Syracuse, at only 30 minutes’ drive from Q92 Noto hotel once known as one of the most beautiful cities of the ancient world is one of the most visited locations on the island due to its mixture of cultures and stunning location. The ancient historical center of Syracuse, Ortygia, famous for its rich Greek and Roman history and culture is only 20 minutes by car along the highway. It boasts one of the best examples of ancient ruins including a Roman amphitheater and Teatro Greco, (Greek theatre) which is the most important in Italy and where they perform famous Greek tragedies. The theater lies on the southern slopes of the Temenite hill, it was first built in the 5th-century BC, rebuilt in the 3rd century BC and renovated once again by the Romans. It plays host to a wonderful festival of Greek plays/theater in May and June every year. Some of the most important Greek monuments can be found in Syracuse including the Temple of Apollo which is one of the most important monuments on Ortygia, sitting in front of the Piazza Pancali. Another cultural landmark is the Temple of Athena which was built in Syracuse in the 5th- century BC by the tyrant Gelo after his victory over the Carthaginians at the Battle of Himera. Artemision is a modern building showcasing column remains and foundations of a 6th-century temple.
A day’s trip is probably needed to enjoy the ruins and to explore the white island of Ortigia which has a wonderful outdoor food market Mercato di Syracuse near the Talete parking area, open every morning from 7.30am except Sunday. Close to the sea and the ruins this historical market is bustling with shouting and gesticulating stallholders and stands selling local produce including fresh Sicilian mozzarella, herbs, deep purple aubergines and big juicy oranges. There are stalls selling fresh seafood, pesce spada, local hand-reared meats and amazing cheap and delicious street food, fruits and herbs. Get here early and you can be one of the first experience to experience the Mercato di Syracuse untouched. If you get a little peckish head to Caseificio Borderi a small shop in the marketing selling panini filled with meat, fresh salads and cheeses, be aware that queues can be long!
Another amazing market hotspot is family-run grocery store and delicatessen Fratelli Burgio who are renowned to have the best charcuterie and fish tapas just a few hundred metres from the port. It boasts four decades of culinary history and is not only a place where you can taste cheese and salami but many fresh and jarred Mediterranean and Sicilian specialties. It also has an online shop.
For all things Sicilian visit Olive a shop in Via Cavour that sells only the very best homegrown products from Sicily including extra virgin olive oil from the Hyblean Mountains, aromatic salt from the west coast, beautiful organic wines from the slopes of Etna and the best chocolate from Modica produced by the Bonajuto family, who own the oldest chocolate factory in Sicily and one of the oldest in Italy. This shop in Ortigia is a wonderful shop to visit as it showcases not only the best products from Sicily but the love, passion and stories of the people that produce them.
If you’re spending the day in Syracuse and Ortigia then you may wish to rest your weary feet and enjoy a spot of lunch or dinner. Ristorante Dioniso is a good option; it’s near Porta Marina and is a lively, authentic and slightly chaotic restaurant. Owner Alfio loves his food and wine and though the menu is short, the food is simple, fresh and delicious. Ristorante Dioniso, Via Claudio Maria Arezzo 33, Syracuse, Sicily, Italy, +39 0931 24679
Another family-run option is Don Camillo which has been around since 1985. Known not only for the quality of the food but the wonderful wine cellar (with just under 1000 bottles of international, national and regional wines). The medieval structure is made from the remains of a church that crumbled in the 1963 earthquake and is a favorite amongst the locals.
Don Camillo, Via delle Maestranze 96, Syracuse, Sicily, Italy, +39 0931 67133
Ortigia and Syracusa are close enough to Noto for an early evening passeggiata (stroll) Italian style. Shops are open in the evening and it’s a lovely time of the day to stroll, socialize like an Italian and enjoy the Mediterranean Sea air before heading back to your home from home in Noto, Q92 Noto Hotel.