More than any other Sicilian city, Syracuse crystallizes Sicily’s timeless and multifaceted beauty. Ancient Greek ruins (see the Neapolis Archeological Park), Roman amphitheater and catacombs, Baroque buildings as well as piazzas, Neoclassical palazzi, courtyards as well as churches and Medieval lanes that will lead you right in front of the blue Ionian sea. For its historical value and beauty, Syracuse is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. The city was founded in 734 B.C. by Corinthian colonists Its name comes from the word “Syraka”, which expresses an abundance of the water element. During the centuries, Syracuse became one of the greatest trading centres in the world thanks to its large protected harbour.
The heart of ancient Syracuse is Ortygia, a small island linked to the modern city by few bridges. Our boutique Hotel Gutkowski is strategically located on Lungomare di Levante, a promenade on the waterfront of Ortygia. With crumbling buildings, colourful balconies, street markets, narrow streets and breathtaking sea views at every turn: you will enjoy losing yourself in Ortygia’s magic. Among the several sites to visit in Ortygia, which are all walking distance from Hotel Gutkowski, you shouldn’t miss the following: the Temple of Apollo, which was adapted to a church in Byzantine times and to a mosque under the Arabs; the Cathedral (or “Duomo”) built over the great Temple of Athena (5th century BC); the Maniace Castle, an example of the military architecture of Frederick II’s reign; and the Fountain of Arethusa, where according to the legend the nymph Arethusa, hunted by Alpheus, took shelter.
Shopping and Nightlife in Ortygia
Despite its numerous monuments and archeological sites, Syracuse is not a museum piece. Instead, the city has an underestimated liveliness, with intimate wine bars, fresh fish restaurants, and noisy markets. For food shopping, Ortygia’s market offers delicious fresh fish, vegetables and fruits as well as local products at the best price.. Part of any trip to Syracuse should definitely include time for sitting outdoors in one of the many open-air cafes in Ortygia, where you can drink your espresso, or eat a granita to refresh from the hot temperature during summer. In terms of restaurants, you will find many different options, from traditional Sicilian food to more international cuisine. Don’t forget to dine at our Gut Neo Bistro where you can taste delicious modern Sicilian specialties and try some extraordinary wines. There are also many different cozy wine bars, where you can taste the strong and different flavours of Sicilian wines. In Ortygia, there is also a large concentration of nightclubs, mostly located in the area between Piazza Archimede and Piazza Duomo as well as around Lungomare Alfeo, where dance floors extend onto the beach for dancing beside the ocean.
With regards to the sea, Ortygia offers a number of swimming spots which are all 5 to 10 minutes walking distance from our hotel. If you have a car, we recommend you to drive down the coast and explore some of Sicily’s best beaches. For example, Fontane Bianche is only 15 minutes driving distance from Syracuse and offers incredible blue crystal waters and white sands. Similarly, Arenella and Ognina are also very reachable (also Fontane Bianche) by urban buses in case you don’t have a car. Lido di Noto is also not far (around 30/40 minutes away from Syracuse) and it is highly recommended, not only for its beautiful sea, but also for the unique beauty of the surrounding region called Val di Noto, which hosts Unesco-listed Baroque towns such as Noto, Modica, Scicli and Ragusa. If you drive further down, you will find Marzameni, a tiny fishermen’s village, where you can enjoy amazing fresh fish in one of the many restaurants in the old square Regina Margherita.
Excursions and Activities
- Natural Reserve Excursions (Pantalica, Cava Grande, Cava Carosello, Vendicari) – info here
- Mindful tours of Ortigia – info here
- Canoe tours from the Circle Nautico Ciane
- Etna winery tour with Natalie Guziuk (339 6008704)
- Italian language classes – info here
Nature and Activities in Syracuse
If you like nature, you can visit the Riserva Naturale Orientata Cavagrande del Cassibile or the Vendicari Nature Reserve, both in southern Syracuse. Hotel Gutkoski can provide you all the necessary information and help you to arrange the trip. One of the most fun activities, especially for families, is a boat trip. You can take a boat trip in a traditional sailing boat called “gozzo”, around Ortygia’s island, in the surrounding sea caves, or even up to the Ciane river, which boasts clumps of papyrus and the remains of a Greek temple. Syracuse also hosts a great variety of cultural events, including festivals and “sagre”, especially during spring and summer. For example, in June you can attend both “The Music Festival” and “The Sudest Wine Festival”. If you travel to Syracuse in the beginning of May, you should definitely visit the celebrations for the patron saint of Syracuse, St. Lucy. They take place during the first two Sundays of May. This experience will transform your trip in a full immersion into the culture and traditions of Syracuse as well as the whole of Sicily. The Puppet Theatre (“Il Teatro dei Pupi”) in Via della Giudecca, just a few steps from Piazza del Duomo, is one of the most important cultural and artistic treasures of Syracuse, especially if you’re travelling with your kids.