Ortigia, the magnificent
and the wavy Plemmirio
It was the Greeks who founded Ortigia, in 734 BC and it was Cicero who defined it as the most magnificent of the Greek cities.
And how to blame him. Ortigia is an island, a treasure trove of culture, art and science. It is accessed from bridges or from the sea, but from whichever direction you look at it, it appears as a whole that can only be discovered from inside.
Maniace Castle from the sea
The two access bridges, that of Santa Lucia and the Umbertino bridge, are parallel, not far away, so much so that they look at each other. In their midst stands the statue of Archimedes, the Syracusan mathematician of the famous Eureka. How much satisfaction in a word, the same that Archimedes must have felt in the bathtub, realizing that he understood the physical law that today rightly bears his name.
In the statue, made of stone and bronze, Archimedes raises a mirror to recall another of his ingenious inventions. In fact, he saved the city from the invasion, using a game of mirrors that set fire to the enemy ships (the famous burning mirrors).
As you are preparing to cross one of the two bridges, imagine yourself intent on opening a treasure chest of jewels, imagine taking them in hand, one by one, to admire their beauty.
Ortigia is this: pearls of beauty inside a casket.
The first gem, just beyond the entrance, in via de Benedictis, is the local market, colorful and noisy, open every morning, from Monday to Saturday.
You can immerse yourself in the stalls and try to decipher the local idiom that praises the wonders of taste. Among the counters there are tables and chairs where you can eat what most appeals to you, even the sandwiches of the Borderi Dairy, which have become a must that is bouncing on social networks.
To the right of the market, a large space collects what remains of the theater of Apollo, the oldest Doric temple in Sicily and the one with the most troubled history. Think that over time it was, in succession, a Byzantine church, an Arab mosque and finally incorporated into a Spanish barracks, only to be brought to light after the Second World War.
Another pearl of our casket is the fountain of Diana, which sprays its flashes in Piazza Archimede. Diana in the center of her is transforming Aretusa, lying at her feet, into a spring, to save her from Alfeo. In the myth, Alpheus is a river that falls in love with the nymph Aretusa, when she, unaware, plunges naked into her clear waters to seek refreshment. Arethusa doesn't reciprocate her sentiment and asks Diana for help to escape from the too much attention of the river.
We find Aretusa again as a source, in another iconic place on the island: the Fonte Aretusa, to be precise, a fresh water source that flows between papyrus and ducks, separated from the sea of the port, where it flows, through a mass of stones .
Continuing through the narrow streets, invaded by souvenirs and places ready to refresh guests with the tastes of Sicily, we finally reach a large space where the light reflects the white of the Baroque decorations and is reflected on the white limestone paving stones .
The feeling that invades you more than others is that of cleanliness, an orderly, non-trivial design of noble buildings and churches: Palazzo del Municipio, Palazzo Arcivescovile and naturally the Cathedral of Syracuse.
CURIOSITY: look for black lines of molten lead on the pavement, near the access steps to the Cathedral. They draw two concentric rectangles that recall the foundation in this place of two sacred structures: a Greek house of worship dating back to the 8th century BC. (formerly called oikos), another more external one dating back to the following century. Another black line parallel to the Archbishop's Palace resembles an ancient Greek road.
Turning towards the extreme tip of the island we arrive at the Maniace castle, whose original layout dates back to 1232. It was built to defend the city and is evident in its austere features. After the historical vicissitudes of the site, today it is a building open to the public (which can be visited with a ticket) which is accessed from a carriage door.
Maniace meets the sea and from the sea you can clearly see its grandeur.
We recommend a boat tour because in addition to admiring the city from a privileged point of view, you can skirt the area of the Plemmirio reserve, admiring caves and beaches that are inserted in a Mediterranean scrub, dotted with dwarf palms. The area of undisputed beauty had also inspired verses by the poet Virgil who speaks of it in the Aeneid.
After the red lighthouse of Punta Castelluccio (Masolivieri lighthouse), there is a cove that draws the shape of a horseshoe. It hosts an enchanted beach where nature grows wild. The beach is partly free, partly granted to the hotel built on the promontory.
Among the rocks below opens the Grotta Pellegrina, to which a sad love legend like Romeo and Juliet is linked. The two lovers, opposed by the girl's parents for the simple origins of the man, used to meet in this cave, but at a certain point the man no longer shows up for the appointments and the woman, destroyed by pain, throws herself into the sea .
Continuing further you reach Capo Murro di Porco, the extreme south of the Maddalena Peninsula, after which the Arenella bay opens up where it is possible to swim.
The waters are crystal clear and the bottom is sandy, ideal for having fun in the waves.
If you decide to take a boat trip, our advice is to rent a hull that you can drive independently, without needing to have a boat licence. We have relied on the young ideas of Michael and Matteo, owners of Mama Boats, who in addition to renting you the boat will also give you a fridge for your tailor-made refreshment. We found the idea of combining boat rental with an aperitif on board very original and we spent pleasant hours chatting in the company of two young locals, with anecdotes that only locals can tell you. You can read more on our page dedicated to Friends.
Have a good trip!
Fountain of Diana - Piazza Archimede
Apollo Theater in Syracuse
Massolivieri Lighthouse - Punta Castelluccio