Siracusa (aka Syracuse) was always on my radar to visit when I moved to the south of Italy. However, like many people, Covid put a spanner in the works of our plans. However, this year I finally got the chance , as part of a research trip for a new travel guidebook. More about that later when I can reveal the details!
Where is Siracusa?
Siracusa is in the south east of Sicily about an hour’s drive from Catania. It is easy to get to by train if you fly into Catania airport, and takes approximately two hours. It is even quicker by coach or car. If you hire a car at the airport and take the toll road, you can be there in 45 minutes!
Siracusa is a picture postcard representation of people’s vision of Sicily. Outside cafe tables are everywhere spilling onto dazzling baroque piazzas. Honey-hued medieval side streets lead down to the sparkling blue sea. Across the water, and linked by a bridge, the island of Ortygia is Siracusa’s most beautiful corner. You can wind your way around and take your pick of the attractive dining, drinking and shopping options.
For the classicist, Siracusa’s real attraction is this archaeological park, which is home to the fabulous Teatro Greco. Constructed in the 5th century BC and rebuilt in the 3rd century, the 16,000-capacity amphitheatre staged the last tragedies of Aeschylus. From early May to early July it is brought to life with an annual season of classical theatre.
The Roman amphitheatre, built in the 2nd century, is also very impressive. At 140m long, it is one of the largest to be found anywhere. However this was very different from the Greek theatre. Here, the audience could see traditional Roman fare. People could see gladiators and wild animals providing spectacles of blood-curdling violence. In the centre is a rectangular hole which had one of two purposes. It was either a space for scenic machinery or a drain for the blood and gore!
The Archaeological Museum is just a stone’s throw from the archaeological park. It contains a great collection of exhibits from all over the Siracusa area.
Ortigia – Siracusa’s island heart
There’s no fixed route for this place. The best way to explore is just to wander!
The island is over the bridge from Siracusa. The only problem is parking. Either leave your car in mainland Siracusa, or use one of the main paid car parks on the island. You then have three options. Turn left, right, or straight ahead.
If you turn left you’ll find Ortigia’s food and veg market. Overlooking the Mediterranean, the fish, prawns and shellfish sold here have been literally pulled from the water that morning! There’s also a colourful array of fruit and vegetables available. You can see why Sicilian ingredients are the envy of Italy and the world! It starts early at 7am, and continues until lunchtime. As a foodie it was easy to spend the whole morning walking round there. There are also plenty of bars around if you need to take a pit stop.
Food And Drink
Like many Italian towns, you are spoilt for choice in Siracusa. Just head off the main drag and you’ll be falling over places to eat and drink.
You can opt for an aperitivo at Fratelli Burgio near the market. For dinner you could try Le Vin de l’Assassin on Via Roma. This is a small restaurant that does Italian classics with a French twist. If you want to push the boat out head to Ristorante Don Camillo. You can opt for the tasting menus at this Michelin starred restaurant, or go a la carte.
Whether you choose one from these three or stumble on one of your own, you won’t be disappointed!