IG Holidays

7 days itinerary

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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.

Day 6: Taormina

Volcanic Mount Etna and the Ionian Sea provide the cinema-worthy backdrop for Taormina, Sicily’s legendary resort town. Twisting medieval streets and a second-century Greek theater add to its romantic air, which inspired the writings of D.H. Lawrence and Truman Capote. Take a cable car to the beach, or walk uphill behind the Church of St. Joseph for panoramic views.

You will feel the magical, mythical atmosphere spread all around which has enchanted visitors from all over the world for years and years.

Settled on a hill of the Monte Tauro, Taormina dominates two grand, sweeping bays below and on the southern side, the top of Mount Etna, the European highest active volcano, often capped with snow, offering to the visitors a breathtaking, dramatic and memorable view over almost one hundred miles of Mediterranean sea.

Taormina really seems to be born as a tourist resort since past times, when ancient people like the Sicels, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Saracens, Arabs, Normans and Spaniards chose it as their residential site thank to its favourable position, mild climate and magic atmosphere.

Nowadays visitors can still find fine examples of Taormina’s golden times: the splendid Greek Theatre, the Roman “Naumachiae”, the 10th century Palazzo Corvaja, the 13th century Cathedral of Saint Nicolò, the 16th century Palace of the Dukes of Saint Stefano, the public gardens, the “Badia Vecchia” (Ancient Abbey) and many others.

Day 7: Ragusa + Ragusa Ibla

Ragusa is a city with two souls. It has a modern area and an ancient, Baroque-style area called Ragusa Ibla. Ragusa has the refined elegance that characterises the late-baroque towns of the Val di Noto. It attracts visitors to its maze of narrow streets, where there are many churches and palaces to visit. All around, an ethereal beauty creates a magical atmosphere: it is almost impossible to leave.

he best activity in Ragusa is wandering; meandering along the character-filled lanes of Ragusa Ibla or clambering up the steps towards the upper town and enjoying the great, classic view over Ibla. This is an inviting town for even more leisurely pursuits – a long drink at a cafe table on the pretty sloping piazza in front of the Duomo, a wine-flavoured gelato, a splendid meal at one of the town’s small restaurants or a stroll in the park.

Like neighbouring towns, Ragusa was rebuilt after the great earthquake in the Baroque style, and its palazzi and churches are elegant and covered with a profusion of florid detail. The grandest building in Ibla is the cathedral, the Duomo di San Giorgio, begun in 1738 and designed by the architect Rosario Gagliardi. Up a flight of steps and segregated from the streets by ornate railings, this is the heart of the old town and contains some of its best, and most prized artworks. These include a statue of St. George which is carried around town in devout processions. Alongside the church is the small Museo del Duomo (open at weekends), a museum containing stone statues and reliefs from the original pre-earthquake San Giorgio and other churches, architectural drawings by Gagliardo, some extravagant reliquaries and gloomy religious paintings. One of the highlights is a nice little stone carving, from the 15th century, portraying a honey-maker (mielaio) with honeycomb and jug.

Ibla’s lanes contain many charms, from elaborately-sculpted balconies to views over the narrow valleys below town. If you have time, it’s a good place to explore, with some intriguing corners. A little tourist train (trenino) departs from Piazza Duomo and is an entertaining way of touring the principal streets.

At the end of Ibla’s rocky ridge is the town’s public park, the Giardino Ibleo. The pride of the town, these manicured and leafy gardens have views over the surrounding valleys and are the venue of choice for promenading locals as well as tourists. Watching three or four generations meeting up and groups of teenagers strolling arm-in-arm is a charming introduction to Sicilian life.

As well as exploring Ibla, most visitors will want to take a look at Ragusa Superiore. The two towns meet at a saddle of land marked by the small Piazza della Repubblica. One of the town’s tourist offices is alongside, and also the attractive Chiesa delle Anime del Purgatorio. The upper town can be reached by an energetic climb or by the little local bus from the Giardino Ibleo or Piazza della Repubblica.

Ragusa Superiore is more than just the ‘modern’ part of town – it too boasts elegant streets and noble palazzi. It also has its own Duomo, the Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista, another eighteenth-century Baroque edifice. The main street, Corso Italia, which descends towards Ibla, is lined with attractive buildings. However, there is no denying that the best part of the upper town is the descent, via flights of steps or the winding road, towards Ibla, with the hilltop town spread out before the eyes in an unforgettable panorama.

For any traveller interested in Sicily’s history, Ragusa’s archaeological museum (Museo Archeologico) is a must. Situated in Ragusa Superiore, this museum contains some fascinating and important exhibits from the surrounding area. Interesting artefacts include an articulated doll with moving joints from a child’s grave at Greek Kamarina, and the sculpture of a warrior known as the Guerriero di Castiglione. It’s a bit off the tourist trail; we were the only visitors, our arrival surprising the chatting attendants. The museum is just off Via Roma – at a lower level, down steps from the main street – and there’s an admission charge.

Between July and September the area is enlivened by the Estate Iblea, a summer festival of music and events around Ragusa. In October Ibla hosts a festival of busking and street entertainment, called Ibla Buskers. Other colourful events during the year in Ragusa include Easter and St. George’s Day processions.