated to the cult of the Great Mother.