Ortygia, the original settlement and historic center of the city, is currently the most fascinating and evocative part of Syracuse, to which it is connected by three bridges. Since the most ancient times, the island was considered a suitable place for settlements being rich in springs, such as the Fountain of Arethusa. A spontaneous papyrus, the only one in Europe, grows in this fountain located a few meters from the sea as it does along Fiumefreddo River.
The first settlements date back to the Bronze Age, but it was during the Greek era that the island became the religious and political center of the ancient city of Syracuse with the construction of numerous temples. The Temple of Apollo, the only Doric temple in Sicily, dating back to the early sixth century BC, stands out among the major monuments of the Greek era. Continuing on to the heart of the island we reach the beautiful Piazza Duomo, where Baroque buildings with light-colored walls overlook a white paved road, conveying the sensation of being immersed in a picture of light and harmony upon visitors. The majestic Cathedral, built in late Baroque style on the ruins of the ancient Temple of Athena, dominates the buildings. At the end of the island, finally, stands the Maniace Castle, a defensive fortification built by Giorgio Maniace in 1038; it later became the residence of Frederick II of Swabia and underwent numerous changes over the years.
Visiting Ortygia also means getting lost in its narrow streets, visiting the numerous shops and immersing yourself in the ancient market’s flavors and colors, a must for those who wish to enjoy the typical Sicilian atmosphere fully. The neighborhood comes to life in the evening thanks to clubs, pubs, and restaurants scattered along its ancient alleys.