Like no other city, Syracuse captures Sicily’s ageless beauty. Ancient Greek ruins rise out of plush citrus orchards, cafe’s spill onto dazzling baroque piazzas, and timeless cobbled lanes lead down to the cobalt blue sea. In its day, the largest city in the ancient world, larger than Athens and Corinth. In 734 BC, when Corinthian colonists landed on the island of Ortygia and founded the city, setting up the mainland fortress four years later. Now, the ruins of that then-new city constitute the Parco Archeologico della Neapolis, one of Sicily’s greatest archaeological sites. Across the water from the mainland, Ortygia remains the city’s most stunning corner, an imperiously chic, marvel with an ever-growing legion of admirers.
Sigmund Freud described Sicily as ‘the loveliest region of Italy: a stunning orgy of colours, scents, and lights… a great delight’, and Siracusa (as the locals call it) in the south east of the island has been inspiring people for ever.
A BIT OF HISTORY: Local inventor (he gave us the catapult!) and mathematician Archimedes was famously moved to run naked into its streets shouting ‘Eureka’ after his discovery about volume upon stepping into the bath and Cicero said it was ‘the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all’. Explore on foot: Ortigia, an island reached by bridges, is pedestrianised in the summer months
It’s no longer the most visited city in the Mediterranean – Greek or otherwise – but its beauty is still there. Like nearby Noto rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake, Syracuse’s heart and soul, Ortigia, is a Homoresque island of un-imaginable beauty
Pedestrianised during the summer, its charm is in its meandering shadowed lanes, with honey coloured walls, baroque iron balconies above, vast churches and pavement cafes. The shops are idiosyncratic; for example try the Fish House Art Shop on Via Cavour for every kind of fish imaginable in every kind of medium.
MARKET DAY: Ortigia’s daily food market is brash, loud, vibrant and an authentic daily experience for the locals and tourists alike. Admire and taste the freshest ricotta, fish, pastries and deli snacks.
A great favourite is the Sicilian run Caseificio Borderi, on Via Emmanuele De Benedectis, within the market. There’s no menu the owner decodes what yo would like.