Ortigia, the heart of Syracuse in Sicily, is a small island rich in history and beauty. This ancient city, known for its stunning Baroque architecture and as the birthplace of the famous mathematician Archimedes, offers visitors a unique glimpse into the past. Its narrow streets, lined with historical buildings, lead to breathtaking piazzas and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea.

In this article you will discover all that you can do in Ortigia. Don’t miss any of the attractions that this area of Sicily has to offer you.

Table of Contents

What to See and Do in Ortigia Island

Ortigia is a treasure trove of cultural and historical sites. Start your exploration at the magnificent Duomo di Siracusa, a cathedral that encapsulates the city’s layered history, having been a Greek temple, a mosque, and now a church. Don’t miss the Temple of Apollo, one of Sicily’s most important ancient Greek ruins. Last but not least, enjoy the history of Ortigia through the Castelo Maniace 

Duomo di Siracusa


The Cathedral of Syracuse, known as the Duomo di Siracusa, stands as a testament to the island’s layered history. Originally built as a Greek temple dedicated to Athena, it was converted into a Christian basilica in the early Christian period. What makes the Duomo truly remarkable is its ability to encapsulate different eras within its architecture. As you stand in awe of its stunning façade, you are looking at a Baroque masterpiece that envelopes the ancient Greek columns still visible inside, remnants of the temple’s original structure. This harmonious blend of architectural styles offers visitors a tangible connection to the past, making the Duomo a captivating sight that transcends time.

Temple of Apollo


The Temple of Apollo marks the beginning of any historical exploration of Ortigia. As the oldest Doric temple in Sicily, dating back to the 6th century BC, it provides a direct link to the ancient Greek civilization that once thrived on the island. Though now in ruins, the temple’s remains are evocative of its former glory, with columns and fragments hinting at the grandeur that greeted worshippers and visitors millennia ago. 

Walking through these ruins, one can easily imagine the bustling activity that would have surrounded this sacred site, offering a profound connection to the ancient world.

Castello Maniace


Perched at the southern tip of Ortigia, Castello Maniace is a fortress that has stood guard over the island for centuries. Built in the 13th century by Emperor Frederick II, it was named after the Byzantine general George Maniakes, who played a crucial role in retaking the city from the Arabs. The castle’s strategic position at the edge of the island made it a key defensive point throughout history, and today, it offers breathtaking panoramic views of the sea and beyond. Visitors to the Castello Maniace can explore its robust walls, towers, and courtyards, diving into the island’s military history while enjoying one of the best vistas in Ortigia.

Find out more about this castle in our article about Maniace Castle.

What to Eat in Ortigia: Traditional Sicilian Food

In Ortigia, the heart of Sicily’s culinary scene, food is a celebration of both tradition and the rich bounty of the sea and land. Key highlights include:

  • Arancini: These are not just rice balls; they are a crispy, golden symbol of Sicilian street food. Stuffed with ragù, mozzarella, and peas, each bite is a savoury delight that captures the essence of Sicilian comfort food.
  • Pasta alla Norma: Named after Bellini’s opera “Norma”, this dish is a homage to Sicily’s robust flavours, combining the tanginess of tomatoes with the creamy texture of ricotta salata over perfectly al dente pasta, all brought together with fried aubergine slices.
  • Seafood: Given Ortigia’s coastal location, seafood is a staple, celebrated in dishes such as grilled swordfish, squid ink pasta, and the freshest of prawns. The catch of the day, simply prepared with olive oil, lemon, and herbs, showcases the Mediterranean’s natural flavours.
  • Cannoli: No meal in Ortigia would be complete without this iconic Sicilian dessert. Crisp pastry shells filled with sweet, creamy ricotta and often dotted with chocolate chips or candied fruit, cannoli offer a delightful finish to any Sicilian feast.

This culinary journey through Ortigia reveals not just the flavours but the history and culture of Sicily, making each meal an adventure in its own right.

Beaches in Ortigia, Italy

In the enchanting region around Ortigia, while the island itself is more famous for its historical and cultural charm than its beaches, there are several beautiful stretches of sand nearby that are perfect for those looking to soak up the Sicilian sun. Here are the three most important beaches in the vicinity of Ortigia:

Arenella Beach


Arenella Beach stands out for its fine, golden sand and crystal-clear waters, making it an ideal destination for families and swimmers of all ages. The shallow waters provide a safe environment for children to play, while adults can enjoy a range of water sports. With its ample space, you’ll find a comfortable spot even during the busier summer months. The beach is equipped with facilities such as sun loungers and umbrellas, and there are several charming beach bars where you can enjoy refreshments with a view.

Fontane Bianche


Named after the natural springs in the area, Fontane Bianche is a stunningly beautiful beach known for its white, powdery sand and turquoise waters. This beach is popular among both locals and tourists for its lively atmosphere and the variety of amenities available. Beachgoers can rent sunbeds and umbrellas, and there’s a good selection of bars and restaurants along the beachfront. Fontane Bianche is the perfect place for those looking for a vibrant beach day experience.

Scogliera di Cala Rossa


For a more secluded and intimate beach experience, Spiaggia di Cala Rossa is a hidden gem located just a short distance from Ortigia. Surrounded by reddish rocks that give the cove its name, this beach boasts clear, turquoise waters ideal for swimming and snorkelling. The natural beauty of the area provides a tranquil escape from the more crowded beaches, making it a favourite for those seeking peace and relaxation by the sea.

Touring the Streets of Ortigia: A Walk Through History

Walking through Ortigia is like stepping back in time. Every corner reveals a story, from ancient Greek ruins to mediaeval Norman alleys. Start your walk at the Porta Marina, exploring the vibrant market and making your way to Piazza Archimede, adorned with the beautiful Artemis Fountain. The blend of architectural styles reflects the diverse cultures that have influenced the island.

Come Visit Ortigia and Discover Its Charm!

Ortigia is a destination that captivates the senses and soul with its rich history, stunning architecture, delicious cuisine, and breathtaking landscapes. Whether you’re wandering through its ancient streets, savouring the flavours of Sicily, or relaxing by the sea, Ortigia promises an unforgettable experience.

Book your trip to Ortigia in Dimore in Sicily now and immerse yourself in the timeless beauty of this Sicilian gem. Discover the charm of Ortigia – an experience you’ll treasure forever.