Syracuse, Sicily: Where Truly Unique Architecture Meets Splendid Beaches

On the Ionian coast of Sicily, the ancient city of Syracuse (Siracusa in Italian) is a charming combination of narrow cobblestone lanes, impressive Greek temples, Norman churches and Baroque palazzos looking onto the opal-coloured sea.

Inhabited since ancient times and renowned for its Greek heritage, this vibrant coastal city is the birthplace of the eccentric inventor, physicist and mathematician Archimedes, and still charms with a multicultural history that overlaps many different cultures. 

This sun-kissed corner of south-eastern Sicily has been home to Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans and Spaniards, among significant others. Siracusa encapsulates the island’s timeless beauty, offering a seductive blend of ancient cultures and architecture, much of it on display on the little adjoining island of Ortygia, whose winding cobbled streets form the city’s original historic centre.

Here you can really get the perfect trifecta of culture, exceptional food and seaside relaxation. That’s why Siracusa should definitely top your wanderlust list for 2021.

Top attractions in Siracusa

Now listed among UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, Syracuse – not to be confused with Syracuse, N.Y. – is nearly 3,000 years old. 

During Ancient Greek times, it became one of the most powerful cities of Magna Graecia, more prestigious for a period even than Athens, Carthage and Corinth. After the terrible earthquake of 1693, Siracusa was rebuilt in exuberant Baroque style.

This ancient city bursts with archaeological wonders, and is relatively easy to visit in a day or two. Here’s everything you need to see.


One of Sicily’s hotspots, Ortygia (or Ortigia, in the local spelling) is Siracusa’s old town set on a teardrop-shaped island linked to the mainland by a couple of road bridges.

Called the “White Pearl of Siracusa” for its gleaming-white architecture, the historic walled island of Ortygia is a picturesque labyrinth of meandering alleys and elegant piazzas studded with Baroque buildings, along with a couple of ancient Greek temples and an imposing medieval fortress.

Strolling the tiny, twisty cobbled streets in Ortygia, you’ll find the Temple of Apollo, Sicily’s oldest Doric temple, and the Duomo of Syracuse, a fabulous Baroque cathedral built upon the site of a Greek Temple dedicated to Athena.

The historic, loud and bustling ancient Arab market, held every morning but Sunday, is a feast for the senses. Here you can find authentic regional produce and spices of all types. 

Neapolis Archaeological Park 

For history and architecture buffs, Siracusa’s premier attraction is the Neapolis Archeological Park, home to the gleaming and strikingly enormous Greek Theatre, the largest in Sicily, a masterpiece of classical architecture constructed in the fifth century BC. One of the largest theatres in the Greek world, it originally contained 67 rows of seating and could accommodate up to 16,000 people. 

Sites to savour on your visit also include the 2nd-century Roman Amphitheater, originally used for gladiatorial combats, the Latomia del Paradiso, and the Ear of Dionysus, a huge cave with excellent acoustics. 

Stunning beaches 

There’s plenty to appeal on the coast, too. The small, pebbly beach of Cala Rossa is located on the southern end of the island of Ortygia. You can easily charter a yacht in Sicily to fully explore these stunning beaches.

South-east Sicily’s shoreline offers many striking seascapes. A short drive south of Siracusa, Fontane Bianche has a drop-dead-gorgeous sandy beach, bars and restaurants to dine al fresco on the catch of the day. Just a little bit further south is Spiaggia della Marchesa, wide and sandy, with transparent water backed by pinewoods. 

Definitely worth a visit is the gorgeous beach of Calamosche, in the Vendicari Nature Reserve, where you can swim in some of the clearest water you’ll find in sunny Sicily. The sea is piercingly clear and very calm, great for swimming and snorkelling. 

At the southernmost tip of Sicily is Marzamemi, one of the island’s prettiest fishing villages, dating back over 1,000 years. The splendid beach to the north of the town is definitely the place to go to escape the afternoon heat.

Visiting south-east Sicily soon? Renting a private vacation home is a safer choice than staying in a hotel or resort right now, due to the lack of close contact with other guests or staff.

One of the island’s leading vacation-rental companies is Select Sicily Villas, which boasts a superb collection of exclusive properties in this area. Imagine coming home to a glamorous private-pool villa after marveling at the ancient sites in Siracusa or relaxing at the beach all day. Never. Going. Home.

For more information, please visit the company’s website

Riya Sander

Riya is an inspired writer, passionate about traveling, lifestyle and encouraging startups. As a freelancer she understands the importance of productivity at work. She never stopped finding new ways to create her work productivity. Follow her on Twitter @sanderriya