Syracuse (Siracusa in Italian) was once a highly significant city in ancient Greece. Nowadays, it is a bustling town of approximately 125,000 inhabitants situated on Sicily’s southeast coast. Syracuse boasts an abundance of extraordinary remains from its extensive history, where many civilizations, including Romans, Vandals, and Normans, have ruled after the Greeks. A significant number of Syracuse’s key attractions are situated in Ortygia Island (also known as Città Vecchia or Old City) located in the city’s harbor, such as the seventh-century cathedral and the Fountain of Arethusa.
Upon arriving in the harbor of Siracusa, you might think of this Sicilian port as just another Italian city; however, you would be wrong.
Historical landmarks such as the pre-Roman Empire Greek Theatre, and the crystal-clear, blue waters that lap at the shores of Ortygia Island make Siracusa an exceptional vacation spot in Italy. A visit to the Old Street Market for shopping or enjoying a delicious seafood meal by the water will further confirm that Siracusa is a legendary place to explore during your cruise.
The Castello Mainace is a fortress in Siracusa, Sicily, built in the 11th century by Giorgio Mainace. It served as a residence for Aragonese royals, a prison, and a military structure. Despite experiencing an explosion in 1704, the castle was rebuilt and fortified with cannon. Although open to the public, it has little to offer, but the empty halls and chambers provide interesting photography opportunities. The castle also offers beautiful sea views and a glimpse of the city walls.
The Duomo di Siracusa, also known as the Cathedral of the Holy Nativity of Mary, is a magnificent architectural masterpiece built on the foundation of a Greek temple in Syracuse, Sicily. The church reflects diverse cultural influences, including Greek, Byzantine, Arab, Norman, and Baroque. The baroque facade of the Cathedral is stunning, and the interior is warm and peaceful. To convert the Greek temple into a church, they created archways through the cella, the main chamber of the temple, and utilized 19 giant Doric columns from the temple’s peristyle to build the outer walls of the aisles.
The Greek Theatre of Syracuse has been regarded as one of the most stunning sights in the world. This was noted by Dominique Venon, Baron Denon, in his publication, Voyage en Sicile, in 1788. The theatre is situated in the Neapolis Archaeological Park, and is built into the rock of the Temenite Hill. Its renovation took place in the third century BCE and is recognized as one of the most renowned and significant examples of the metropolis that competed with Athens.
The Altar of Hieron in Syracuse was built by Hiero II during the third century BC for public sacrifices and is dedicated to Zeus Eleuterio. Two ramps allowed up to 450 sacrificial animals to access it, with a raised area for fires at the center. A square in front of the altar had a large portico with a fountain and stand. Despite the Spanish looting the highest part of the altar, the base section measuring 198 x 22.80 remains intact, a testament to Syracuse’s rich history and culture.
The Ear of Dionysus cavern in Italy has a teardrop shape that amplifies even the slightest sounds due to an opening at the top. It was named after the Greek tyrant Dionysius I, who ruled Syracuse from 432 to 367 B.C. Although some believe it was used as a prison, investigations suggest otherwise due to the garbled resonance of speech. However, legend has it that Dionysius took pleasure in hearing the screams of his tortured prisoners.
Ortigia is a small offshore island that was originally inhabited by Greek colonists. They fortified the island and built some of its earliest structures, including the temples of Athena and Apollo, which are still visible today.
Siracusa boasts a plethora of stunning churches. Among them, the Santuario della Madonna delle Lacrime, built in the 20th century, may not be the most architecturally impressive. However, it does have the most fascinating history. In 1953, a statue of the Virgin Mary, produced on a large scale, supposedly shed real tears at this location. This event was deemed a miracle by the Catholic Church.
The Port of Syracuse, located in Sicily, Italy, is a marina that sits in close proximity to the Ortigia quarter and the Villaggio Elios neighborhood. Situated on the southeastern coast of the island, along the Ionian Sea, Syracuse is approximately 25 miles south of Catania and 75 miles east of Palermo. The port itself is nestled in the heart of Syracuse’s historic center, near the Temple of Apollo’s ancient Greek ruins. Due to its convenient location, the Port of Syracuse is a favorite stop for many cruise ships, granting visitors easy access to the city’s many treasures such as the Greek theater, the Roman amphitheater, and the archaeological museum.
Siracusa’s freshly caught seafood is the talk of the town, with dishes like polipo bollito, a boiled octopus served with lemon wedges, and purpetti, a grilled tuna patty with cloves, eggs, and pecorino cheese. If seafood isn’t your thing, indulge in the famous Sicilian cannoli, a flaky pastry horn filled with sweet and airy ricotta cheese. For a quick snack or meal, street food is a must-try. Sink your teeth into scacia, a focaccia bread loaded with eggplant, tomato, sausage and more, or cucche, a puff pastry filled with sausage and cheese.
Syracuse, located in Sicily, has played a significant role throughout history. Today, visitors can experience a unique blend of ancient civilizations and modern culture in the same city. This charming place offers an opportunity to explore centuries-old ruins and shop for locally produced goods, all in one day. If you are curious to know more, read on to discover the top things to do in Syracuse.
With a history dating back almost 3,000 years, Siracusa used to be the largest city in the ancient world and is renowned for its historical sites, vibrant culture, and being the birthplace of Archimedes, the famous engineer and mathematician.
During your vacation on a cruise, make sure to explore the old city of Siracusa and visit the stalls at Ortigia’s outdoor market or the shops you come across. You’ll be tempted to purchase artisanal Sicilian paper, which is crafted from Papyrus reeds that grow abundantly around the area. In addition to the paper, you should also consider buying Nero d’Avola, a locally renowned wine made from grapes grown in the vicinity. These two items make excellent souvenirs that will remind you of your trip to Siracusa.
To explore Siracusa, walking is recommended for Ortigia, but buses are available to reach attractions like the Archaeological Museum, Catacombs of San Giovanni, and Archaeological Park of Neapolis. City buses run circular routes, and three shuttle buses run along different routes in Ortigia. Taxis are also available with starting fees of €3.