Syracuse (Italian: Siracusa, Sicilian: Sarausa or Seragusa) is a medium-sized city on the eastern coast of Sicily. The city is notable for its rich Greek and Roman history, culture, amphitheatres, and architecture. Syracuse is a good base for exploring south-east Sicily, including the Baroque towns of Ragusa and Noto, several archaeological sites, and the lively city of Catania. "Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica" have been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Syracuse was an important centre in the Grecian period. Roman writer Cicero described it as "the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all". Master mathematician Archimedes lived and worked here, but was killed during the Roman conquest. There are many places of interest, most of them in two areas: the island of Ortigia (Ortygia) reflects the early modern or baroque period. Neapolis, the "new town", is older by about 2000 years.
The Tourist Information Centre 1 is within the Provincial Government building at 31 Via Roma on Ortigia island.
Catania-Fontanarossa airport is 50 km north of Syracuse. Inter-city buses between Catania and Syracuse all call at the airport, journey time is just over an hour. Otherwise, take a bus or taxi from the airport to Catania railway station, from where there are frequent trains to Syracuse.
Ragusa airport (Aeroporto di Comiso "Pio La Torre") is closer but has fewer flights, and no onward public transport.
- 1 Intercity bus hub, Corso Umberto, 196 (next to the railway station). Regular bus connections with Catania, Noto, Modica, Ragusa and Gela other destinations nearby provided by Interbus and A.S.T.. There are also daily buses to Palermo (Interbus), and long distance ones towards Messina, Naples and Rome (Bus Ticket and Sais Trasporti).
Some regional buses (Interbus, etc.) make a number of stops in the city, so check with their website if one of them would be more suitable. Tickets for this particular buses can also be bought on board.
Direct trains run along the coast from Messina eight times a day (2 hr 30 min), via Taormina-Giardini and Catania.
There are five train connections a day from Palermo via Enna and Catania (4 hr 30 min). Connections via Messina take 7 hours.
- 2 Stazione Centrale di Siracusa, Piazzale Stazione (15 min walk north-west from Ortigia). Most trains, and all mainline trains north towards Catania, depart from the main platforms 1 to 5. There are also short platforms 1 to 3 "Ovest" at the end of main platform 1. Regional trains (west via Noto and Pozzallo towards Ragusa and Gela) may depart from these; the mainline trains can't as those tracks aren't electrified. All platforms are wheelchair accessible. The station has a cafe and ticket office. For left luggage, use the station bar outside on the piazza. Look diagonally left for the inter-city bus stops.
The city is easy to visit on foot. There are two areas of interest, both 20 min walk from the station. Southeast is the island of Ortigia, the oldest part of the city; north is Neapolis, the archaeological area.
The most useful bus lines for visitors are the little electric navettes that ply the centre and areas of interest, run by 3 Siracusa d'Amare bus. M-Th Su & hols 07:00-14:00, 15:00-20:00; F Sa 07:00-14:00, 15:00-24:00. There are three lines, running every 15-20 min from the terminal stop Molo Sant’Antonio. Buy tickets on board by cash or from newsagents and tobacconists displaying a sign Punto Vendita Biglietti Pullman.
Route 1 "Linea blu" runs anti-clockwise around Ortigia, and up Corso Umberto close to the railway & bus stations.
Route 2 "Linea rossa" runs north to Neapolis then back via the stations.
Route 3 "Linea verde" runs north along the coast then inland to Neapolis; it stops running at 22:00. Single €0.50, day pass €2, week pass €7.
AST. provides most other bus services in and around the city. Two useful lines are #12 circular line Siracusa - Fontane Bianche and #26 from downtown past Sanctuario delle Lacrime and Neopolis.
Isola di Ortigia
Ortigia island is the oldest part of Syracuse. It's connected to the rest of the city by two bridges. Boat trips leave from the channel here.
- 1 Tempio di Apollo. The first sight you reach after crossing the bridge are these remnants of a temple to Apollo, with two columns and part of the wall. You can't enter, just look over the railings.
- 2 Cattedrale della Natività di Maria Santissima (Santa Maria delle Colonne), Piazza Duomo. This was built as a Greek Temple of Athena in the 5th century BC on older foundations. In the 7th century it was converted to a church, incorporating most of its former construction including the Doric columns. In the 9th century, it became a mosque; in the 11th century the Normans converted it back into a church adding a new roof with mosaics in the apses. Then after the 1693 Sicily earthquake it was rebuilt in grand Baroque style. €2.
- 3 Chiesa di Santa Lucia alla Badia, Piazza Duomo. In the apse, behind the altar, there was a large painting of the "Burial of Saint Lucy" by Caravaggio which was returned to Chiesa di Santa Lucia al Sepolcro. No admission.
- The midpoint of Ortigia is Piazza Archimedes, honoring the famous citizen who lived and worked here circa 287-212 BCE. His brilliance lay in combining pure mathematical reasoning (e.g. anticipating calculus, and deriving an accurate estimate of pi) with practical innovative engineering (e.g. the water screw, and compound pulley). Centre of the piazza is an ornate "Fountain of Diana", built in 1907. Classicists don't believe the story that Archimedes leapt from his bath and ran naked crying "Eureka!" - but if, through the suds and steam, he'd beheld this bathful of sea monsters, gigantic buxom women, and wild horses, how else could he have reacted?
- 4 Antica Fonte Aretusa (Font of Arethusa). It's a pond with a fresh water source surrounded by papyrus reeds, which inspired many of poets and writers. The legend says that Alpheus, son of Oceanus, fell madly in love with the a nymph named Aretusa. The nymph didn't share his feelings. To save her, Artemis turned her into a water source. Zeus also turned Alpheus into a river, allowing him to meet up with Aretusa... but these watery legends are sending a stern strategic message. Ortigia has its own fresh water supply, drawn from the limestone aquifers, so its enemies should think twice about trying to besiege it.
- 5 Castello Maniace, ☏ . M-Sa holidays 08:30-16:30. In the middle ages Syracuse was fortified as a bulwark against Ottoman expansion. The island of Ortigia was guarded by fortresses at each end: the northern Marchetti fortress has long gone. The smaller, later Maniace fortress remains at the southern tip, with Vauban-style bastions and a dry moat cut between fort and city. There are small exhibitions on the history of the fortress, and of Norman ceramics discovered at the site. €7.
Syracuse was founded around 734 BC, but there was a second wave of construction from 485 BC in this area: hence its Greek name Νεάπολη - "Neapoli" or "New City". The sights are all contained within the 6 Parco Archeologico della Neapolis (Archaeological Area), Via Francesco Saverio Cavallari, ☏ . Daily 08:30-18:30 (last entry 17:00). East side of Via Cavallari are the ticket offices, a large parking lot for buses, toilets & fast food, and a vast display of tourist tat. Buy tickets there or across the road at the complex of ruins and sights on the west side. The order of listings below follows the recommended itinerary, though you're not tied to it, so if one area is congested by tour groups, it's easy to skip and come back to it later. €16.50; combined ticket €21.50 (+ either archaeological museum Paolo Orsi or Palazzo Bellomo Gallery).
- 7 Latomia del Paradiso. From the entrance, follow the driveway to descend into a great bosky hollow. These are the ancient stone quarries, worked on from the sixth century BC. Two grottos or galleries burrow into the rockface. Largest is Orecchio di Dionisio or "Ear of Dionysius". Some grotto! - its dimensions are worthy of the gothic nave of a city cathedral. The name arises from its acoustics: the legend says that the tyrant Dionysios could stand outside and listen to whispered conversations of those imprisoned therein. Difficult to believe this, once you've savoured the distorted echoing babble of tourists.
The second and smaller is Grotto dei Cordari ie the cave of cordwainers or ropemakers. Dark, not particularly straight, far from dry, so it's not obvious why they would work here.
At the very north end of the quarries are Necropoli Grotticelle - which supposedly contains Archimedes' tomb, but the site of this is unknown. It's probably easier to view from the street after leaving the park.
- 8 Teatro Greco. Built circa 470 BC but with reconstruction in the 3rd century BC and Roman period. Further work continues today, so you can look down on it but can't enter: they're rebuilding the stage, and a tier of wooden bleachers. Greek drama is performed here May - July, typically at sunset. These performances are in Italian, without amplification as the natural acoustics are so good. It is the largest remaining Greek theatre on Sicily, but there isn't much left other than the seats.
- 9 Ara di Ierone II (Altar of Hiero II). This massive piece of rock, 199 m long by 23 m wide, was the foundation block of an altar, the largest known from the ancient world. It was built by King Hiero II (who had Archimedes in his employ) some time before 200 BC. Nothing else remains of the temple here; classicists believe it was probably built to the glory of the deity Zeus, and definitely built to glorify Hiero himself.
- 10 Anfiteatro romano (Roman amphitheatre). Built 60-40 BC under Augustus or Julius Caesar, this is mostly carved out of the hillside, with no superstructure surviving. So effectively it's a grassy pit 140 m long by 119 m wide, and you'll have to use your imagination to see the tiered seating and walkways. The pit in the centre held machinery for stage effects.
- 11 Museo Archeologico Regionale "Paolo Orsi", Viale Teocrito 66 (Villa Landolina), ☏ . Tu-Sa 09:00-19:00, Su 09:00-14:00 . The second most important archeology museum in Sicily. €10.
- 12 Chiesa di Santa Lucia al Sepolcro (Basilica di Santa Lucia). Also known as Chiesa di Santa Lucia fuori le mura as it was behind the walls (extra moenia) a Byzantine church built, according to tradition, in the same place of the martyrdom of the saint in 303 AD. The current appearance is from the 15th-16th centuries. The most ancient parts still preserved include the portal, the three half-circular apses and the first two orders of the belfry. Next to the church is located the sepolcro (tomb) of the Santa Lucia, at the place where she as regarded was executed. This church hosts "Burial of Saint Lucy" by Caravaggio which was located at the Chiesa di Santa Lucia alla Badia at the Piazza Duomo. Under the church there are catacombs which are not open to the public.
- 13 Basilica Santuario Madonna delle Lacrime (Santuario della Madonna delle Lacrime), Via del Santuario 33, ☏ , email@example.com. 07:30-12:30 and 16:00-20:00. This church is a huge concrete cone built from 1966 but only completed in 1994, inspired by a mass-produced Madonna statue that is said to have cried real tears in 1953. The interior is a great circular expanse, with six of the 20-some side spaces dedicated as chapels, with the tower above like some colossal machine part. The lower floor or crypt is an equally large circular space.
- 14 Chiesa di San Giovanni alle catacombe (Church and catacombs of San Giovanni (St. John)). An underground necropolis dating back to the 4th century AD.
- 15 Latomia dei Cappuccini. An ancient quarry next to the Capuchin monastery.
- 16 Galleria Regionale di Palazzo Bellomo, via Capodieci n. 14 -16. Tu-Sa 09:00-19:00, Su 14:00-19:30. €8.
- 17 Castello Eurialo e mura di Dionigi (Eurialo Castle and Dionigi walls) (about 6 km east of the city; take AST buses 25, 26 (M-Sa circular services) or 11 (Su) towards village Belvedere; ask for the Castello Eurialo). M 12:00-16:30, Tu-Sa 08:30-13:45, Su 09:00-13:45. The remains of one of the biggest fortresses in Sicily built between 402 and 397 BC. €4.
Syracuse is an amazing city of culture and history ready to be explored and savored. Activities that can be organized include culture & language classes, Sicilian cooking classes & wine tasting, outdoor excursions (hiking, cycling, climbing, sailing, scuba diving), excursions all over the island, workshops (Sicilian puppet making, ceramics, photography, painting).
- 1 Foro Vittorio Emanuele II (Foro Italica). This is a beautiful promenade, where many come to walk and relax. It is said that the trees make people want to spend the day under them.
- 2 Percorso ipogeico di Piazza Duomo (Ipogei di Piazza del Duomo), Piazza Duomo 14 (entrance at the Piazza Duomo, exit at the Foro Vittorio Emanuele II). A sort of dungeon under the Piazza Duomo decorated with theatrical setting from the various Greek performances. €5.
- Bagno ebraico (Mikveh) (see Residence "Alla Giudecca"). Mar-Oct 11:00, 12:00, 16:00, 17:00, 18:00. Another underground adventure: the ancient ritual Jewish baths discovered some 25 years ago. A tour lasts about 15 min. €5 only by guided tour — ask at the hotel's reception.
- 3 Pista ciclabile Rossana Maiorca. Take a cycleway along the coast at the former railway track.
- Nolo Point, Gazebo Pz Pncali, tel: +39 348 9506338. Rents out electrical bicycles, scooters, canoes, campers etc.
- Festival of Santa Lucia: Takes place on December 13. A solid silver statue of the patron saint is carried to Basilica del Sepolcro where it remains for eight days.
- Theatrical Season at the Greek Theatre: Goes from May to July. Throughout these months, they stage dramas by famous authors such as Aeschylus and Euripides.
- Steam and other historic trains run along the local railways on occasion from Syracuse to Ispica and Ragusa. The one-day, roundtrip ticket costs €20 adult, €10 child 4-12, free under 4 (Sep 2019).
One of the most popular craft products in Syracuse is papyrus paper. Local pottery is also a common product to buy. If you are looking for the perfect gift, buy a bottle of Nero d'Avola or a jar of their famous fish preserves.
- 1 Antico Mercato di Ortigia. The outdoor market in Ortigia is one of the most amazing places. Here you can find the freshest and finest fish, vegetables and fruits available. The experience and color are memorable. Other than food, you can find almost anything you will need for you holiday experience in Syracuse from clothing to extra baggage.
- Every Sunday a large outdoor market (mostly clothes, souvenirs and some food) takes place on Piazza S. Lucia on the mainland.
- [dead link] Kaos Pizza, Piazza Minerva 7 (opposite cathedral), ☏ . Daily 11:00-01:00. Decent pizza and pasta.
- 1 Zenzero, Via Giammellaro, 25, ☏ . Vegan and vegetarian fare in a cozy setting. Some outdoor seating (a couple of tables in the narrow pedestrian street).
- 2 L'Ancora, Via Guglielmo Perno 7 (On seafront near N end of Ortigia), ☏ . Tu-Su 10:30-15:30, 19;00-23:30; closed Mon. Specialises in seafood.
- 3 [formerly dead link] Archimede, Via Gemmellaro 8 (off Via Cavour), ☏ . M-Sa 12:30-15:30, 19:30-23:30; closed Su. Traditional Sicilian fare, fish is the speciality.
- 4 Il Cenacolo, Via Del Consiglio Regionale 9/10, ☏ . Th-Tu 12:00-15:00, 18:30-23:00; closed W. This busy trattoria-pizzeria has an outdoor terrace and a cosy interior, and offers a wide range of pizza, risotto, sea food and couscous.
- Don Camillo, Via delle Maestranza 96, ☏ . M-Sa 12:30-14:30, 19:30-22:30; closed Su. Traditional Sicilian dishes, with wine-cellar and tasting menus. Most reviewers found it value for money.
There are many night clubs along the coastline on the Alfeo Promenade. Some have dance floors on the beach so that you can dance under the moonlight.
Most cheap hotels are located around the railway station; more around the post office and east of Apollo temple.
- [dead link] Otium Home Rentals, Via Amalfitania 8, ☏ , , firstname.lastname@example.org. (Albergo diffuso) Scattered hotel in Ortigia.
- B&B Sleep in Sicily, Via delle Vergini 20 (near S tip of Ortigia), ☏ . 3-star bed and breakfast with bath ensuite, TV, digital terrestrial, frigobar, air conditioning. €30-40 per day per person.
- Sorella Luna SRL, Via Francesco Crispi 23, ☏ , fax: . Simple low budget accommodation with a pleasant atmosphere, family run and within 50 m of railway station.
- B & B Gelone, 80 via Eumelo (just N of railway station off Corso Gelone), ☏ . Simple rooms, library, veranda.
- Hotel Archimede, 67 Francesco Crispi, ☏ . Small hotel next to the railway station.
- LoL Hostel Siracusa, 92/96 Via Francesco Crispi (next to railway & bus station), ☏ . Cheap 4, 8/10 and 20 beds dorms and private rooms all with bathroom and air conditioned. Open 24 hours, WiFi free, no curfew, no lockout, free lockers in rooms, multilingual friendly staff. Clean rooms and toilets, breakfast with fresh coffee and croissants. Nice big terrace for meeting other travellers and chilling. Dorms €18-25 ppn, private doubles from €30-35.
- [dead link] Aretusa Vacanza, 44 Via Arsenale (near S tip of Ortigia), ☏ . Rooms in a 17th-century building with a rooftop terrace.
- Hotel Como, Piazzale della Stazione Centrale 12 (facing station, couldn't be closer), ☏ . 3-star comfort with 2-star prices. €25.
In the centre:
- Artemare Vacanze, 82 riviera Dionisio il Grande (500 m N of centre on northward one-way coast road), ☏ . Elegance and style are combined with a warm welcome and friendly atmosphere. Short distance to Ortigia: rooms with private bathroom with shower.
- L'Approdo delle Sirene, Riva Giuseppe Garibaldi, 15, ☏ , fax: . Historical sea-front building. Large bedrooms (some with balcony) furnished in the Mediterranean style. Breakfast on the terrace in summer.
- 1 Alla Giudecca, Via Giovanni Battista Alagona, 52, ☏ . 14 dwellings set in a magnificent medieval building in the heart of Ortigia. Beneath the property is an ancient Hebrew bath used for purification rituals in the Byzantine era.
- Royal Maniace Hotel Syracuse, Lungomare Ortigia, 13, ☏ , fax: . Four-star hotel with 21 bedrooms: twin, double and triple, some with sea view. All rooms have private bath, shower, air conditioning, satellite TV and mini bar. Among the public areas and services: restaurant, private parking and the meeting hall with internet connection and LCD screen TV.
- Palazzo Giaracà, Via dei Mille, 34, ☏ . Three-star hotel on Ortigia, close to the historic centre. Large comfy common areas, with bedrooms available in twin, double, triple and family.
- Hotel Posta, 33 Via Trieste (Next to the main post office and bus terminal on Ortigia.), ☏ . Standard hotel rooms with bathroom, AC, TV, minibar, and balcony. €45-100 seasonal, with good breakfast.
- Caol Ishka Hotel, Via Elorina 154 (3 km S of town along SS115), ☏ , email@example.com. Boutique hotel with large gardens, swimming pool and fine restaurant. Located on the bank of river Anapo beside Fiume Ciane, a natural reserve, five minutes drive from town.
- 2 Grand Hotel Villa Politi, Via Maria Politi Laudien, 2 (north end of town, 1 km from centre), ☏ , fax: . Elegant four-star hotel with 100 rooms overlooking the city centre and the Mediterranean. Outdoor pool & two restaurants.
- Grande Albergo Alfeo, Via Nino Bixio, 5, ☏ , fax: . Four-star hotel with 39 single, twin, double and triple bedrooms with private bath, satellite LCD TV and WiFi. Also available bar, restaurant, meeting room, private parking and breakfast buffet included. Double room €80.
- 3 [dead link] Hotel Palazzo Cavalieri, Via Malta 42, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 14:00-24:00, check-out: 11:00. Boutique 4-star hotel in the historical centre, just bordering Ortigia. Amenities: free Wi-Fi, king-size bed, air condition, concierge, laundry service, airport shuttle service. €160-500.
- Hotel del Santuario, Via del Santuario, 1, ☏ , fax: . 3-star hotel near the archaeological zone.
- Grand Hotel Ortigia, Via Mazzini 14, ☏ . Four-star hotel on the waterfront of Ortigia.
- Hotel Mediterraneo, 40 Via Tripoli, ☏ . Central 3-star hotel
- Hotel La Rosa Sul Mare Siracusa, 16 Via Dei Diamanti, Plemmirio (10 km S, follow SS115 then SP58), ☏ , fax: . Four-star hotel in front of the sea. An elegant building of the 19th century with a wide selection of bedrooms, a swimming pool and nearby tennis courts.
- Villa dei Papiri, Traversa Testa Pisima 2C (8 km SW of Siracusa, follow SR 3 towards Fonte Ciane), ☏ . Relaxing farmstead with pool. €50.
- 4 La Frescura agriturismo, 50 via per Floridia (8 km west of Siracusa (1 km past bypass SS114) follow SS124 towards Floridia), ☏ , toll-free: , email@example.com. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 10:30. Pleasant traditional farmhouse set in peaceful gardens and lemon groves, but handy for main highway. €50.
- 5 Resort Sant'Agostino (Residence Siracusa), Traversa Case Bianchi (8 km W of town, follow SP14, it's close to main highway but no access), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 4-star resort with spa; offers free wi-fi, spa, jacuzzi, Turkish bath, solarium and apartments with kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom.
- Venus Sea Garden Resort ((formerly part of NH chain)), 22 Via Pantellarea, Contrada Monte Amara, Brucoli (on coast halfway between Catania and Siracusa), ☏ . On a promontory, with gardens and terraces and views over the sea and Etna.
- Des Etrangers Hotel & Spa, Paseggio Adorno 10/12 (off Paseggio Arethusa), ☏ . One of the fanciest luxury hotels in town. In imposing quayside building with Art Nouveau interiors. Roof garden, pool, restaurant.
- Grand Hotel Minareto, Via del Faro Massolivieri 26/a (on headland S across the bay from city, about 5 km by road), ☏ . Luxury resort hotel on a scenic headland looking back onto town, with Etna rising behind. Private beach, two restaurants. €80-480.
A laundry service:
- 2 Laundry Xpress, Via dei Santi Coronati, 36/38, Ortigia, Siracusa (behind a school, if you come from Piazza Archimede). 06:00-24:00. Self-service. Beware: the coin dispenser returns tokens. Both tokens and €1 coins are accepted. Washing €4, drying €1 per 8 min.
- 4 Area Marina Protetta del Plemmirio (on the headland seen south of Ortigia; follow signs for Hotel Minareto, turn right onto Via Isola, and left at Traversa Sant'Agostino; park the car in front of the military building). Natural reserve with panoramic views on the city, the sea, tall rocks, as well as hidden beaches.
- 5 Riserva Naturale Orientata Pantalica (Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica) (20 km NW of city, from Solarino follow SP28). Large area with over 5000 tombs cut into the rock near open stone quarries, most of them dating from the 13th to 7th centuries BC. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Inland are the eight "Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto" UNESCO world heritage sites: shattered by the earthquake of 1693, they were all re-built in a unity of baroque style. Ragusa and Modica are the most substantial, and can be done as day-trips by public transport but deserve a longer stay.