Almost every person while visiting Ortigia falls in love with this island, it’s light constructions, the hospitality of the people, the sea, the view, the breeze and the cultural and social ferment of its narrow streets.
Ortigia is the oldest part of the city and was chosen by the Greeks for their first settlements to found their colony on. Due to its position and the presence of water it was subject to many successful invasions: by the Greeks, Romans, Swabians, Aragonese and Arabs which is reflected in the beautiful buildings and monuments that nestle majestically among the island’s streets.
Thanks to the Greeks Ortigia played an important political and administrative role. After the Unification of Italy and above all after the II World War, the old town began to be abandoned. Today Ortigia is flourishing again and numerous redevelopment projects are bringing Ortigia back to its former glory.
Our advice is to lose yourself in its more famous districts: Bottari, Cannamela, and Castello Duomo. Gancia, Giudecca, Graziella, Maestranza and Marina and admire the beauty these places have to offer. For example, you can start your visit from the southern part of the Maniace Castle. One of the most important monuments from the Swabian period, built at the behest of Frederick II, it was the home to the king and defended the city.
The castle was damaged by the earthquake of 1693 and other events that modified its original structure. Today just one of the four towers still remains.
If you go north from the castle you’ll find the Arethusa Fountain. According to the legend, the nymph Arethusa was transformed in a fountain by the goddess Artemide to protect her from the god river, Alfeo that was trying to seduce her. Alfeo did not give up however and went underground to resurface in the harbour next to his beloved. Today the fountain is a meeting place for local Siracusans and its waters are home to papyrus plants.
Nearby are piazza Archimede and via Maestranza that host an array of beautiful buildings: medieval, gothic and baroque palaces. In piazza Archimede you can also admire the Fountain of Diana that depicts the legend of Arethusa.
In the northern part of the island do not miss the folkloristic market of Ortigia. Its colours, smells and sounds attract many visitors.
A must see is also the Temple of Apollo, the oldest Doric temple made of Sicilian stone. Built in the sixth century B.C., it was modified many times to suit the religion of various invaders: church, mosque, church again and military barracks under the rule of the Aragonese.