IG Holidays

5 days itinerary

sicily, noto, baroque church-784690.jpg

If you are planning a trip to the east coast of Sicily, Syracuse is the place to go. It has it all: picturesque historic sites, beautiful beaches and natural scenery, as well as incredible Baroque architecture.

This bright coastal city is famous for its fascinating historical heritage and charming old town which is located on an island! To help you plan your stay in Syracuse, we have created a 3-day itinerary to make the most of your trip. Check it out!

Day 1: Historic Center of Syracuse, Ortigia and ruins (Archeological Park)

Syracuse is full of history, everywhere you look you will find ruins from different historical periods. Syracuse is home to Greek theaters, Roman ruins, Byzantine churches, Norman caves, and medieval castles, all co-existing in a harmonious landscape.

In 2005 Syracuse became a World Heritage Site for obvious reasons! Syracuse is a safe and walkable city that extends partly on the mainland and partly on the island of Ortigia connected by two bridges: Umbertino and Santa Lucia.

Start your day by walking through the historic center and visiting the Duomo di Siracusa at Piazza Duomo di Ortigia. Then visit the temple of Apollo, an archeological site from the 7th-6th century BC.

Make sure to check out the Syracuse Archeological museum to find out more about how the structure looked like in the past.

Close to the archeological site is the Syracuse market, a market held every morning by local farmers where you can buy the freshest foods! You will also find food stands and restaurants in the area where you can grab a bite.

Then head up to the north part of the city to the Neapolis archaeological park. There you will have access to different archeological sites such as the Roman amphitheater, the altar of Hieron II, and The Ear of Dionysius, an ear-shaped cave!

Nearby the Archeological Park of Neapolis there’s also the Catacombs of San Giovanni, not as popular among tourists but definitely worth a visit.

Day 2: Beach and nature

After visiting temples and ruins you need a break, it’s beach time! There are several beautiful beaches around Syracuse including Ortigia, Vendicari, Calamosche, Fontane Bianche, and Avola. However, Arenella beach is one of the best to swim. It’s a small bay of fine and golden sand about 9 km south of the historic center.

Close to Arenella beach, is the Plemmirio Marine Park, a marine protected area 20 minutes south the historic center. Fifty kilometers further south you will also find the Vendicari Wildlife Reserve. The reserve is a breathtaking eco-destination perfect for outdoor activities such as snorkeling and trekking.

Once back to Syracuse’s historic center, walk to the Fountain of Dian and take a look at the fishing port. Walk to the fortified area of Castello Maniace. End the day at the Fountain of Arethusa to watch the sunset. A perfect moment to have a drink or a gelato at the many terraces and bares in the area.

Day 3: Baroque Towns, Noto and Modica

Sicily is well-known for its baroque architecture. Make the most out of the trip and visit the nearest baroque towns to Syracuse: Noto and Modica.

Noto is only 30 minutes by car from Syracuse or 1.15 minutes by regional train from the historic center. The main sites to visit in Noto are Piazza Immacolata, Piazza Municipio, Piazza XVI Maggio, Via Cavour, and Via Nicolaci with Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata. Probably some of the most famous buildings of Sicily.

Situated in the south-eastern corner of Sicily, Noto is famous for its Baroque architecture, and since 2002 it has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto’.
Generally listed as one of the ‘must-see’ tourist attractions of this part of Sicily, Noto is a pleasant and attractive little town, with a historic centre that is composed almost entirely of crumbling Baroque palaces, churches and houses. The town’s striking architectural coherence is due to the major earthquake that struck Sicily in 1693. The old town of Noto was almost completely destroyed, and it was decided to to reconstruct a splendid new town several miles away. Thus Noto was rebuilt on its present site, carefully designed for functionality and architectural harmony.
The principal tourist activity in Noto is simply a wander around the narrow streets, admiring the golden-coloured stone buildings, the fantastical facades and balconies.
The main street, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, runs from the imposing gateway of Porta Reale (close to the park and the bus stop) along past the Chiesa di San Francesco (1704-1745), which sits atop its long staircase, to the town’s central piazza. Here the grand cathedral, the Duomo (1693-1770), faces the pretty Palazzo Ducezio (1746), now the seat of the Town Council.

Some of the fanciest balconies in town belong to the Palazzo Nicolaci (1739), where chubby beasts and cherubs stare down at Via Nicolaci. A suite of rooms on the second floor is open to the public. Sadly-dilapidated, the wide spaces and painted walls evoke headier past times, as well as offering you the chance to step out onto a balcony and admire the view over Noto.
A third attraction open to the public is the Chiesa di San Carlo, back on the Corso. Around Noto, other sites to see if you have a car include Noto Antica, the older, ruined town. There are further archaeological sites at Eloro (ruined Helorus) and Palazzo Acreide (former Akrai).

Modica is a bigger city consisting of three urban centers. 1) Modica Alta, where the medieval town is. 2) Modica Bassa, a baroque town famous for its chocolate production. 3) Modica Sorda, the modern part of the city. You might want to spend more time in Modica Bassa due to its architectonic attractions.

There is a helpful tourist information office on Corso Umberto, Modica’s valley-bottom high street, which is also the location for the town museum, its chocolate shops and a good proportion of its restaurants and cafes. This street, lined with worn, elegant buildings from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, is the place tourists are likely to spend the most time, and it’s a reference point for exploring the town.
This lower part of Modica – Modica Bassa – is busy, heavily-trafficked and thriving. Up steep slopes lies the upper town, the old medieval quarter, Modica Alta. Parts of the old town still retain the decrepit down-at-heel charm of a Sicilian village in years gone by; other parts are smartly renovated and restored. Narrow lanes, alleys and staircases climb up the slopes on both sides of Corso Umberto, towards the upper town and up the hillside opposite.

Day 4: Marzamemi

Just a few kilometres up the coast from Italy’s southernmost point, in the deep southeast of Sicily, is one of Sicily’s prettiest seaside villages: Marzamemi.

It was the Arabs of the 10th century who put Marzamemi on the map. They not only gave the village its poetic name, Mars? al-hamam (translating as something like Turtle Dove Bay) but also built the original tonnara (tuna processing plant), which was to become one of the most important on the island. Although the tonnara itself is no longer in function, Marzamemi continues its artisanal fishing and processing activities, producing all manner of delicacies, including canned tuna, dried tuna roe (bottarga), smoked swordfish, marinated anchovies, seafood pasta condiments, tuna salamis and much more besides!

The old centre of the village, most of which dates back to the arrival of the Principe di Villadorata in the mid-18th century, is situated on a little promontory and organised around the extremely picturesque Piazza Regina Margherita. On the south side is the little fishing harbour with its bobbing fleet of colourful wooden boats, on the others a series of charming buildings, including the Church of San Francesco di Paola, the tonnara, the prince’s aristocratic palazzo and a row of fishermen’s houses, whose sky blue doors and potted red geraniums lend a chromatic vivacity to the whole picture. Narrow streets lead off the main square, offering glimpses of the turquoise sea to the east and north.

Marzamemi is worth visiting at any time of year, but it really comes into its own in the high summer months. In July it often hosts an International Film Festival during which films are projected directly on the walls of the buildings surrounding the piazza. This wonderfully balmy nocturnal al fresco atmosphere continues all through August as visitors and locals mingle in the open-air bars, sipping on sundowners and cooling down after a day’s sunbathing and swimming at the nearby sandy beach of Porto Palo di Capo Passero. Then it’s off to one of the excellent seafront fish restaurants, such as La Cialoma. As night falls, the piazza is taken over by live bands and DJs who provide entertainment for anyone in a dancing mood…

Day 5: Mount Etna and Etna Vulcano

Mount Etna is an iconic site encompassing 19,237 uninhabited hectares onthe highest part of Mount Etna, on the eastern coast of Sicily. Mount Etna is the highest Mediterranean island mountain and the most active stratovolcano in the world. The eruptive history of the volcano can be traced back 500,000 years and at least 2,700 years of this activity has been documented. The almost continuous eruptive activity of Mount Etna continues to influence volcanology, geophysics and other Earth science disciplines. The volcano also supports important terrestrial ecosystems including endemic flora and fauna and its activity makes it a natural laboratory for the study of ecological and biological processes. The diverse and accessible range of volcanic features such as summit craters, cinder cones, lava flows and the Valle de Bove depression have made the site a prime destination for research and education.

Mt. Etna can be visited and hiked year-round. For the hike, definitely March to September. The best months to visit Mount Etna with pleasant temperatures and without the extreme July/August tourist crowds are: May and late September – October.