Bustling markets, cathedrals, medieval palaces and a ruined temple – there’s a whole lot to experience here in Siracusa, on Sicily’s Ionian coast.
If it was up to me we would have gone back to mainland Italy after our days in Ragusa, but the better half suggested we head down to Siracusa. Not quite a straightforward commute for us, but read the details on that at the end of this post.
The place that people head to is Ortigia, the oldest part of the city which sits on an island connected to the ‘new town’ by two short bridges. The moment you cross these bridges you realise things look a tad Venetian, but minus the mass of package tourists, canals, gondolas and overall craziness.
It’s still very touristy in Siracusa, just not overbearingly so.
Basilica Santuario della Madonna delle Lacrime – Viale Luigi Cadorna, 139
It’s difficult to miss that conical lump of concrete in the new town, a structure that dominates the skyline like nothing else. This “monster of reinforced concrete” – as described by residents when construction of the church commenced in 1966 – took 28 years to complete.
Why so long? A combination of heated controversy and the fact it was being built over Greek-Roman and Byzantine ruins. Sixteen chapels are built around the base of the main shrine house and you can even see the remains of the tomb that was discovered during excavations.
The stunning Duomo of Siracusa
Something tells me that more people photograph Siracusa’s other main place of worship – the UNESCO listed Duomo in Ortigia. The baroque façade rises above the piazza, reflecting the afternoon sun with great intensity.
Read up on the Duomo’s history in a fascinating article here.
Right by the ancient ruins of the 6th century BC temple of Apollo is a market definitely worth sniffing about, located on and around Via Trento. From beautifully intricate hand-painted stoneware, to an excellent selection of seafood (check my squirting vongole), fresh produce, incredible cheeses and baskets of spices, herbs and nuts.
One place not to miss is Fratelli Burgio, a foodstore that would get any gourmand drooling. There’s a huge selection of local cheeses, olive oils, meat, pasta, olives and bread – just to name a few.
Pull up a stool and you can stay for lunch or brunch, nibbling through a platter of cured meats, cheeses, olives and caponata.
Fratelli Burgio – Piazza Cesare Battisti, 4
Mappititta – Corso Umberto I, 101-73
Angelina’s Bakery – Corso Umberto I, 50
Back in the newer part of town is Corso Umberto I, a commercial strip lined with many shops and places to grab a bite or coffee.
Here you’ll find Mappititta, a friendly little eatery that doubles as a foodstore specialising in pasta, chocolates, liqueurs, olive wood serving boards and servers. Stay for an espresso or one of their tasty baguettes, as we did as we waited to get into our airbnb.
Then there’s Officina 77 a few doors away, home to some rather excellent pastas made on the premises. Many locals drop by to grab fresh pasta to take home, or you can sit and enjoy it as it’s cooked and tossed with a variety of ingredients – Roman-style.
The zucchine e guanciale (6.5) is nothing short of divine, as is the gricia (guanciale & pecorino; 6.5). They do pizzas, as well.
Officina 77 – Corso Umberto I, 106
Also on Corso Umberto I is Angelina’s Bakery, a buzzing little joint popular for its Western-style breakfasts, burgers and café fare. Try their biramisu.
If pizza’s more the go, then it’s a matter of choosing where to get it. It’s everywhere, as you’d expect. We got our fill at Sicily Pizzeria back in Ortigia, a sprawling retro set-up that specialises in hemp seed pizza bases. Our Napoletana (6.5) and diavola (6.5) hit the right spot.
Sicily Pizzeria & Lounge Bar – Via Cavour, 67
As for the rest of Ortigia, you could easily ‘do it’ in an hour or so of meandering. It’s a tight network of passages, squares, residential areas and beautiful waterfront. A perfect place to lose yourself in.
Getting to Siracusa from Ragusa by local bus involves getting the ETNA bus from Capolinea Zama depot in Ragusa. The bus departs Ragusa at 8am and arrives at Catania airport at 9.45am. Cost is €7.90 per person.
From Catania airport you need to head to the ETNA, Interbus & SAIS bus ticket offices just outside the main terminal building to book your next bus to Siracusa. Departure is at 10.10am and arrival is 11.30am. Cost is €5.70 per person.
Due to being a public holiday on our day of travel, there were more people than normal, so we were very lucky to get seats on the Catania-Siracusa leg. Otherwise we’d be overnighting in Catania for a bus the following day.
Ordinarily there is a direct train from Ragusa to Siracusa, but it wasn’t running due to the public holiday.