Siracusa tourist information
Siracusa is an ancient town on the sea, which was of immense importance as Greek Syracuse. It has a superb archaeological zone and a lovely historic centre on the island of Ortigia.
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Siracusa (or Syracuse, as it is still often known in English) is a pleasant town, with plenty to occupy tourists for at least a couple of days. A fine cultural destination, its significance is recognised with a UNESCO heritage listing. It’s also a good base for seeing the south-eastern corner of Sicily, including the Baroque towns of Ragusa and Noto, several archaeological sites, and the lively city of Catania.
Travel to Siracusa
The nearest airport to Siracusa is Catania Airport, an hour’s drive away. Siracusa is served by direct trains from Rome (a ten-and-a-half-hour journey). There are trains and buses from Catania (60-90 minutes journey time) as well as a direct bus between Siracusa and Catania Airport, which takes just over an hour. A slow local train also connects Siracusa with the Baroque towns inland: Noto, Scicli, Ragusa and Modica. From Palermo, train travel is less easy; you will need to change at least once (usually at Messina), and the journey will take 6-7 hours. Long-distance buses, many of them run by the companies AST and Interbus, connect Siracusa with the other towns in this part of Sicily and beyond. In many cases these buses are quicker and more convenient than the local train.
The railway station is located on Via Crispi, a twenty-minute walk from Ortigia. The main bus terminal is just around the corner, on Via Rubino – a godforsaken spot without a ticket office, when we visited, which was apparently intended as a temporary change from a previous bus station at Riva della Posta on Ortigia – it is worth asking at the station or your hotel for confirmation of current bus departure points. A convenient free shuttle bus connects bus terminal, railway station and car parks with the island of Ortigia – this is a mini-bus, labelled ’20,’ which departs from the front of the row of AST buses at the bus terminal. At the time of writing departures are every 15 minutes, with alternate departures operating different routes on Ortigia – one runs to Piazza Archimede and the other circles the shoreline of the island, stopping by the Fonte Aretusa.
The centre of town is easily visitable on foot – the island of Ortigia (a traditional English spelling is Ortygia) contains most of the sights, and is compact and pleasant for strolling. The archaeological area is about 25 minutes’ walk away from the island. Siracusa is served by orange urban buses run by AST, and you can buy tickets, valid for two hours, at many tabacchi shops in town – look out for the sign ‘Biglietti AST’. AST also operate the free shuttle bus (navetta) connecting Ortigia to the mainland. You can find the latest timetables and routes on the AST website, and on the council (comune) website, listed on the right of this page. Look under ‘orari autobus’ and ‘bus navetta’.
Siracusa tourist information
There is a tourist information office on Ortigia on Via Roma. Another office which covers the whole area is on Via San Sebastiano, near the archaeological museum. For more information on what there is to see and do in Siracusa, see our special Siracusa tourist attractions page.
On a budget
Over the last few years Siracusa has become a quite upmarket destination – those looking for stylish boutique accommodation will have plenty to choose from. But there are still several good B&Bs and budget choices, and you don’t need to spend a lot of money to stay in comfortable accommodation in Siracusa.
> Aretusa Vacanze – my B&B review
> Read more about places to stay
The town has several fast-food options Sicilian-style, like bars selling arancini, as well as groceries where you can buy food to make picnics. Via Cavour is a good bet for finding affordable food, while the food market offers a tempting range of choices. Some shops will make up rolls for you, using local cheeses, hams or whatever you fancy from their counter display. Delicious sweet pastries from one of the town’s many pasticcerie will be cheaper and quite possibly better than a dessert in a restaurant.
As Ortigia’s recent renaissance is due to tourism, the restaurants on the island are almost all firmly touristy. However, there is plenty of choice, prices are generally reasonable, and staff are welcoming. If you are worried about tourist traps, ask locals for advice, or you could try some of our favourites from our last trip, below. Check the latest reviews and opening details online when making plans.
Sicilia in Tavola (Via Cavour 28, 0039 392 4610889) – this was absolutely my favourite place in Siracusa on my last visit a few years back; we ate there twice and I ordered the same dish (spaghetti alla Ragusana, with caviocavallo cheese, cherry tomatoes, basil and olive oil) a second time as it was so simple and delicious. The speciality is fresh pasta dishes (no secondi here) featuring traditional Sicilian ingredients and recipes. The multi-lingual staff were charming, and the interior is welcoming and very small: booking is strongly advised.
Taberna Sveva – an unpretentious trattoria right up on the tip of the island, facing the island’s castle (Sveva is Italian for Swabian and the restaurant decor and menu contain several nods to Frederick II). The menu features fresh seafood and good local pasta dishes including gnocchi with pistachio, and pasta with nutty Sicilian pesto.
Samovar (Via della Maestranza 124-128) – a welcoming cafe offering good filled rolls, salads and pasta dishes, which makes a convenient lunch stop.
Another possibility is Da Mariano (Vicolo Zuccala), a popular place with a multi-room interior. Rather pushy towards tourists (ask for the menu if you don’t want to be served, and pay for, specialities of the waiter’s choice) but with good pasta. On a previous visit I ate at Archimede ( Via Gemmellaro 8, off Via Cavour), a trattoria-pizzeria recommended by the guidebooks, which was reasonable but lacked atmosphere, and Il Cenacolo, (Via del Consiglio Reginale 9/10) with an outdoor terrace and a cosy interior, offering excellent risotto, sea food and couscous. I haven’t revisited them, but they were still going strong years later. The only place we ate badly in Siracusa was at the piazza tables of the Gran Caffe del Duomo, where lunchtime sandwiches were inedibly stale. A nice place to sit with a glass of wine, but avoid the snacks. We also overpaid at the Caffe Minerva, where the unpriced – and admittedly delicious – cassata pushed our bill for afternoon tea up to unreasonable proportions.
For ice creams, visit Gelati Bianca, at one end of Piazza del Duomo, for good local flavours like pistachio and almond as well as all the usual gelato favourites.
Useful external links
Siracusa travel journal – rainy times in 2006
Our selection of the best (and the best value) Siracusa hotels and B&Bs, with reviews and online booking.