The unrivaled beauty of Syracuse

Discovering the gems of Ortigia Island with the eyes of a local. There are more than 2,000 reasons to visit the enchanting city of Syracuse, one of the most stunning places in Italy and, dare I say, in the whole world.

In the summer of 2022, Syracuse was also the undisputed protagonist of fashion internationally thanks to Dolce & Gabbana, who chose to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the launch of Alta Moda right here:  “Syracuse is a special place for us,” Gabbana explained before the show, as reported by the National News. “It is in the southernmost part of Sicily, in front of Africa. I love the feeling, I love the mood, I love the stones, the colors, the people.” During the Alta Moda Fall 2022 Fashion Show, Dolce & Gabbana took over Piazza Duomo, where beautiful models walked the runway in epic looks against the backdrop of Syracuse's stunning cathedral. Red, black, and gold dresses of ruffles, lace, and religious iconography were the protagonists of a memorable fashion show inspired by the beauty of Sicilian women. 

No wonder Dolce & Gabbana chose Syracuse. It is a magical place that welcomes its visitors in an enchanting atmosphere. Its historical center is like no other, in fact, Syracuse’s historical center lies on an island, Ortigia. Here, you can find the Duomo, the ancient Arethusa Spring, a beautiful lungomare (promenade), and the ancient Maniace Castle. On the mainland is the archaeological park, where you can find Greek and Roman ruins and the incredible Latomie, the infamous stone quarries that made Syracuse a fearsome rival in ancient times.

If you want to live the myth, history, and culture of this city, and truly understand why Dolce & Gabbana chose it to stage their most important celebration, I - a born and raised Siracusana - recommend three gems that you cannot miss on a visit to the Island of Ortigia.

Cathedral of the Nativity of Holy Mary, Duomo of Syracuse

The Duomo is a wonderful example of Sicilian Baroque architecture: its facade has large columns and carvings that are so typical of the style that developed on the island – very different from the style you may find in other places. Inside, this enchanting cathedral will surprise you as it used to be a Greek temple dating back to 480 BC, and you will still find its columns. Building a Christian church on top of a pagan temple was not uncommon, but this is one of the most fascinating examples you can find in Italy.

Not far is the Arethusa Spring, which takes its name from a nymph from Greek mythology. In myth and legend, Arethusa was the object of desire of Alpheus, son of the Ocean, who pursued her obstinately. Desperate to get away, she managed to avoid him and made her way to the island of Ortigia, where she transformed into a well. Then, after changing into a river, Alpheus was able to find her by flowing beneath the Peloponnese all the way to Ortigia. The Arethusa Fountain is called by the locals La fontana delle papere (or just la fontana), as it is populated by ducks and, of course, fish. A common meeting place, it offers a beautiful view of the sea as well. 

Arethusa Spring

From the Arethusa Spring, you can walk along the lungomare up to the Maniace Castle. Located at the extreme southern tip of the island of Ortigia, it’s a 13th-century castle built for the Emperor Frederick II. The castle is an important example of Swabian architecture, with a magnificent, vaulted central hall (Sala Ipostila) and breathtaking sea views.

My best advice is to lose yourself in the narrow alleys of Ortigia, where you can soak up the real atmosphere of this magic island. Wandering will surely make you hungry, and the good news is that Ortigia is full of places where you can eat authentic and delicious Sicilian food. From cafes to restaurants and street food, Ortigia will not disappoint your taste buds.

Sea view from Maniace Castle

Photography by Carla Trigilia