The southern part of Sicily’s east coast is full of culture, history, architecture and beautiful landscapes. Especially Syracuse is a lovely town and good starting point for visits to the baroque cities in the Val di Noto.
Syracuse is a great city on the south-east coast of Sicily. While the new part is new and blank, the ancient old centre Ortygia is the charming heart of the town. Small alleyways, historic buildings that shine bright in the afternoon light and great palazzi invite you to explore this small island that is connected to the new part of town with two bridges.
Ortygia can be easily explored by foot. See the Fountain di Artemide, the beautiful Piazza Duomo with the impressive baroque duomo where you can still see the columns of the greek temple that stood here thousands of years ago. Right next to the duomo you find a small entrance to the old catacombs Ipogeo that where built under the city. There is also another church on the piazza, Santa Lucia alla Badia with a beautiful original altarpiece by Caravaggio. Only two minutes down from there you find the Fonte Aretusa, a freshwater spring right next to the sea that is at the centre of many legends.
The other touristic highlight in Syracuse is the Parco Archeologico which includes the huge remains of the Teatro Creco one of the biggest theaters of the classical antiquity, the amphitheater and the old quarry Latomie, today more of a park or garden with a cave called ear of Dionysus because of its special acoustic.
In the neighborhood Tyche you can visit the impressive Catacombe di San Giovanni under the church with the same name, once christian tombs during the Roman rule, or the catacombs at piazza Santa Lucia. Close by you find the archeological museum Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi, with very interesting and beautiful artifacts.
Eat: The ‘baccis’ and all of the traditional cookies from Gran Caffe del Duomo right across from the church are delicious.
Dinner at Enoteca A Putia is lovely, they serve simple food in a creative setting. The Bistros Le Vin de l’Assassin is also great, especially for seafood. Or try the pizza at modern Sicily. Also don’t miss the lovely cafe Irma la Dolce in the heart of Ortygia.
The Val di Noto refers to a group of towns in Sicily that are part of the UNESCO world heritage site because of their typical baroque architecture. Noto, Ragusa, Modica and Catania are all part of it and fun to visit. Especially the churches and houses in Noto are extravagant and you find the famous Caffe Sicilia with its excellent patisserie and granita right on Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Modica is worth visiting not only for its architecture but also for its chocolate, that is traditionally made and can be bought in many stores around town.
About an hour drive from Catania lies the small town Bronte which is famous for its pistachios. There is a great cosy restaurant right outside of the town centre called Il Palio. Their pasta with pistachio pesto is as simple as delicious.
There are so many more amazing destinations in Italy, find ideas for trips to the beautiful Amalfi Coast, and Capri, for Pugila here or here and the Aeolian Islands of Stromboli with its volcano and the chick jet set island Panarea.