We loved Ortigia the moment we crossed the bridge from Siracusa into the historical centre.
We found our B&B, Porta Marina, which was near the bridge and beside the water. Delightful Simona got us organised, showing us what to see in Ortigia. She suggested we start at the Maniace Castle as it is only open until 1.30pm. It was an easy walk around the edge of the island to the point.
The castle, as you can imagine, has had an interesting history. It was built by Emperor Frederick II between 1232 and 1240. The name comes from George Maniakis, the Byzantine General who besieged and took the city in 1038. He built the first fort on the site.
From 1305 – 1536 it was used as a residence by several queens of Sicily. It was a prison in the 15th century and after being damaged in 1704 it was remodelled for the use of guns.
It is quite big and we were free to wander.
Part of the castle was closed for renovation, but a photo showed us some of what we were missing.
There was an exhibition showing plans and drawings of how it might have looked.
The other exhibition is where I found the hand grenades. (previous post) As well as the grenades there were other found objects.
Outside the exhibition was a collection of cannon balls. They must have tried to use those sparingly, it can’t have been much fun making them.
There were great views from the castle of the island, it is a fabulous vantage point.
We walked along the sea front. There are some gorgeous old buildings to admire.
We turned into Via Roma and found a beautiful street with lovely balconies and building decoration.
The aroma of frying fish wafting along the street drew us in for lunch.
We walked into the Piazza Duomo. The columns of an older Greek temple are embedded in the side of the cathedral.
The piazza is huge and considered one of the most beautiful baroque piazzas in Sicily.
We found another lovely church…Chiesa San Giovanni, from the 13th – 14th centuries…unfortunately the roof is missing.
Nearby we vistited the underground Jewish ritual baths which were buried for centuries. The owner of the hotel discovered the mikveh when she was renovating. It lies 90 metres below the hotel and is reached by 56 damp steps.
There has been a Jewish presence in Ortigia for at least 1,400 years, possibly 2,000. The mikveh was filled with rubble and the door was concealed when the Jews were forced to flee the city.
I can’t show you the baths, because photos were not allowed. The staff from the hotel take you underground and explain what you see. It is an excellent thing to do. (The hotel is gorgeous, look for Residenza Alla Giudea) It is in Via Alagona.
We have become addicted to granita, and had to stop for one mid afternoon.
The Temple of Apollo was built in the 6th century BC, making it the oldest Doric Temple in Sicily. It once had 42 monolithic columns, which must have made it spectacular. Today only 2 remain intact (almost). It still looks impressive, these columns are huge.
We set off the watch the sunset along the tree covered walk way beside the sea.
There is a tiny beach beside the garden…a good sunset viewing spot. (Another suggestion by Simona) The garden had what looked like Moreton Bay Fig trees, but surely not.
A walk through town in the evening was delightful…there are dozens of restaurants and shops in the narrow streets and grand piazzas.
The shops had lots of marzipan fruits and ceramics…as you would expect in Sicily.
We were very happy with the restaurant suggested by Simona, L’Osteria da Seby in Via Mirabella 21…all her other ideas were great.
I just may have discovered proof that people from outer space may have once visited Ortigia…I spotted this figure on a building by the sea.
Ortigia is fabulous…we will be back for a longer visit.