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Syracuse is a thriving port city that blends spectacular ancient history with a breathtaking setting overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. As one of Italy’s oldest cities, Syracuse offers visitors a tapestry of history and heritage, spread through hundreds of atmospheric lanes and beautiful seafront promenades. The island peninsula of Ortygia is the city’s main draw, with its maze of winding alleyways and spectacular buildings, but there’s much more besides, including romantic seafood restaurants, ancient architecture and impressive coastal scenery. As one of Sicily’s principle destinations, Syracuse benefits from an energetic ambience, with trend-setting bars and modern shops brushing shoulders with classic trattorie and thriving craft shops. The result is an enigmatic city with lots to offer, whether you are here for the first time or returning for your fifth visit.
Start on the island of Ortygia, separated from the rest of Syracuse by a pint-sized canal. Peer into the mythological Fountain of Arethusa, take in sweeping sea views from Castello Maniace, wander the palm-spotted Temple of Apollo, and admire the art and Catalan-Gothic architecture at the Bellomo Museum.
Make sure to swing by the Cathedral of Syracuse, too. The 7th-century church is even older than it looks – see if you can spot the recycled Greek temple columns in the façade. Another must-see is Santa Lucia alla Badia. A rare Caravaggio masterpiece makes itself at home in this cosy church.
The second historical centre of Syracuse is just west of Ortygia – the Neapolis Archaeological Park. You can explore the limestone caves, gardens and aqueducts, or see a summer play at the Greek Theatre of Syracuse.
The closest airport to Syracuse is Catania (CTA), which is about 1 hour from Syracuse. Direct flights to Catania are available from Birmingham, London Gatwick, London Luton and Manchester and take approximately 3 hours.
Direct flights from London Standsted are also available to Comiso (CIY), which is about 1 hour 30 mins away and take approximately 3 hours 15 mins.
With hundreds of restaurants on offer, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to food and drink. The very best of the city’s eateries are refreshingly rustic, serving authentic fare in the historic surroundings of Ortygia. Fish is a popular focus for many menus thanks to the great seaside location of the city, so you can look forward to fine grilled mains and wonderful fresh seafood antipasti. Happily, there are just as many cafes set by bustling squares so it’s easy to find a place for a relaxing drink as the sun begins to set. Wine is a popular beverage here, and there are a number of nearby vineyards providing local tipples like Planeta Buonivini and Valle dell’ Acate. Make sure you try the popular granita, a sorbet-like dessert that’s a great way to cool down during a hot summer’s day.