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Architecture spanning centuries, religious art treasures, distinctive sweet and savory cuisine, and glorious Mediterranean sunsets – this ancient city is brimming with timeless riches.
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Founded by the Greeks around 734 BC. C., the city in southeastern Sicily that Cicero called "the largest and most beautiful of all Greek cities" achieved a size and status in the ancient world that made it a rival to great powers such as Athens and Carthage. Acquisitions and renovations by the Romans, Byzantines, North Africans, Normans, and others have also left their mark, influencing everything from religious art to the region's distinctive salty, sweet and sour, and sour style of cooking. Much of the ancient city has collapsed since the time of Cicero, though the ruins can still be explored at the celebrated Syracuse Archaeological Park and Museum. But the main attraction today is the historic center of Syracuse: the island of Ortygia, a maze of narrow streets, ornate Baroque churches and centuries-old palaces. And if you've never seen the stunning sunset over the Mediterranean on Ortigia's west promenade, add this to your to-do list.
36 hours in Syracuse, Sicily
1) Panoramic walk 17h
A passeggiata, or night walk, around the perimeter of Ortigia reveals many notable structures and history. Start at Parco Letterario Elio Vittorini on the east side and head clockwise. As the waves crash against the rocks below the breakwater, you'll pass the crenellated viewpoints and carved façade of the 17th-century Chiesa dello Spirito Santo before finding yourself in the palm-fringed gardens of the 13th-century Castello Maniace. Continuing along the west side, you reach the place where the goddess Artemis is said to have turned a nymph into a natural spring - the Arethusa Fountain - and then another pool of liquids: an open-air bar by the sea calledBurgio brothers in Porto. A bright orange Aperol Spritz costs 7 euros, or about $7.75. The corresponding sunset is free.
2) 20:00 Don't fight the fruit
"Waiter! There'sit passesin my vegetable mix!” Please don't say that when your caponata arrives. The raisins should have been there, along with the pine nuts, spicy vinegar and sugar reduction, and the slow cooked eggplant, red peppers, tomatoes and other local vegetables. After all, you've ordered a classic Sicilian dish with one of the best sweet and savory mixes in northern Morocco, and rustic-chic Oinos restaurant prepares it with the spices and subtle flavors you deserve. The comfort food menu also includes a statuesque tower of eggplant parmigiana, a succulent slice of pork with sage butter, and a beef filet smothered in a Nero d'Avola purple wine sauce. A three-course dinner for two costs about 80 euros.
3) 22:00 The temple bar
the bar calledboatsDespite the name, it does not have an ocean view. There is something much rarer: a view of the ruins of the Temple of Apollo, approximately 2,500 years old. Lit by candlelight and decked out in impeccable retro-vintage finds, the cavernous nautical-themed establishment also boasts multiple turntables, an impressive collection of funk-soul vinyl, and a cocktail menu inspired by concoctions like The Flaming Zone. Cynar artichoke, Campari, whiskey, mezcal and bitters; 9 euros).
4) 10 am Madonna Masterpieces
The number of virgins per square meter in theRegional Gallery of the Bellomo Palace- devoted primarily to medieval, renaissance and baroque art - is certainly expected to approach record-breaking status. There he is, with his son, looming over a church carried by angels, in a 1507-century surrealist painting by Alessandro Padovano and Giovanni Maria Trevisiano. There he is in the Gothic style, resplendent in deep reds, blues and golds, on a wooden panel cracked by the time of the Master of the Santa Maria Polyptych. But undoubtedly the most impressive interpretation of him comes from the hand of Antonello da Messina. His 15th-century painting "Annunciation," depicting Mary visited by an angel, is a masterpiece of powerful colors, exquisite detail, and beatific light. Entrance, 8 euros.
5) Noon. A little bread and a lot of fish.
The bounty of Sicily unfolds in a tide of colours, shapes and scents in the open-air market of Ortigia. Walking down the busy corridor lined with storefronts, stalls and sidewalk tables, you have a vocabulary lesson and food tour all rolled into one: purple-green carciofi (artichokes), orange zucchini (pumpkins), brown mandorla (almonds), black barrette di cioccolato (chocolate bars) from Modica. But mostly you'll find freshly caught and net-caught fish, including shiny dark green cuttlefish and sgombro (mackerel). Breads, nuts, spices and cheeses complete the mix. Around the corner, a flea market awaits anyone who wants to take home a Vespa magnet or Godfather T-shirt.
6) 13:30 Shells and scales
Practice your new vocabulary together withdivine sea, a simple and colorful seafood joint, where many of those words are scribbled and rewritten every day on the chalkboard menu. Using their neighbors' daily catch, the friendly staff serve up fresh carpaccio, ceviche, seafood pasta, fried bugs, grilled fish, and grilled whole underwater creatures. And if orecchiette pasta with tender pieces of octopus isn't enough, try garganelli pasta with shrimp in a rich truffle butter sauce. A two-course meal for two costs about 50 euros.
7) 3pm The Sinner and the Saint
Caravaggio was on the run. Having escaped from prison in Malta, the bad boy (and accused of murder) artist arrived in Syracuse in 1608 and landed a commission to paint "The Burial of Saint Lucia," which today hangs in the Chiesa di Santa Lucia alla Badia ( free entrance ). Dominated by somber blacks and browns, the canvas depicts the corpse of the patron saint of Syracuse (the only horizontal element) mourned by a priest in a blood-red kerchief (the only touch of bright color) and a crowd of onlookers. But the most fascinating component is the shadowy, hazy void that surrounds them. Across the majestic Piazza del Duomo stands the cathedral (admission €2), whose architectural and design elements form a panorama of Syracuse's history, from the richly carved façade (Baroque) to the kaleidoscopic marble floor (Renaissance ) and the towering stone pillars built into the walls (remains of a temple in Athens in 480 BC).
8) 17:00 Leather, foam and lace
The pleasure of leatheris a leather goods store where all the simple monochrome bags, backpacks, sandals and more are made on site. The boutique is one of the many little treasures hidden in the narrow streets of Ortigia, and an afternoon shopping tour is also a voyage of discovery, revealing hidden piazzas, unexpected passageways, and tons of Old World architecture. A paradise of luxurious and colorful packaging,ortygia sicilysells scented beauty products made from island fruits and flora, such as spice resin shaving cream and pomegranate soap. You can put them in a bag.designer light, where the traditional Sicilian baskets are adorned with lace, fur, sequins, gold chains and other luxury accessories.
9) 8:00 p.m. Accommodation and meals
Arne Jacobsen or the Eameses would have felt at home insideFourth Kitchen, a new, minimalist highlight that channels the spirit of mid-century modernism. They are likely to enjoy cooking as well, revealing an eye for presentation and a nose for flavorful garnish. You can start with polpette of tiny neonate fish and tender asparagus, literally rolled into a crispy fried ball of savory flavours, before moving on to spaghetti with butter sauce loaded with tiny tender clams and slices of lemon confit. Among the entrees, the veal is not one of those thin, breaded, fried, dry carpet-flavored disasters, but a thick, succulent cut of meat surrounded by blobs of a sweet and sour balsamic reduction. Expect to pay around 90 euros for a three-course dinner for two.
10) 10:30 p.m. Hidden bars
You pretty much need a Campari detector to find Ortigia's other top bars, which are hidden. Furnished with antique furniture and an upright piano,Cortile Vergasurrounds a patio lined with white marble tables, offering indoor and outdoor space to enjoy a light I.P.A. from the Sicilian brewery Vittoria (7 euros) or the specialized Italian-Mexican mix of a Malinche cocktail (Campari, vermouth, mezcal, orange juice, agave; 9 euros). Then slide out onto the candlelit, palm tree lined patio.I wobble, a chic and sensual lounge that offers fruity drinks such as the Ortigia Mule (vodka, prickly pear liqueur, ginger ale and lime; 10 euros).
11) 10:00 Ancient sites (and sounds)
In the prolific years before he was killed by a tortoise dropped by an eagle, the celebrated Athenian playwright Aeschylus visited the ancient Greek theater at Syracuse to stage "Women of Etna." The work, represented there in 475 a. C., it was almost lost to time, but much of the semicircular stone theater remains remarkably intact and hosts performances to this day. Other notable attractions inNeapolis Archaeological Parkit is the eroded cliffs and otherworldly geological forms where the Greeks, Romans and others mined stone. Particularly impressive is the Ear of Dionysus, a jagged, cathedral-scale cavern that amplifies even the smallest noises into eerie echoes. Entry 10 euros.
12) Grecian Noon Urns
His historical odyssey culminates in thePaolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum. All your favorite Greco-Roman deities, heroes, and creatures are there, in ceramic or sculpture form. Hercules drives chariots and fights lions in black glazed ceramic. A smiling satyr navigates a swollen skin. The early Christian relics are no less impressive, in particular the Adelphia Sarcophagus, which was discovered in the vicinity of the St. John's catacombs. The funerary masterpiece, dating from the fourth century, is carved with 13 biblical scenes, including the temptation of Adam and Eve and the wedding at Cana, in three-dimensional reliefs. Entrance 8 euros.
Small stylish hotels abound in Syracuse. Occupying an 18th century house,Re Federico Boutique HotelIt has six rooms (including five with kitchenettes) decorated in a tasteful contemporary style, as well as a rooftop terrace with sea views and a ground-floor cafe. Doubles from 144 euros in September.
The wooden beams and stone walls of the baroque palace that housesReal Ortygia SuiteThey work well with the modern furnishings and artwork in the nine rooms, some of which have terraces or sea views. From 174 euros per night in September.
Alternatively, Airbnb is full of small furnished apartments around Ortigia, starting at just $25 a night in low season. One-bedroom apartments in September are between $50 and $60.
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