Syracuse is the city of Italy that preserves more Greek history, in fact, its own name already transports you to the ancient Greek Empire. Syracuse was the most important city in Sicily during the splendor of the empire. And as we could see, that sublime wealth has remained to this day; especially on the Ortigia Island. Here we can still see the limestone columns of a majestic Greek temple supporting what is nowadays the cathedral.
Syracuse is the greatest example of the integration of centuries of history that I have ever seen. That’s why it’s my favorite of the cities we saw on our 10-day Sicily trip. Cycling through Ortigia and snorkeling in the incredible protected marine area of the Plemmirio just 20 minutes from the center of Siracusa is a privilege.
I totally recommend spending at least one day in Syracuse on your visit to Sicily.
top things TO DO IN SYRACUSE in one day
Syracuse offers not only history but one of the most natural beaches we saw in Sicily. Spending a day in Syracuse seems to me a must both for those who are traveling through the north or the south of Sicily.
In this section, we will talk about the must-see places in Syracuse in one day. Also at the end of the article, you will find a Syracuse map with all the points of interest and attractions highlighted on it.
Ortigia is an island of only two square kilometers that connects with the island of Sicily through two short bridges. Visiting this landmark is the most important thing to do in Syracuse.
After crossing the Ponte de Santa Lucía, the esthetic of the streets radically change compared to the rest of Syracuse. We visited Ortigia three times during our day in Syracuse: one in the afternoon riding through the alleys by bicycle, another at night to see the lights of the city and the last one to see the sunrise from the Forte San Giovannello.
During the afternoon we could see not only the highlights but also the beauty of a city that has managed to maintained the legacy of the past. It was founded by Corinthians, who arrived in 735 BC. and was -and still is- the center of Syracuse.
That is why I recommend that besides visiting the main attractions, try to get lost in as many alleys as you can to breathe the essence of the city.
TEMPIO DI APOLLO
The Tempio di Apollo was one of the largest Greek temples in Sicily. However, to this day, only the ruins remain. We found it almost by accident while we rode Ortigia by bicycle.
FONTANA DI ARTEMIDE
This fountain, which was recently restored, is dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemisia. It represents the myth of Arethusa and Alphaeus, of which I will speak later.
The fountain is in the square of Archimedes, in memory of the famous mathematician who was born in Ortigia in 287 BC. The square is surrounded by historic palaces.
DUOMO DI Siracusa
The Duomo di Siracusa is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and original cathedrals in Sicily and probably in Europe.
The Sicilian baroque front with its convex forms is impressive. The color of granite and marble gives an aspect of grandeur to this old jewel.
However, the feature that left us speechless were the Greek columns holding the cathedral, as this cathedral was built over the Greek columns of the Temple of Athena.
It is impossible not to feel ephemeral when you are next to them and know that they have been standing there for centuries; bearing the weight of the Greek temple, later a mosque during the Arab conquest and currently being a pillar for the cathedral.
We will leave and they will continue to bear the weight of history and make us feel volatile. Without a doubt, it is the main attraction of Syracuse in a day.
The Cathedral of Syracuse and the main square must be visited during three different times; one when it is open to see its interior, another at night, as the illumination of the square will make you fall in love with the beauty of Ortigia, and the last with the first Lights at dawn, when you can contemplate the building in solitude and see how the first rays paint the marble in orange.
The next thing we will visit in our day in Syracuse is the Fonte Aretusa.
Before this, I will tell you first the myth of Aretusa and Alfeo.
Arethusa was a virtuous nymph protected by the goddess Artemis to whom she had sworn chastity.
During a very hot day, the nymph decided to undress and to bathe in a river of a forest in Greece. The hunter Alpheus saw her and wanted to violate her so Arethusa requested aid to its protective goddess Artemisia.
The goddess turned her into a fountain far away from there, in Ortigia, to escape the rape. Alpheus, who was a sick stalker, asked Zeus for help, which made him a river in Greece.
The hunter didn’t surrender and crossed the sea, even managed to make an underground tunnel to reach the fountain in which Arethusa had turned.
Fonte Arethusa is a source of fresh water that communicates with the sea. In ancient times it supplied Ortigia with water. Today it is one of the most touristic attractions on the island and where ducks, fish and papyrus plants live.
The Castello Maniace is built on a Byzantine fortress from 1038. The reconstruction was implemented in 1239 by the emperor Federico II. Its location at the tip of Ortigia makes it perfect for defending the city from sea attacks.
Nowadays it cannot be visited since it belongs to the Military Heritage.
FORTE SAN GIOVANNELLO
The Forte San Giovannello is ideal if you like to get up early to see the sunrise. It would not be a mandatory thing to do in Syracuse in a day, although it is highly recommended.
We arrived with the sun peeking over the horizon.
From this fort, you can see the entire east coast of Ortigia, including the protruding earth spigot.
We loved to stroll around the coast and to see the life of Ortigia with the first lights.
After sunrise, we took advantage of the first hours of the morning to enjoy Ortigia when most of the tourists are still sleeping.
Neapolis ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK
The next most important thing to do in Syracuse in one day is to visit the Neapolis Archaeological Park.
The entrance fee is € 9 and includes a visit to different monuments and points of interest. We do not spend more than an hour there, although, if you are a lover of archeology and ancient history you will surely need all morning to make a full visit.
I advise you to visit it very early in the morning, which is when fewer people are there and when the heat is more bearable.
The remains belong to the Greek period but ruins from the Norman domain until the Middle Ages can also be found, including the Roman Empire and the Hellenistic period.
Among the different remains we will find:
- The Greek amphitheater, which could also be flooded to make water games and water fights during the Roman Empire by storing water in swimming pools.
- The Altar of Hierón II where, during festivals, they sacrificed dozens of oxen as an offering to the gods and of which we only found the old ruins.
- The Greek Theater quite plundered since many of the stones from the stage and stands were reused in the construction of the fort of Ortigia.
- The Ear of Dionysius, the main cave of the Latomia of Paradise. A series of artificial caves that were formed when using the rock as a quarry. It was used later as a prison.
THE BEST BEACH IN SyRACUse ITALY – PREMMIRIO
If during your stay in Syracuse you want to spend one day on the beach I recommend you to visit the protected marine area of Premmirio. None of the other beaches of Syracuse is like the ones you will find here.
This natural setting is located on the coast of Penisola della Maddalena.
Getting there is quite easy from Ortigia as it only takes about 20 minutes. In what we lost most of the time was in deciding which part of the peninsula we wanted to see.
Our first idea was to reach the Faro di Capo Murro di Porco.
Once parked, on the path that reached the lighthouse we found a map that explained a little the regulation in the protected area of Plemmirio. Basically in which points could be made scuba diving, which are high protected areas and which are medium protected areas.
The ground was difficult to walk, the access to the sea was very complicated and there was not a place where we could get some shade, so we went back to the map and decided to change the location.
Then we drove to point 29, Via Degli Zaffari.
We parked the car and walked towards the sea on an almost lunar terrain. After finding the path to get down to the little beach, we were instantly hypnotized by the environment.
The beach is not sandy, but it was compensated by being practically on our own in that paradise.
We left the towels in the shade of a cliff and we submerged in the crystalline and refreshing waters. At the base of the cliffs were caves with all kinds of marine life.
We spent the morning swimming and snorkeling in what for me was the most beautiful beach for snorkeling of the trip.
ONE DAY ITINERARY IN SYRACUSE ITALY
Arriving in Siracusa the night before I recommend you to plan your day in Syracuse in the following way:
- Sunrise in Ortigia, from the Forte San Giovannello
- Morning at the Neapolis Archaeological Park, when there are fewer tourists and it is not too hot.
- Mid-morning on some of the beaches of Syracuse. If you like snorkeling, we recommend Plemmirio
- Afternoon in Ortigia to visit the interior of the Duomo di Siracusa and the rest of the tourist attractions
- Night in Ortigia to see street lighting
With this itinerary, you will enjoy everything that Siracusa can offer you in a day.
WHERE TO STAY IN SYRACUSE
The most beautiful area of Syracuse is the island of Ortigia. Unfortunately, inside the island, the prices are very high so if you want to stay here at a good price you should book it in advance. We found this apartment that was very well priced to be in the center of Ortigia.
If you stay outside Ortigia you can save a lot. In that case, I recommend that you rent an apartment where you can borrow bicycles to visit Ortigia comfortably.
If you want to check other accommodation options in Syracuse by Booking you can search them here.
WHERE TO EAT in syracuse
To finish this travel guide about things to do in Syracuse in one day I will recommend a place for breakfast, another for lunch or dinner and a last one to have a snack at any time of the day.
BREAKFAST IN BAR DEL PONTE
We had breakfast at the Bar del Ponte after seeing the sunrise at Forte San Giovannello. The pastry filled with ricotta cream will make your mouth water. If you have a chance to have breakfast here do not hesitate.
MEal or diner at THE CAMBUSA
The price is a bit higher than other restaurants, but it is true that the quality was very good. This is why it is not a place for tourists only, but locals of Syracuse usually go to dinner. But remember to book a table because it can be full.
ICE CREAM AT ANY TIME IN LA GELATERIA FIORDILATTE
In the gelateria Fiordelatte we took one of the best ice creams of the trip. The creaminess of their creations is unbeatable. In addition, the infinity of flavors and the friendliness of the staff made it my favorite Sicilian ice cream shop. If you go to Syracuse you cannot miss it; to have breakfast, to have lunch and even to have dinner. Ice cream for everyone!!
Finally, on the following map of Syracuse you will find all the points of interest and tourist attractions represented.
We hope that your day in Syracuse is as fun and complete as it was ours, and if you have any question we will be happy to help you on the comments 😉
Finally, here I leave you our best travel insurance companies article since you will need travel insurance for Europe if you are coming from a non-Europe country.