Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 24, 2016

Ortigia, historic centre of Siracusa

We loved Ortigia the moment we crossed the bridge from Siracusa into the historical centre.

We found our B&B, Porta Marina, which was near the bridge and beside the water. Delightful Simona got us organised, showing us what to see in Ortigia. She suggested we start at the Maniace Castle as it is only open until 1.30pm. It was an easy walk around the edge of the island to the point.


The castle, as you can imagine, has had an interesting history. It was built by Emperor Frederick II between 1232 and 1240. The name comes from George Maniakis, the Byzantine General who besieged and took the city in 1038. He built the first fort on the site.

From 1305 – 1536 it was used as a residence by several queens of Sicily. It was a prison in the 15th century and after being damaged in 1704 it was remodelled for the use of guns.

It is quite big and we were free to wander.

Part of the castle was closed for renovation, but a photo showed us some of what we were missing.


There was an exhibition showing plans and drawings of how it might have looked.


The other exhibition is where I found the hand grenades. (previous post) As well as the grenades there were other found objects.

Outside the exhibition was a collection of cannon balls. They must have tried to use those sparingly, it can’t have been much fun making them.


There were great views from the castle of the island, it is a fabulous vantage point.



We walked along the sea front. There are some gorgeous old buildings to admire.


We turned into Via Roma and found a beautiful street with lovely balconies and building decoration.

The aroma of frying fish wafting along the street drew us in for lunch.

We walked into the Piazza Duomo. The columns of an older Greek temple are embedded in the side of the cathedral.


The piazza is huge and considered one of the most beautiful baroque piazzas in Sicily.


We found another lovely church…Chiesa San Giovanni, from the 13th – 14th centuries…unfortunately the roof is missing.


Nearby we vistited the underground Jewish ritual baths which were buried for centuries.  The owner of the hotel discovered the mikveh when she was renovating. It lies 90 metres below the hotel and is reached by 56 damp steps.

There has been a Jewish presence in Ortigia for at least 1,400 years, possibly 2,000. The mikveh was filled with rubble and the door was concealed when the Jews were forced to flee the city.

I can’t show you the baths, because photos were not allowed. The staff from the hotel take you underground and explain what you see. It is an excellent thing to do. (The hotel is gorgeous, look for Residenza Alla Giudea) It is in Via Alagona.


We have become addicted to granita, and had to stop for one mid afternoon.

The Temple of Apollo was built in the 6th century BC, making it the oldest Doric Temple in Sicily. It once had 42 monolithic columns, which must have made it spectacular. Today only 2 remain intact (almost). It still looks impressive, these columns are huge.

Temple of Apollo Ortigia

We set off the watch the sunset along the tree covered walk way beside the sea.


There is a tiny beach beside the garden…a good sunset viewing spot. (Another suggestion by Simona) The garden had what looked like Moreton Bay Fig trees, but surely not.



A walk through town in the evening was delightful…there are dozens of restaurants and shops in the narrow streets and grand piazzas.

The shops had lots of marzipan fruits and ceramics…as you would expect in Sicily.

We were very happy with the restaurant suggested by Simona, L’Osteria da Seby in Via Mirabella 21…all her other ideas were great.

I just may have discovered proof that people from outer space may have once visited Ortigia…I spotted this figure on a building by the sea.


Ortigia is fabulous…we will be back for a longer visit.


  1. I feel that one of the problems with Sicily is getting enough time to visit and enjoy so many wonderful sites.
    And granita is delicious and refreshing!

    • Next time we will come to fewer places and spend more time in each. We wanted to do a bit of a road trip this time to see what we liked best.

  2. agree….we loved it and thanks for renewing our memories

    • It is a great spot. Have you taken on Sicilian wines?

      • Yes two great Sicilian producers. Terre Nere from Etna and Marabino from Noto in the South East (not far from Siracusa. We will have to have a glass or two together

  3. Incredible!

    • It is an amazing place.

  4. We too visited Ortigia. What a place. We were there in May when santa Lucia was returned to her church from the duomo. The nighttime procession took about 2 hours, as it did not cross the piazza, but rather wound its way through town. What an incredible evening. Thousands of people accompanied Santa Lucia. It took 12-16 men to carry her, stopping every 5 minutes or so to rest. The town was magical thst night. And, it was calm compared to what we heard about the night they move her the other direction! If you are planning to be in Sicilia in mid-May, check the dates! It is an experience not to miss.

  5. An watch for kyack water polo between the two bridges to Ortiga, a late afternoon local game.

    • Both of these events sound like great fun. We should time our next visit accordingly.

  6. Your blog brings back fond memories. We really enjoy the Lucca area. We get there every few years for a week or so, although our hearts live in Pienza. Tomorrow we return to Pienza for just a month, but are there in the Fall from Sept to two days before American Thanksgiving. If we weren’t turning 70 this year, we would buy a place too. Instead, we rent the same apt every Fall. We’ve made great friends there, and if it weren’t for grandkids and other family we would move to Italy. The lifestyle is so healthy. The people we have met are now dea friends. It’s a blessing to live in the digital age, to be able to stay connected, and even to have “conversations” over whats app or whatever with friends in other countries.

    If you are ever down our way in the Fall, let me know and we’d be more than happy to feed you, take you around, offer suggestions or whatever. Chestnut festival is the first weekend in Nov, but there are lots of events upcoming as it is the 20th anniversary of becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site. Check out the Pienza town website.

    Carol Bergson

    Sent from my iPad


    • I love Pienza! I will be around in the autumn and any excuse to visit Pienza suits me, thank you.

  7. So many thanks for a return to a city I well remember for its beauty and how well you’ve recorded it, you’re a genius.

    • It is a beautiful place, and so much fun to explore. We will return to Ortigia.

  8. Lovely photos. The weather looks perfect. What have temperatures been like? This time next week will be starting our trip in Taormina.

    • The days are hot, especially in the afternoons, but the early mornings and nights are quite cool, bring a jacket and comfortable shoes. You will be doing lots of walking.

  9. What a delightful place. Everything looks so clean and neat, Taking a snapshot trip is a great way to find out what parts you would like to return to and spend more time.

    • Ortigia is well loved by the residents. It was a delight to wander through the streets.

  10. We loved our stay in ortigia in December 2011. Glad you saw ritual bath.there’s a great fish market too. Nice pics.

    • We missed the fish market…must return.

  11. Loved Ortigia too Deb and I remember all the marzipan fruits and ceramics – did you buy a plate for your collection?

    • We have managed to find a couple of ceramic pieces.

  12. Looks beautiful Deb….thanks for the tour.

    • It is s great spot, we enjoyed our time there.

  13. Beautiful Debra! I’ve been a bit behind in your posts as life has become suddenly busy! I’ve never been to Sicily before. Looks like a wonderful place!

    • Sicily is a great place to visit. The countryside is beautiful too.

  14. Thanks for the reminder, I took my tour group there a few years ago and we had a wonderful couple of days being hosted by the Baron who owned the palazzo behind the furtherest set of white umbrellas in the piazza.Incidentally Dolce and Gabbana owned a palazzo also at the other end of the piazza.

    • It is easy to see where D&G get their inspiration.

  15. Am receiving your blog via my dear sister. Would appreciate adding me to your long list and think your posts are engaging & beautiful. Thank you in advance!!!

    • Thank you for subscribing. I hope you will stop by and say hello sometimes.

  16. It’s kind of funny in hindsight how walls, rocks, concrete, and only their designs and each of their retrospects are all that we go to travel for. I’d totally visit this place even just for the walls. 🙂

    • The little streets in Ortigia would keep you interested for a long time. We loved the town.

  17. Lovely pictures!

    • Thank you, Ortigia is beautiful.

  18. I love all the bright colors – flowers, ceramics, the sea, marzipan, granita. You capture it all quite amazingly.

  19. Thanks Deb for sharing this with us……You have made me want to go there……asap.

    • …your next visit to Italy.

  20. This is one of my favourite posts of yours Debra. It’s full of life and colour. I can almost imagine what it was like to live there in history.

    • Ortigia is fabulous…my favourite bit of Sicily on this trip.

  21. We are lucky enough to call Siracusa Province home and have a house in Ortigia right on the lungomare, though we use it primarily as an Airbnb rental and prefer to live a few minutes away in the hills overlooking the city. I am so pleased you enjoyed Ortigia . On your next visit try Corisino pasticceria ( they won The TV competizione for best in Italy) in beautiful Palazzolo Acreide ( boasts a very fine Teatro Greco to Explorer) and go to Buccheri to eat at U Locale ( Number One Slow Food Osteria in Sicily year after year )

    • We loved Ortigia and will return. Thank you for your tips.

  22. There is something utterly Sicilian about the light and colours you capture so beautifully Deb. You can tell you were having a lovely time!

    • Ortigia is gorgeous and full of interesting things.

  23. […] drove a couple of hours south to Ortigia, the tiny island off Siracusa and found we liked it even more than Taormina. It seemed more […]

  24. […] чрез Ортиджа, историческия център на Сиракуза – Бани ди Л… […]

  25. […] trip to Sicily would not be complete without a visit to Ortigia, the town I enjoyed the most on our last […]

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