Island of Ortygia

Island of Ortygia

Island of Ortygia, the ancient heart of the Mediterranean

The island of Ortigia, separated from the mainland by a channel of water called “dock” that connects the Grand Harbour to Porto Marmoreo. Once the water channels were three, two of which in 1880 were drained and covered with material derived demolition of the ramparts and former forts that defended the island.

In 734 BC the Greeks settled in Syracuse, discovered the Grand Harbour, the best Mediterranean port with a rare feature, a valuable pool of swing with the nearby Porto Piccolo, capable of reducing the strong undertow and to allow through the sea currents replacement of the water. L ‘island of Ortigia and the Epipoli were the most defensible natural fortress bounded by sea cliffs, the Epipoli was very extensive and could, once a fortified (Mura Dionysian) could host the cattle pastures for the population in case of siege. There was no better condition for a settlement in the event of danger, all in the middle of a Mediterranean, the sea, central place of the ancient world, the border between the areas of influence between the two great civilizations in conflict, between ‘Persian empire and the greek world with all its colonies settled up beyond the Pillars of Hercules. There were also other reasons: the geological stratigraphy led the home drinking water in artesian form until the ‘island of Ortigia, (Fonte Arethusa) a true gift from the Gods.
These basic components have given Syracuse extraordinary role he played in antiquity

The Greek origins, the incomparable architectural and archaeological heritage and natural beauty due to the presence of reserves of Ciane rivers and Cassibile, Syracuse make together with the ‘island of Ortygia an urban reality and territorial fascinating and charming.

All the old town of Syracuse, which coincides with the island of Ortigia, was governed by urban standards of protection resulting from the Detailed Plan for Ortygia, drafted by Giuseppe Pagnano in 1985.

Today the island of Ortigia, an area of ​​45 hectares, live 4,725 inhabitants, compared with 5,994 in 1991, 12,000 in 1970 and nearly 23,000 in 1967.

Small itinerary of what to see on the island of Ortigia


Ortigia piazza Archimede
Piazza Archimede Ortigia

Piazza Archimede in Syracuse is a charming square lined with buildings representing the entire history of Sicily, from the Middle Ages to the Baroque. At its center is the beautiful fountain of Diana Arthemis, work of the sculptor Giulio Muskets in 1906 representing the myth of Arethusa fleeing from Alpheus while he tries to chase her. The buildings facing the square track ideally throughout the island’s history up to the present day. Going clockwise meet the Bank of Sicily building, built in 1928, it features a portal characterized by a portal framed by columns and a second order with Ionic pilasters. On the east side is the Palace (1773 – 1800), with its slightly convex and irregular facade. The junction between Via Maestranza and Via Roma is the original Palazzo Hinton Pizzuti, built on the site of the Palazzo Landolina. Then you can admire Palazzo Gargallo, established during the seventeenth and then renovated with rich decorations during the years 1895 – 1899. Adjacent to the Palazzo Gargallo is Palazzo Lanza – Bucceri – originally Platamone, of which still has crests on the column capitals. The building of the Bank of Italy (or “clock”) – a fifteenth century building, reconstructed in the 50’s – closes the fourth side of the square. In the square there is the new Museum Arkimedeion, opened in December 2011. (Today, unfortunately, closed) It trattattava of a scientific and technological museum dedicated to the great Syracusan mathematician and physicist who lived between 287 and 212 BC: Archimedes was a genius, surely the greatest classical antiquity scientist. Inside the museum, through 24 specially designed interactive exibits to capture the public’s attention, they illustrate both the great inventions and scientific issues of Archimedes. Each exhibition is accompanied by a media that allow the visitor to better understand the great mathematical discoveries (surface measurements and volumes, squaring the circle, calculating the body’s center of gravity) and physical findings (the principle of the lever, the floats) brought from Syracuse genius. The explanations are often given stimulants simulations, and are accompanied by historical notes, information on the work of Archimedes, anecdotes, bibliography, in order to guide the visitor in the historical period in which Archimedes lived and in the heart of his great discoveries. The various topics are grouped into three main lines: machines for war and peace, mathematics and geometry, physics, statics and hydrostatics, as well as a planetarium.


ortigia castello maniace
Ortigia castello Maniace

Castello Maniace The name of the castle comes from Giorgio Maniace, a Byzantine general who recaptured the city in 1038 AD, for a short period to defeat the Arabs and brought a gift of two Hellenistic bronze rams, which were then placed at the entrance the fort he had built. It is a Swabian castle that sits on the tip of the island of Ortigia, in defense of the natural harbor known as “Porto Grande” in Syracuse, designed by Riccardo Lentini between 1232 and 1240 on behalf of Frederick II. In 1288 King Pedro III of Aragon lived with his family. The castle was part of a series of castles and towers scattered along the coasts of Sicily and is presented as an imposing structure of 51 meters on each side, with its four round towers at the corners, where the characters are combined with models of the Jura, Byzantine and Arab culture. On the west side is the main entrance with a beautiful Gothic arch, surmounted by the imperial coat of arms of Charles V (XVI AD) which represents an eagle with two heads. On each side of the portal, resting on shelves, were the two bronze rams, one of which is preserved in the archaeological museum of Palermo, while the other has been lost or destroyed in 1848. In the vicinity of the west tower is the so-called Queen’s Bath, a place on which much has been imagined. It ‘been said that was spacious and adorned with marble, with seats and tanks, but according to the most accepted interpretation was only a water source for the castle, which uses one of the sources of fresh water in Ortigia. Today, after a long restoration, the castle was opened to public use. In recent years, too, the beautiful Arena Maniace (the big square in front of the entrance of the castle) has become a place for shows and other cultural events.


Ortigia tempio di apolloThe Doric Temple of Apollo in Syracuse, on the island of Ortigia, is the oldest greek temple in Sicily, the second oldest greek temple in the world. E ‘was built by Greek colonists in the seventh-sixth century. B.C. and it included six seventeen columns on both sides, of which only two are still in a vertical position, as well as a part of the epistyle and other columns on the same side and on the eastern front. The western base has been restored. The columns were almost 8 feet tall with the capital and the superior finish of the temple was made of clay The peculiarity of these columns is their proximity, as the construction criteria of such an ancient period recommended not to remove them too, to order to preserve the stability of the construction. On one of the steps of the east side is an inscription containing a dedication to Apollo under the name of the architect, a very unusual case for a greek temple. In the museum Paolo Orsi in Syracuse you can see a complete model of the temple and a video reconstruction of the interior parts of the building. Over the centuries it has turned into a Byzantine church, later a mosque under Arab (Arabic inscriptions are still visible in the cell), then Norman church and Spanish barracks.


duomo7-1024x1024Piazza Duomo in Syracuse is strongly suggestive, and is considered among the most beautiful squares in Italy. It has a semi-elliptical shape and is dominated by the imposing facades of beautiful buildings, the Baroque Cathedral (Duomo) and the Church of Saint Lucia to the Abbey. The magnificent cathedral, recently restored, is integrated into the original structure of the temple of Athena of the fourth century AD, whose Doric columns are still visible inside the church and along the outer walls. The Doric temple of Athena who built in the fifth century BC, the tyrant Gelo, after the victory against the Carthaginians in the Battle of Imera. The so-called “Athenaion” What hexastyle (six columns on the front) periptero (columns cell surrounded on all four sides), with 14 columns on the long sides. The pediment bearing the large shield of gilded bronze goddess. Currently some columns and stylobate parts, made of local limestone, are visible on the left side of the cathedral, while other parts (marble tiles and gutters in the shape of a lion’s head) havebeen moved to the Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi. Inside the cathedral so they are clearly visible 9 columns on the right side and two in front of the cell. According to the results of excavations carried out during the first years of the twentieth century, before the construction of the Temple in that area there is what another sacred place of worship dating back to the seventh century BC.


isola di ortigia fonte aretusaThe Fountain of Arethusa, sung by many poets, including Virgil, Pindar, Ovid, Milton, André Gide, D’Annunzio, is a source of fresh water flowing from a cave a few meters from the sea, symbol of Syracuse since the days ancients. The myth of Arethusa, nymph of Syracuse, reveals the deep connection between the Greek colonies and the motherland Greece. Arethusa, the girl of the hunting goddess Artemis, was seen by Alfeo god (son of Oceanus), who fell in love and tried to seduce her against her will. To escape from her lover, Arethusa fled to Sicily, where Artemis turned her into a source close to the port of Syracuse, Ortigia (sacred to Artemis). Zeus, moved by the love of Alpheus, turned it into a river is located in Greece, near Olympia, so it could flow underground to reach the font. Still near the Promenade Alpheus (Alpheus waterfront), near the famous fountain, a spring called the Eye of Zillica flows. Cicero in the Verrines describes the Fountain of Arethusa as “an amazingly great source, full of fish and so are the waves of the sea would flood if it was not protected by a massive stone wall.” Today the road you can admire the character, in near the sea, adorned with papyrus vegetation, populated by ducks and freshwater fish, with a spectacular view of the “Porto Grande” costs, location of the naval battle against the Athenians took place in 453 BC There are no barriers and you can enjoy the site also from the lower level, where the aquarium.


isola di ortigia museo bellomoBellomo Museum. The palace is a magnificent building and located in the Swabian town of Ortigia, close to the character of Arethusa. He has maintained the original look even after several work done over the past seven centuries. Purchased in 1365 by the Bellomo family, then it came to the Court of Frederick II of Aragon, and then was sold to the Sisters of the Monastery of St. Benedict in the second decade of the eighteenth century. In 1948, the property passed to the regional council of cultural heritage and preservation of the environment and became the seat of the Regional Gallery, and after a radical restructuring, it was reopened in 2011. The gallery describes the development of figurative art in Syracuse, and more generally in the south-eastern Sicily, with particular reference to painting and the decorative arts. The collections of medieval and modern art (paintings, sculptures and other artcrafts, dating back to the Byzantine period to the eighteenth century) mainly come from the Archaeological Museum of Syracuse. Some of these collections also came from churches and monasteries in the south-eastern Sicily because of the suppression of religious orders after the unification of Italy, but others had come to the museum thanks to purchases and donations. The most famous painting in the gallery is shown the Annunciation by Antonello (Annunciation) from Messina, painted in 1474, which, after a careful restoration, has regained some of its ancient splendor. Property of the gallery is also the burial of the famous Caravaggio of Saint Lucia (Burial of Saint Lucia), now displayed in the nearby Church of Saint Lucia to the Abbey in Piazza Duomo.


Island of Ortigia ancient heart of the Mediterranean


deepen the information browsing in our City Guide, you will find other articles on monuments, museums and archaeological zone. More news about the geography, history and urbanism of the ‘island of Ortigia in Syracuse Ortigia page

We all Syracusans citizens know the beauty of Ortigia and we are fascinated by this rock surrounded by the sea, known as the “Island of the quails” which is rich in natural beauty but is also distinguished by the characteristic topography of its urban settlements, as well as for its ancient history that begins with the ancient Sicilians, first inhabitants, and comes down to our days (clear signs of any era can be found in every corner of its architectural heritage).

Although its location is offset from the city that grew into other neighborhoods, the ‘island of Ortygia there is however the historical center and the heart of Syracuse button and not only for the presence of equipment and administrative services on an urban scale but also for the monuments and the environmental and scenic beauties that make it unique to the eyes of visitors. The fate it was not always favorable and Ortigia went through dark moments, had to undergo the decay and abandonment, since the end of the last century when they were demolished Porta Reale and Spanish walls. The ruin is then continued in the Mussolini era to aggravate this situation is the damage caused by the last war are added. After the war the Ortigiani attracted to the new, more modern and more comfortable neighborhoods have fled their homes, closing them and leaving them in complete degradation. Only a few decades there has been a renewed interest by the authorities and the Syracusans to Ortiga and thought concretely to the recovery of existing buildings and architectural heritage, both public and private, the launching of special Read and the allocation of adequate funding

Room: 5 Bath: 2 Square Footage: 260 m² Build in: 1900
Room: 5 Bath: 2 Square Footage: 260 m²
Square Footage: 600 m² Build in: fine 1800
Square Footage: 600 m²
Room: 3 Bath: 2 Square Footage: 115 m² Living Room: 30 m² Parking: nelle vicinanze Build in: 1950 Classe Energetica (APE): G
Room: 3 Bath: 2 Square Footage: 115 m² Living Room: 30 m²
Room: 5 Bath: 4 Square Footage: 350 m² Living Room: 70 m² Terrace: 50 m² Warming: autonomo Build in: 1890
Room: 5 Bath: 4 Square Footage: 350 m² Living Room: 70 m²
Room: 1 Bath: 2 Square Footage: 70 m² Living Room: 28 m² Terrace: 12 m² Parking: nelle vicinanze Warming: pompa di calore Build in: 1800 Classe Energetica (APE): G
Room: 1 Bath: 2 Square Footage: 70 m² Living Room: 28 m²
Room: 4 Bath: 2 Square Footage: 187 m² Living Room: 60 m² Terrace: 70 m² Parking: nelle vicinanze Warming: autonomo Build in: 1800
Room: 4 Bath: 2 Square Footage: 187 m² Living Room: 60 m²