Ortigia is a small island next to Siracusa. In reality, it’s the historic center of Siracusa and it’s quite famous. But is Ortigia worth visiting? Does it live up to the songs that travelers sing of its beauty? Let’s find out!
Ortigia is definitely worth visiting. There is little doubt about that. The island offers exceptional architecture, a truly southern Italian atmosphere, and an exciting place to see. It’s one of the cutest and most authentic places in Sicily.
Above you have the short answer. Yes, Ortigia is very nice. Travelers love it and we loved it too when we visited. But if you want the full story, read on. Let’s see if Ortigia is for everyone and what are some scenarios when it may not be a good fit for you.
Is Ortigia Really Worth Visiting?
Ortigia as an island has a long history and it has been inhabited since the early days. The island’s location means that it’s a natural fortress that was extended by human walls and fortifications. It housed a lot of people and gave them shelter in troubled times.
Today this historical center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cultural importance of Ortigia is undoubted but luckily, it’s not just the culture that’s left here.
Buildings all around the area are very well preserved. You can see superb examples of Baroque and enjoy some of the best Sicilian architecture there is.
Today you can visit this island via a small bridge that connects Syracuse and Ortigia. As you step over the bridge and head into the small pedestrian streets of Ortigia you’ll leave modern-day Sicily behind. You’ll take a step back in time and forget where you are as everywhere you look there are old buildings and beautiful sights.
5 Reasons to Visit Ortigia
Not convinced yet? Here are 5 reasons why Ortigia is worth visiting.
1. Easy to Access
Ortigia is very easy to access both via a rental car and public transport. From Catania, it’s just a small hop over with the train. You’ll need to take the one that goes to Siracusa and get off the train at Siracusa station.
It’s around 15 minutes of walking to Ortigia from the station. That simple. Take the same train back to Catania and you got yourself a nice day-trip opportunity.
If you want to visit with your rental then you’ll be happy to learn that there is ample parking. Paid parking but it has a lot of spots. You may also try Via del Porto Grande which has free street parking. Usually no free spots during the high season but the low season offers opportunities. I had no trouble parking here for free in May.
2. Beautiful Architecture
Ortigia is one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Sicily. All around the street, there are beautiful buildings and the Piazza Duomo takes the cake. The local cathedral has an impressive baroque facade and a beautiful interior.
3. Very Walkable
In fact, not car-able. Okay, sorry for the joke. The point is, that Ortigia, is an island. It’s like the essence of Sicily contained in a drop of olive oil. This is a small concentrated area that has so much to offer.
There is no car traffic inside (except for some locals) and you can explore the many sidestreets and small alleyways. You can spend a lot of time exploring Ortigia and it does feel like there is a surprise every corner.
4. It’s Photogenic
Many consider Ortigia as one of the most beautiful cities in Sicily. We have reservations about this as Palermo and Catania is both extremely beautiful places.
We think however that the concentration of beautiful buildings and interesting streets creates a mix that charms most travelers in no time. You will want to take tons of photographs here.
5. A Slice of the Past
Finally, it’s an area that’s super important for Sicily’s history. The fortress was used to defend against invaders and protect the people living in Ortigia. The streets are oozing with atmosphere and history. It’s truly one of these places that looked pretty much the same a few centuries ago.
Who shouldn’t visit Ortigia?
Now we’ve seen it all. Why you should visit Ortigia and why Ortigia is worth visiting. However, what are some points that are against a visit to this place? Let’s see.
- If you are in Palermo then a visit to Ortigia is really out of the way. Hours of driving or train rides. Not recommended.
- Are you considering Mount Etna and Ortigia? Mount Etna it is. At least according to us.
- Spending only two full days in Catania? Then see Catania! Don’t already think about getting out of town. Spend those two days in Catani to experience the full culture and atmosphere it has to offer.
This is it. In these scenarios, Ortigia might not be the best choice. For every other traveler, it’s a great destination. We don’t think you will be disappointed. But before you are overhyped just remember: it’s a town. It’s not SUPER SPECIAL, it’s simply a beautiful place that’s worth seeing if you travel all the way to Sicily.