After living in Sicily for 3 years I’ve become familiar with some of the most charming towns here. I thought it would definitely be worth mentioning in a series of posts! Starting here with the breathtaking island of Ortigia.
While Ortigia is technically considered an island, there is a small driving bridge that links mainland Sicily to the island of Ortigia. It doesn’t even feel like you are leaving Sicily!
It’s also one of the most convenient towns to park in while visiting and driving around Sicily. Which is a huge relief because driving in Sicily can be stressful!
With a 24 hour parking garage (Talete) located at Lungomare di Levante Elio Vittorini, 96100 Siracusa SR, it tracks your license plate when you drive in. So once you’re ready to leave, you just type your plate number into the machine, pay the hourly rate, get your ticket, and you’re on your way! So convenient.
Before we get started with what to do and see, you just drove all the way there! You’re probably hungry right? Well you’re in luck because Oritigia is filled with delectable eats around every corner.
Grab a coffee
First, stop into a cafe – any cafe really, and order a coffee. I prefer cafe ginseng while my husband prefers a cafe macchiato. You can stand at the bar and sip it (as the Italians do) or grab a table outside and take a little rest before moving on. Also, feel free to grab a sweet from the cafes selection to go along with your coffee! In fact, it’s recommended!!
Explore the Flavors of the Street Market
Take a stroll down the Ortigia Street Market. Open from 7am-1:30p Monday-Saturday, this is where Ortigia comes to life. Locals come here to sell their fresh produce like fruits, vegetables, spices, nuts, meats, and of course; fresh caught fish.
There are also clothing, accessory and pottery vendors located on the same street! All you need to do to find this amazing market is head to either end of Vicolo Bagnara, 96100 Siracusa SR and start walking. The vendors are set up all down the street and will be beckoning you to buy their products. Enjoy!
Tip for the markets: Bring euro! Many vendors do not have card machines and therefore will not be able to accept major credit or debit cards.
Visit The Sandwich Man
Are you ready for the best sandwich of your life? The dubbed “Sandwich Man” of Ortigia Island is where you’ll find it! Located at Via Emmanuele de Benedictis, 6, 96100 Siracusa SR, stop here to dine on the most creatively concocted sandwich you will ever have!
Open Monday-Saturday from 8a-5p, the Sandwich Man’s shop, Caseificio Borderi is there to fulfill your needs. His selection is unlike anything I’ve ever seen during my time in Sicily. He can create just about anything with meats, cheeses, fresh vegetables, marinated local vegetables and fresh baked bread.
If a sandwich isn’t really your thing, no worries! He also makes artfully crafted meat and cheese boards! Sit on the patio with your significant other, friends, or family and enjoy a giant meat and cheese board. Don’t forget to also ask for a bottle of local, cold, white wine. You can’t go wrong here!
What to do
The town of Ortigia is filled with things to do. From museums in the duomo, to viewing ancient Greek archeological sights, to water activities in the warmer summer months – when truly, is the best time to visit Sicily! So what can you do in Ortigia today? Let me show you!
Rent a Boat
If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous and happen to be visiting Ortigia during the summer, I highly recommend renting a boat for the day! There are dozens of options when it comes to renting a boat. You can do a guided tour, a sunset tour, a sunrise tour, or do as we did and choose to rent the boat and drive it unaccompanied by any tour guide!
We went through a company that is easily found in the harbor called Explore Ortigia. You can send them a message on FB to make a reservation if you’re visiting in the busy summer months. But really, they have many boats. You can likely just show up and they will let you take one out!
The boats are fairly small so they can be driven and handled easily even if you have never had experience driving a boat before. We went with 5 people and it was a little crowded in the boat with all of us, our cooler and bags but we made it work! Plus we weren’t always all in the boat at the same time as we were constantly jumping out to swim in the gorgeous turquoise blue waters of the Mediterranean sea.
The boats come with an anchor so you can throw it over whenever you find a spot that is safe and far away from other boat traffic and your entire party can get out and swim, rock jump or simply sun tan on the deck of the boat.
The best part about renting a boat in Ortigia are the views. There are so many fascinating treasures along the shore to find. I’m talking sea caves, small, private sandy beaches, stone arches, and I’m sure there’s more that we have yet to discover. It is absolutely amazing and worth every penny!
I think we spent about 100 euro for 4 hours. Plus you have to pay for however much gas you use. Keep in mind, splitting this amongst 4-5 people, that’s not so bad!
Take a Stroll Along the Water
As you know by now, Ortigia is an island! So that means – amazing ocean views! There are so many gorgeous view points around the island. All you need to do is find the water’s edge and start walking – any direction, really!
You will not be disappointed by all of the ways the island comes to life as you round each corner. From the yachts that will surely be parked in the harbor to the glowing white buildings that may remind you of Santorini. Ortigia is stunning and viewing it from the water’s edge is the best way to take it all in.
Do you know a lot about Greek mythology? Well, Sicily is full of it!
Ortigia especially has unique ties to Greek roots and seeing them scattered across the city is like being inside a history book.
Learn more below!
Cathedral of Syracuse – Piazza Duomo, Syracuse, SR, 96100
This large cathedral dominates the piazza duomo square. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this now Catholic church was once a Greek doric temple dedicated to Athena. You can enter the church for € 2.00 during their open hours when service is not in session.
Temple of Apollo – Largo XXV Luglio, 96100 Siracusa SR
The most ancient, Doric temple in Sicily and one of the first to be built with the now famous columns that are common throughout the Greek world can be found right here in Ortigia in front of the Piazza Pancali.
Arethusa Spring or fonte aretusa – Largo Aretusa, 96100 Siracusa SR
According to Greek mythology, one day when bathing in a river on the Peloponnese Peninsula (Greece), Arethusa – a maid of the goddess Artemis, was spotted by god Alpheus. He immediately fell in love with the beautiful nymph. Unmoved by his feelings, Arethusa sought protection from Artemis. She transformed the young nymph into an underground spring flowing under the sea to re-emerge on the far-away island of Ortigia.
The trick did not go according to plan. Alpheus in turn was transformed by Zeus in the form of river waters. In his new “incarnation” he followed Arethusa’s spring waters to Ortigia to be there with his beloved one. Due to the strong cult of goddess Artemis, the Arethusa spring became the sacred place in Siracusa. Proving that true love is eternal, the spring still empties into the freshwater pool at the western shore of Ortigia. The bronze sculpture depicting the nymph Arethusa fleeing unwanted suitor Alpheus is placed next to the spring.
Ortigia Castle or Castello Maniace – Via Castello Maniace, 51, 96100 Siracusa SR
Built between 1232 and 1240, the castle shows the name ‘George Maniakes’ who was a Byzantine Greek general during the Roman Empire. When it was originally built, the only entry was over a bridge spanning a moat. This has since been filled and is now easily accessible to tourists.
The castle has had a variety of uses throughout its long life time, but today it is simply used as a tourist attraction.
Fountain of Diana – Piazza Archimede, 96100 Siracusa SR
In 1906 the City Council of Syracuse commissioned a project to personify the myth of Arethusa in form of a monumental fountain. Created by the Italian sculptor Giulio Moschetti. Known as the Fountain of Diana (Fontana di Diana) or the Fountain of Arethusa – it dominates the Plaza of Archimedes.
The goddess Diana (Artemis) is positioned in the center with the nymph Arethusa at her feet slipping down to blend in with the water. Alpheus, standing next to Diana is watching in disbelief what is happening in front of his eyes.
Tritons (sons of Poseidon – the mythological god of the sea) on seahorses seem to symbolize the “orderly” and peaceful transformation of Arethusa into water, while those riding Sea Monsters represent the fear of unknown.
I hope you enjoyed my little tour of Ortigia, one of Sicily’s most charming cities!
For more ideas, activities and tours in Ortigia, click here.
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