A Complete Guide to Ortigia, Syracuse, Sicily.

Explore the Timeless Beauty of Ortigia Island, Syracuse's Historic Gem

Nestled along the sun-kissed shores of Sicily, and underneath the shadow of Mt Etna volcano, lies the gorgeous island of Ortigia, Syracuse. Steeped in a history that spans millennia, this small island (measuring only 1km x 0.5km) has witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations, leaving behind a tapestry of architectural wonders and cultural treasures. Journey through Ortigia's enchanting streets and squares, explore its rich history and the timeless allure that continues to captivate visitors from around the world. This is truly a magical place to visit and we definitely recommend staying here for at least a few days to really get a feel for this beautiful island.

The history of Ortigia Island dates back to ancient times, as far back as the 8th century BC. It was originally inhabited by the ancient Greeks, who founded the city of Syracuse on the island. They established Syracuse as a powerful and influential city-state, renowned for its strategic location, culture, and military powers.

During the 5th century BC, Syracuse reached the height of its power and prosperity and the city's wealth and influence were reflected in the magnificent architecture and impressive structures that adorned Ortigia. The Temple of Apollo, a Doric-style temple, was among the most prominent structures of this time. By the 3rd Century BC, however, Ortigia had fallen to Roman rule and later Byzantine and Arab rule forming the island's layout, with narrow, winding streets and charming courtyards that evoke a sense of the past. 

One of the most enchanting things to do in Ortigia, is to walk through the stunning laneways, piazzas and promenades. As you wander through the cobbled streets, admire the architectural wonders, and soak up the ambiance of this  Island, you'll find yourself immersed in a journey through time. Each step reveals layers of history, from the ancient Greek foundations to the echoes of Roman dominance, Byzantine influence, and the artistic achievements of later eras. Take in the gorgeous architecture, the elegantly crumbling facades and faded patinas of the buildings and you'll feel like you've just stepped into a movie set.

Don't miss a chance to explore the Fortezza, the Castello Maniace, which dominates the far tip of the island. Built in the 1200s on an existing fortress site, the Castle has been used over the centuries for defense, a King's palace, residence for Queens of Sicily and a prison, this impressive fortress is a wonder to behold.

Another highlight and one of Ortigia's most iconic landmarks is the Cathedral of Syracuse, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria delle Colonne. Originally constructed as a Greek temple, it was later transformed into a Christian basilica. The cathedral is a unique blend of architectural styles, including Norman, Gothic, and Baroque elements, reflects the island's diverse cultural heritage.

Foodie Heaven can be found here in not just the many superb restaurants and trattorias, but also in discovering the Old Street Market, 3 Ortigia Street Market. Here you'll find vendors of fresh fruits, vegetables, vast arrays of seafood, spices and much more, all vying for your attention and your custom. While you're there, try the delicious, fresh made rolls at Borderi, you wont be disappointed!

Ortigia continued to evolve during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, with the addition of palaces, churches, and fountains that exude opulence and elegance. The Fountain of Arethusa, a natural spring surrounded by lush greenery, became a symbol of the island's romantic allure and is still visible today.

Today, Ortigia's historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, ensuring that the island's architectural treasures and rich heritage continue to be enjoyed by generations to come. Ortigia stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of a city that has persevered through the ages, offering visitors a chance to connect with the past while basking in the beauty of the present. So set your course for this captivating island, and let its history unfold before your eyes as you experience the magic of Ortigia in all its timeless splendor.

Getting There 

As we were already in the Amalfi Coast, we chose to train it down from Salerno, but you can also train from Rome or Naples or fly into Palermo. The train trip was relaxing and things got real interesting when our train rode straight onto a ferry to cross to Sicily. We'd never been sitting on a train that was on a ferry before so that's a new experience right there!

Where to Stay

There are many accommodation options to suit any budget. The great news is, being a small island, everywhere is in walking distance! Check out some amazing accommodation options here.


What to Wear

 CiCi Pant Santa Maria
Sargent Stripe Pant Mocha
Cala Spotted Mini Dress
Galfriend Tee
Casey Cargo Jeans
Off Shoulder Linen Top


What to Do

There are so many places to discover both on the island and in the water. Below is some tour information and inspo. Click for more great deals.


Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above may be affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, we may earn a commission if you make a purchase. We will only ever recommend companies, products and services that we use ourselves and trust. All information and content in this article is our own expressed views  based on our experiences only and we recommend that you undertake your own research to decide what is right for you.