Ortigia, Sicily: Syracuse’s Island

August 6, 2015 / Places
Isola di Ortigia, Sicilia
Ortigia Syracuse ornaoreilly (3)

Driving away from Trapani under a cloudless late spring sky, my rental Cinquecento and I began our four hour drive across the island of Sicily to the city of Syracuse on the south eastern shore. The autostrada is a feat of engineering as it curves through the mountains of central Sicily, passing evocative signposts such as Corleone and Prizzi.

Ortigia Syracuse ornaoreilly (12)

Ortigia, a tiny self-contained island, is joined to Syracuse by three bridges over a narrow channel. It contains the centro storico of the city itself and is a warren of narrow streets and mellow baroque architecture.

Ortigia Syracuse ornaoreilly (7)

Arriving at my hotel on the south side of the island, via the bustling narrow alleyways of Ortigia, I couldn’t wait to explore.

Ortigia Syracuse ornaoreilly (15)

Ortigia, though tiny – approximately 1km by 500 metres – is packed with interesting things to see. It is a popular tourist destination, brim-full of a great variety of shops, bars and restaurants.

Ortigia Syracuse ornaoreilly (11)

Close to my hotel was the 13th century Castello Maniace jutting out into the sea overlooking the sheltered bay. Apparently, there has been some sort of defensive fort in this vital strategic position since Syracuse was first inhabited about 3000 years ago.

Ortigia Syracuse ornaoreilly (1)

Other interesting sights include the 7th century BC Temple of Apollo and busy Piazza Archimede with its extravagant fountain, named after Archimedes the famous mathematician who was born there in 287 BC.

Ortigia Syracuse ornaoreilly (9)
Ortigia Syracuse ornaoreilly (8)

Gorgeous Piazza Duomo is packed full of bars and cafes, where you can sip on a limoncello or visit the striking Duomo and the church of Santa Lucia.

Ortigia Syracuse ornaoreilly (6)
Ortigia Syracuse ornaoreilly (4)
Ortigia Syracuse ornaoreilly (5)

Overall, Ortigia is the perfect place to stroll around, taking in the mellow old Baroque architecture and visiting the most fantastic fish-market I have ever seen, where the fishmongers sing out a litany of their produce for the entertainment of all.

Ortigia Syracuse ornaoreilly (14)
Ortigia Syracuse ornaoreilly (10)
Ortigia Syracuse ornaoreilly (2)

FAQs on Ortigia click Ortigia Syracuse FAQs.

by Orna O’Reilly

Orna is a former interior designer who practised in South Africa, Mozambique and Ireland. Now writing full time, she moved from Ireland to the Veneto area of Italy in 2013.

She writes her way around Italy by blogging about it (at Ornasite) and is currently writing a novel set in Venice. You can follow her tweets @OrnaOR, and her Travel & Design page on FB.

11 Responses to “Ortigia, Sicily: Syracuse’s Island”

  1. Frank Bettinelli

    Being Sicilian, I am always pleased to see notes pertaining to it. The photos are
    outstanding, particular ones were the gentleman standing by the water and
    just staring down. What was so attracting??
    The other was the colorful , what appear to be sea urchins. And as always
    the massive architecular splendor of the churches.
    My only visit to Sicily was back in 1996 and that was limited to a week spent
    entirely in the east, Taromina and Augusta. Augusta was the city of my parents
    before immigrating to America along with my brother and 2 sisters, and me
    in utero, 87 years ago.

  2. Gian Banchero

    Orna(!), a million grazie for your article and fantastic/splendid photos of Isola di Ortigia. During my many protracted visits to Sicilia I visited the island several times; yes, a wonderful place to stroll. From a visit several decades back I bought very Sicilian pottery on the island that grace three rooms in my California home. Again, thank you for the photographic art that have started my day off with a warm heart and the biggest of smiles! I shall send this article to my many grandchildren so as they may be more aware of their ethnic heritage.

  3. Bob Lemon

    Good photos of a place with which I am very familiar. But a few more specific historical notes would have been welcome.

  4. michael diberardinis

    Thank you Orna for allowing us to visit this gem of an island. One more point of interest and reason to visit is Caravaggio’s ‘Burial of Saint Lucy’.

  5. Rosemary Connelly

    One of our favorite places when we lived in Marina di Ragusa, Sicily! Thanks for the memories! We were there many times – most memorable during a hurricane and the Festival of Santa Lucia!

  6. Was to Sicily missed this town. Sicily should not be missed when you visit Italy. Food is great.. Desserts are to die for. Small towns are beautiful. Want to go back!

  7. I spent a month traveling solo through and studying in various cities in Sicily.
    Your article made me aware that there is so much to see and experience in la Bella Sicilia. It’s the birthplace of my parents. Finding my father’s birth record at the Town Hall – Communale – was exciting. Thank you for the wonderful memories … it’s time to return.

  8. Jane Kirschner

    This was our absolute favorite place in Sicily, last year on our Grand Circle tour! I could have stayed there, inhaling the salt air, wandering the crooked streets, tasting the treats on every street corner! Definitely, if you’ve not yet been to Sicily, make sure you include this in your itinerary! We never even walked over the bridge to explore Syracusa… (we’re Hoyas, after all!) we were having to much fun on the island!

  9. It took a while but thanks to this article we actually spent a day bouncing around this isle last week. My only regret is that we didn’t have more time there. I was intrigued by the sign on a little side street advertising home cooking. Alas, we could not partake in that particular joy due o time constraints. Though we enjoyed the sights immensely, grazie!


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