The tiny island of Ortigia is reached from mainland Siracusa by the Umbertino Bridge and two smaller bridges. The island is rich in monuments from each era of Siracusa’s history.
To explore the island, start from Piazza XXV Luglio, wandering past the ruins of the 6th century BC Temple of Apollo and follow the streets to Piazza Archimede.
To the left of Pizza Archimede is Via Roma and to the right is Via Cavour.
Both streets lead to the Piazza Duomo, the beautiful main square.
The Duomo is built on the remains of a greek temple dedicated to Athena.
Columns from the temple can be seen along the northern wall of the Duomo.
Next to the Duomo is the Palazzo del Senato, now the Town Hall and opposite is the Baroque Palazzo Beneventano del Bosco.
At the end of the square, is a chapel dedicated to Santa Lucia with a beautiful Caravaggio painting behind the altar. The chapel is only open in the afternoon
Wander the streets that lead from Via Roma.
Via Maestranza leads on the left to Via dei S.S. Coronati and the streets leading from here and on the right to Via della Giudecca and the original Jewish area with its maze of narrow alleyways.
On Via G.B. Alagona, you will find the hotel “Alla Giudecca”. Here you can see the oldest Mikvah (Jewish Bath) in Europe that is open to the public.The baths were hidden in 1492 when the Jews were forced to leave the island by the Spanish. They were only discovered 15 years ago during renovation of the hotel.
Tours are available on the hour every hour from 11am but it is best to go in the evening around 5pm or 6pm in case the baths have been flooded overnight.
At the southern most tip of the Island is Castello Maniace with it’s circular towers set in each of the four corners.
This is best seen on a walk around the island which will take approximately 1 hour.
As you pass Castello Maniace, the landscape changes as the waters of the Ionian Sea wash the shore.