9 days around Syracuse: Sicily Part 1

September, 2017

Exploring Sicily’s Syracuse and around its region for just 9 days isn’t really enough time to see the main sights. So, some highlights on what to see on your fleeting trip…

Known as the ‘Pearl of the Mediterranean’, tourists have flocked to Sicily for the last couple of centuries, so, why not see what all the fuss is about?

This is Part 1 of the 9-day Sicily adventure, why not also read Part 2 and Part 3 for the full experience?


Villa San Giovanni, Calabria, ItalyAbout a two-hour drive from our apartment in Cosenza, Calabria, sees you arriving at the ferry stop at Villa San Giovanni. Nearing this town, just follow the signs to the ferry terminal, it’s pretty simple.

At the terminal, a tout will direct you to the ticket office and parking but then expects a tip. You don’t really need any help to find the office.

If you’re flying into Sicily, then the two main international airports are at Catania and Palermo.

Ferry price

At the time of writing, the price to take a standard car on the ferry across the Straits of Messina is €73 return. The ticket is valid for three months and issued by Caronte & Tourist S.p.A.


Apart from the main ferry stop from Calabria to Sicily, Messina seems like a busy city.

Although only having driven through some of its streets to head south to Syracuse, then on the return journey to cross the Straits back to Calabrese land, may not do this city justice.

Messina, Sicily, Italy
Town on a rocky ridge – return journey to Messina


Typically, the Autogrills along the highways in Italy are pretty good for a toilet stop, food, and excellent for a Cappuccino (€1.30). The Autogrill not far from Messina on Tremestieri Ovest 0142 on the way to Syracuse, is just as good and won’t disappoint.

Faro di San Raineri, Messina, Sicily, Italy
Faro di San Raineri – established in 1555 on Punta Seca Messina

Syracuse (Siracusa)

Syracuse, Sicily, ItalyFounded by the Corinthians in 734 – 733 BC and some 2,750 years since the city’s foundation great philosophers such as Plato, mathematician and inventor Archimedes, are linked to this historical city.

Visiting Syracuse is like a walk through the pages of Ancient History books – there is just so much history here to experience…


Although it is mid-September, it is much hotter here than in Cosenza and surprisingly, still many crowds of tourists around.

With a plethora of archaeological sites to explore, you’ll be on your feet for hours and for several days. On the first day of exploring, we walked about 13 kilometres in scorching heat, just taking in the local sights of Syracuse.

Basilica Santuario Madonna delle Lacrime

The apartment’s balcony overlooks this basilica, which is right across the road.

For me, the concrete structure reminds me of a witch’s hat and doesn’t fit in with ancient Syracuse. Perhaps the French architects Michel and Pierre Parat Andrault tried to mix Christianity with Paganism?

Commenced in 1966, the church was inaugurated in 1994, and elevated to a minor Basilica in 2002, by Pope John Paul II.

The basilica was built as a shrine in memory of a miraculous event that of an effigy of Mary, weeping 300 tears in a couple’s house in Syracuse, during 1953 – thus, the name: Sanctuary of Our Lady of Tears. The tears of which it is said, cured people of cancer, paralysis, and other ailments.

Basilica Santuario Madonna delle Lacrime, Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Many love the basilica’s contemporary design

Museo En Pleine Air

This Archaeological Park is just next to our accommodation and is free to walk around, although the museum’s entry fee is €10 for EU citizens and €13.50 for non-EU citizens.

Museo En Pleine Air, Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Gorgeous aged jars

La Villa Landolina

Surrounded by park grounds containing towering trees with a rich undergrowth, this romantic villa of the late nineteenth century is both picturesque and its park a welcomed respite, from the relentless sun. Many Mediterranean and exotic plant species adorn the park, which was inspired by Arab gardens.

Necropolis covers, dating back to the ancient Greek period, including Pagan and Christian underground chamber accesses, were also found in the park.

La Villa Landolina, Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
La Villa

Parco Archeologico della Neapolis

When in the ancient city of Syracuse, a visit to the evocative Neapolis includes the Greek Theatre, Roman Amphitheatre, Quarries, and Caves. Expect to spend a full day visiting these sites as there is quite a lot to see for your €10 entry ticket.

Teatro Greco

Today, this grandiose Greek theatre, which is cut directly from bedrock, is UNESCO World Heritage listed and dates back to the 5th century BC. Rebuilt in the 3rd century BC, the theatre was again renovated during the Roman Period.

What’s surprising to me is that you can walk all over this piece of ancient history. During May and June each year, Classical Greek and Latin plays are performed in this theatre.

Teatro Greco, Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Opulent Greek Theatre

Via dei Sepolcri

To the left of the theatre is the Street of Tombs – a series of Byzantine tombs and niches cut into the rock face in which offerings were once placed.

Teatro Greco caves, Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Tombs near the theatre

Anfiteatro Romano

Although not as well-maintained as the Teatro Greco, you can only see this amphitheatre from behind a fence line.

The amphitheatre has two entrances with stairs. A large rectangular centre space (once covered) has an underground passage, which house machinery used during shows. Behind the arena’s high podium, a gated covered corridor provided access for the release of wild beasts and gladiators.

Anfiteatro Romano, Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Anfiteatro Romano

Close to the Anfiteatro Romano and founded in the third century BC, not much of the Ara di Lerone (Alter of Heron II) structure exists today. In its day, the length of the altar was 195.8 metres and 20.85 metres wide.

Several views of the altar’s purpose swirl around with one explanation during the year 466 with the sacrifice of 450 bulls, to commemorate the removal of Thrasybulus (last Deinomenid tyrant of Syracuse). The celebration was the Eleutheria festival.

Quarry holes

The quarry holes (Latomia) of Syracuse were worked on beginning from the sixth century B.C. and onwards, and their attached history is not particularly pleasant.

Although four stone quarries exist in Syracuse, I only visited two: Latomia del Casale (Quarry of Paradise) and the Orecchio di Dionisio (Ear of Dionysus).

The Grotta dei Cordari (Ropemaker’s Grotto) was closed to the public in 1984. And, we missed the opening times for the Latomia del Capuccini (Quarry of the Capuchins), which is the oldest and largest in Syracuse. After suffering defeat by the Syracusans, seven thousand Athenians were forced to work in the Capuchin quarry.

Latomia del Casale

This quarry hole is impressive. Stone cutters first worked here in the sixth century BC and continued for many centuries.

The way in which these holes were created is worth mentioning.

Due to the stone’s hardness, drill holes were chiselled or drilled at the stone’s edges and timber wedges inserted. Wetting the wedges with water caused the timber to expand and cracked the stone – a long and onerous process.

Latomia del Casale, Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Incredibly deep

Orecchio di Dionisio

Dug in Greek/Roman times as a water storage for Syracuse, this cave towers at 23 metres high and is 65 metres deep into the cliff.

The Italian painter Caravaggio coined the cave’s name in 1586, which refers to Syracuse’s tyrant, Dionysius I for his use of the cave as a prison. Legend has it that due to the cave’s acoustics, Dionysius could eavesdrop on his captive political prisoners’ whispered secrets and plans. Although another legend recounts that the cave’s shape was carved by Dionysius so that the screams of tortured prisoners would be amplified – horrific!

Ear of Dionysus, Syracuse, Sicily Italy
Ear of Dionysus
Ear of Dionysus, Syracuse, Sicily Italy
Internal Dionysus ear


Syracuse also offers many walking trails starting from five-hundred metres up to twenty kilometres, from the city centre.

Look down on the footpath whilst you’re in the city and you will notice the symbol (below), which indicates the walking trail. A derivation of this symbol is also on Sicily’s flag – the Celtic symbol: Triskele.

Monumento ai Caduti Italiani d’Africa

Constructed from Carrara marble and white stone and dating back to the Fascist era, this monument commemorates the ‘Italians fallen in Africa’ (East Africa) during the Ethiopian War during 1935 to 1936. And also commemorates all Italian soldiers that died in Africa, during the colonial and war years. Six bronze statues portray the navy, air force, army, and indigenous troops in Africa.

Although closed to the public, the monument contains a small chapel, which is 15 metres in length and 5 metres wide. This part of the monument is dedicated to the Legionnaires, which also contains a sculpture depicting a fallen soldier in Africa.

Monumento ai Caduti Italiani d'Africa, Syracuse, Sicily, italy
Commemorating the fallen…
Monumento ai Caduti Italiani d'Africa, Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Another view – looking out to sea
Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Mediterranean blue
Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Looking southwards down the coast of Syracuse

Piazza della Vittoria – Santuario di Demetra e Abitato Ellenistico

Excavations during the 1970s and 1980s unearthed archaeological remains of Victory Square: Sanctuary of Demeter, and a Hellenistic settlement, which date back to the fifth century BC and up to the Byzantine period (sixth century AD).

Walking past this site several times during our stay, it was always closed, so I’m not sure if this site is actually open to the public yet.

Ruins, Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Santuario di Demetra e abitato ellenistico

A random photo for you, just because. I liked this concept for a Delicatessen.

delicatessen, Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Handy bus delicatessen operates in the evenings near to the waterfront

Piazza Santa Lucia

Although this area was originally a historic district of Syracuse, the second urban district here commenced in 1885, with houses following a chessboard pattern.

Church and Catacombs of Santa Lucia al Sepolcro

On December 13th of each year, the Piazza becomes the epicentre for celebrations and a long procession from the Duomo, in honour of Saint Lucia the Martyr and for a week, the image of the Patron Saint remains in the church.

The church’s clean lines especially against a radiant blue sky, renders this building a pleasing sight.

Santa Lucia al Sepolcro, Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Santa Lucia al Sepolcro

Syracuse War Cemetery

Regardless of the country, we always make a point of paying our respects to the fallen and visit war cemeteries in the city, town, or village, if once exists.

With casualties from World War I and World War II, the Syracuse War Cemetery is immaculately maintained and with a fastidiously hedged perimeter.

Syracuse War Cemetery, Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Honour the fallen


The airbnb booking for nine days proved to be an excellent choice as a base

Our hosts (Otti and Vi) are super hospitable. Even received a Welcome drawing from their son on our arrival and during our stay, a homemade delicious Sicilian tart from Vi – very kind. The knowledge and history these guys know about Sicily is amazing and their willingness to share, extremely valuable.

I fully recommend a stay here as apart from the homely apartment being self-contained, it is right next to the Archaeological Park: Museo en Plein Air.

citrus tart, Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Scrumptious homemade Sicilian citrus tart


Although the apartment contains a basic kitchen, there is always the want to try the local cuisine but also the obligatory daily coffee and cake.

The food in Sicily is wonderful with choices for restaurants and cafes, endless.

Olivia Natural Bistrot

This is the first time I found a Vegetarian Bar/Restaurant in Southern Italy. Everything is made on the premise including bread at Olivia Natural Bistrot.

Prices for a glass of wine is a bit high (€5+) but the food is delicious, wholesome, and the service is great. (Cover charge of €1 per person, even if you sit and have a coffee inside.)

Cream & Cioccolato

Via Piave 24, serves wonderful coffee (€1+) and large scrumptious pastries (€1.20+) in a bright and airy modern Gelato shop. Staff are friendly.

I love the sign on the wall that persuades you why Gelato is so healthy for you: refreshing, good for your diet, a fountain of energy, makes you happy, and a couple more reasons.


Hotel Ristorante on Via Riva Porto Lachio 25, is a great coffee (€1+) and pastry (€1.50+) stop albeit smallish, with tables and chairs under umbrellas outside, to shield you from the scorching heat but overlooking the marina. Inside comfortable dining also awaits.

Blu Mar

Along Riva Porto Lachio on the waterfront, this restaurant overlooking the water and marina, serves excellent locally-caught seafood in delicious traditional Sicilian meals. Friday night sees live music and offers a €25 all-inclusive meal (three courses including wine).

Bar Teocrito

On Viale Teocrito N 71/B, this Bar serves good snacks (€2) and coffee (€1+) but as it’s close to the tourist area, a Cappuccino is €2 – a bit high for Italy.

Voglia Matta

You must try the divine ‘Cassatina’ (€3.50) at Voglia Matta on Corso Umberto, 34.

This desert truly is an ethereal and heavenly experience on a plate! Excellent coffee (€1.50) and service – definitely worth a visit.

Cassatina, Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Sublime Cassatina

Maxistore Deco

Viale Teracati N. 34 – A really good supermarket jammed with all sorts of food including a fish market to stock up any dwindling supplies. Bottled water here is pretty cheap at six 2-litre bottles for only €1.74.

Island of Ortigia

As there is a lot to see in Syracuse’s Island of Ortigia and many photos to show you, so I’ve dedicated a whole post on the ancient island.

Day trips from Syracuse

The independency that a hired car provides is excellent to experience day trips outside of Syracuse as there is so much to see in the region.

Taking the opportunity to explore further over the nine days, we drove to Pozzallo and Noto, which are south of Syracuse, and north to Catania and Adrano. All are unique and definitely worth a visit, which I’ve prepared in a different post.

Leaving Syracuse

The sad day has come to say our good byes to our lovely hosts and head north once again, to catch the ferry back to Calabria.

With a couple of nights pre-booked in Scilla, Reggio Calabria, I hope to explore this gorgeous coastal village built on a rocky ridge that I’ve heard so much about…

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts on Italy.

street art, Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Love the street art around the world – Syracuse offers splashes of art around the city

32 responses to “9 days around Syracuse: Sicily Part 1”

  1. Vanessa Cast (@MomInBusiness_) Avatar

    Wow! So well written, I read it from top to bottom, Italy has so many beautiful places, beautiful people and delicious food. Thank you for putting all this together.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Vanessa, thank you for taking the time to leave me your kind feedback and yes, Italy does have loads of beautiful place to explore.

      I have a Part 2 and Part 3 to the Sicily trip if you need more tips.

  2. creatorworship Avatar

    Wow! I have read many travel logs of vacationers. Yours is by far the most detailed, and with such beautiful and thorough photography. I may never get to visit Sicily, but I feel as though I’ve been there after reading your blog. It makes me want to explore it, too.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for your kind feedback and glad I could show you a little of Sicily.

  3. Valerie Cullers Avatar

    Thank you for the great post and pictures! My family is from northern Italy and I haven’t made it to Siracusa yet, but I would like to! Maybe another time on another trip back!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Valerie, glad you liked the post. There is a lot to explore in Syracuse and 9 days wasn’t really enough.

  4. My Drone Choice Avatar

    Nice blog here! Also your site loads upp very fast!
    What host are you using? Caan I get your affilizte link to your host?
    I wsh myy website loaded up as fas as yours lol

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thanks. My blog is not self-hosted, it’s a WordPress.com theme although I’ve changed the theme quite a bit with CSS.

  5. Corinna Avatar

    Fabulous post! I love Syracusa & Ortygia. I will use this post for reference next time I go back – you had lots of things on here that I haven’t done yet!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving me feedback Corinna.
      Part 2 on Ortigia and Part 3 on day trips may also help.

  6. idjourneys Avatar

    Very useful! Every km of Italy land is amazing so thanks for sharing!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you! Indeed it is and I’m still having loads of fun exploring more each day. 🙂

  7. gillmorris Avatar

    It looks beautiful there. Thanks for sharing your travels Nilla 🙂

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It’s another gorgeous part of Italy you have to visit Gill. 😊

  8. maybeimout Avatar

    Amazing post! I’m happy you loved my home country so much! I agree with you, time spent in Sicily is never enough 🙂

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you and glad you enjoyed my post of your gorgeous country! Keep an eye out for the continuing Part 2 and Part 3 in the next couple of weeks.
      I need to return soon as there’s still too much too explore…also Sardinia and smaller islands…also Capri…also the rest of Italy… 😉

      1. maybeimout Avatar

        Ahah I know Italy is so gorgeous it’s difficult to stop dreaming about the next destination! I’ll give you some tips if you stop by Sicily again 😉

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Indeed it is, that’s why I live here now. 😉
        That would be excellent – thank you so much.

  9. travelingtrish1 Avatar

    Wonderful, informative post!

  10. LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia Avatar

    There is definitely a lot to do in Syracuse! Love the photos, I really want to get to Sicily one day!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hey Lulu, Thanks!
      There’s loads to do in Syracuse and its vicinity without even visiting the rest of Sicily, which I plan to do in the future. Cosenza isn’t far from Sicily, you must go… 😉

  11. karenincalabria Avatar

    Nice photos and interesting info. Good you mentioned the cost of the ferry. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always thought that the price of the car ferry from Calabria to Sicily was steep.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you!
      Yes, I thought the car ferry price is a rip-off, especially considering that foot passengers is just over €5.

  12. idjourneys Avatar

    Italy is an endless destination! Thank you for your interesting and informative post!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my post.
      I haven’t explored enough of Italy yet and I’ve been here for 19 months now!

  13. the eternal traveller Avatar

    A couple of years ago, we saw a TV series about a cook and a writer who travelled around Sicily and, ever since, it’s been on our must see list. Your post gives us even more inspiration.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Excellent, I’m glad it does – that makes me happy and my job is done here… 😉

      It’s well worth spending time there although 9 days is not enough. I think one month wouldn’t be enough. keep an eye out for my Part 2 and 3 over the next two Sundays.

      1. the eternal traveller Avatar

        Looking forward to reading more.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Cool and thank you.

  14. writerankita Avatar

    Beautiful snaps and loads of informative stuffs.👌👌👌

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you and glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂

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