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Syracuse's beautiful architecture is a constant reminder that in its heyday this city was the largest in the ancient world. Ancient Greek ruins make a spectacular backdrop for orange groves; medieval lanes run between Baroque piazzas, part of a post-earthquake, post-invasion building program, amongst which you'll find many of the best places to stay in Syracuse.
Highlights of Syracuse
Most of Syracuse's main sights are in the centre of the old town, which is on Ortigia Island, with the main archaeological sites about 25 minutes walk away. This island was the first place settled by the Corinthians when they landed, and it still has a very different feel to the rest of the city - packed with beautifully restored Baroque buildings, fine hotels (some of the best places to stay in Syracuse) and excellent restaurants, and you're only ever moments from a wonderful sea view. The Syracuse of the mainland was heavily bombed during WW2, so its architecture is much more modern.
Once you've visited the cathedral, converted from an Athenian Temple - you can still see the Doric columns on the flanks - and the basilica, with its famous painting by Caravaggio, it's also worth stopping off at the smaller Sanctuary Madonna della Lacrime, famous for its mass produced Madonna statue which shed tears in 1954.
Wherever you're walking you're bound to come across the Fonte Arethusa, the city's ancient water supply. This is where Napoleon was said to have refilled his supplies before the Battle of the Nile. Its origins have a more romantic edge, it's said to be a nymph, Arethusa, who's feeling the advances of a river-God towards the sea. There are some lovely fountains along the route of this spring - which again, you'll probably not be able to miss!
The market is another sight you'll probably run into. If you want to take your stand against the mafia, buy Libera Terra products - these are the ones grown on land reclaimed from the mafia.
Outside the town are the main Greek and Roman ruins, an outstanding collection which includes a vast necropolis of five thousand tombs, the foundations of a Byzantine palace and the core buildings from ancient Syracuse. Which was described by Cicero as 'the greatest Greek city, and the most beautiful of all'.
Amongst these ruins it's also worth finding the 'ruined' quarry, which has a vast chamber with chisel-marked walls - this is where the stones for this beautiful city, built several times over, were sweated out.
- If you're looking for simple beachside elegance, Hotel Gutkowski is one of the best places to stay in Syracuse. As well as admiring the sea from the rooftop terrace, you can also admire the rooftops of the whole peninsula.
- If you'd prefer to stay at a B&B, L'Approdo delle Sirene is an excellent option. With just eight rooms, right by the harbour, this is a great spot for families and great value as well.
Best Hotels in Syracuse
Hotel Gutkowski 26 rooms from $86Syracuse
Beachy minimalism on Ortigia's peninsula with fabulous sea views from the terrace. White washed walls, dashes of sea blue, black and white chequered floors, and elegant beds. A great value choice for families or romantic breaks by the sea.Views - Wonderful seaviews or over the rooftops of OrtigiaValue chicRoof terraceSailing - Up the Ciane river in a gozzo (traditional sailing boat).Recommended by - I Escape, Frommers, CN Traveller
Henry's House 12 rooms from $130Syracuse (Ortigia)
This unique property is located on the architecturally famous island of Ortygia. All rooms are decorated in a bohemian style with wrought iron beds, fabulous antique furniture, art work and sea views. A typical Italian breakfast can be enjoyed on the sun terrace. Local cafés are walking distance.Sights nearby - The hotel is walking distance from the architectural Castello ManiaceSailing - Can be booked nearby.Full of characterViews - Great views from hotel
L'Approdo delle Sirene 8 rooms from $114Syracuse
Lovely beachy B&B on the seafront in Ortigia. Breezy cream rooms with splashes of colour, some with private balconies. Excellent roof top terrace overlooking the harbour. Great value, family friendly and excellent food.Views - Great views from hotelSights nearby - Unesco-listed Baroque towns.Cooking classes - Check for timings.Sailing - Can be booked nearby.Recommended by - I Escape, Frommers
Caol Ishka 9 rooms from $170Syracuse
Cool designer minimalism just outside Ortigia and within striking distance of the best beaches. Rooms have a mixture of designer and Baroque furniture, four poster beds, mezzanine levels, exposed brick walls and oak floors. Gorgeous pool and good restaurant. Ideal for a romantic beach holiday.Beach Life - Calamosche and Balsamo in the Vendicari Nature ReserveSights nearby - Baroque towns of Noto, Ragusa, Modica and Scicli - all Unesco World Heritage sites.Great walks - Cava Grande gorge.Birdwatching - Good birding near the hotel.Recommended by - Tablet, I Escape
Siracusa Resort 11 rooms from $183Syracusa, Sicily
Stylish small resort with the only private beach in Syracuse. Eleven rooms, one suite and three apartments for the more independent minded. Chic interiors with natural elements: exposed stone work, white washed walls and fine fabrics. A grown up beach retreat a stone's throw from Ortigia.Outstanding location - Arrive by boat to really appreciate the fabulous locationViews - Lovely views over to the island of Ortigia and the Med.On the beach - The only resort in Syracuse with a private beachRestrictions on children - Adults only property. Over 14s are accepted.