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Reviewed on 4 Sep 2020
Reviewed on 11 Sep 2020
Reviewed on 13 Aug 2020
More than 2,500 years of history are revealed in the form of cathedrals, fountains, and castles on this fascinating island. Spend an afternoon on Ortygia and discover the stunning Baroque cathedral, relax in the square with a coffee and marvel at the ancient Temple of Apollo.
Reach Ortygia by crossing one of the three bridges connecting it to Syracuse. Though small, at just 0.2 square miles (0.5 square kilometres), the island is packed with fascinating historic sites and stunning views toward the city and out to sea.
The first site you will reach is the Temple of Apollo, the oldest Doric Temple in Sicily. Stop to admire columns and brickwork dating back to the sixth century B.C.
Continue toward the centre of the island to find the Piazza Archimede, a pretty square surrounded by fine Baroque mansions. In the centre of the square is the Fountain of Diana. Admire the classical stone statues inside the fountain which depict the story of the nymph, Arethusa, escaping from the constant advances of Alpheus, the God of rivers.
A short stroll south from the fountain leads to the island’s main square, the Piazza del Duomo, dominated by the stunning Baroque cathedral. Built on the site of the Temple of Athena, the cathedral incorporates the temple’s original, giant columns into the exterior. The rest of the building was designed by Italian Andrea Palma in the 18th century and the main façade is decorated with statues of saints. Enjoy a view of the cathedral from one of the many nearby cafés and restaurants. Have a cool drink in the sun or sample a menu of freshly caught seafood.
After some relaxation in the square, head to the Castello Maniace at the southern tip of the island. See the imposing rounded towers and ancient stone archway decorated with colored marble. Look closely to see carvings etched into the stone by soldiers during the Second World War. The castle is open only in the morning. Allow plenty of time to look around.
Ortygia is just outside Syracuse. Since it is small, plan to walk its length. You’ll find hotels and guesthouses on the island.
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