Sicily is the perfect place for everybody! It is full of culture, the weather is amazing all year round, food is delicious and landscapes are incredible. Each area of the island is unique in its own way and every corner is worth a visit. In this post, I’m going to talk about how to spend two days in Sicily, in the Oriental part of the island, and in particular the area between Syracuse and Noto. This area is easily reachable by car from Catania airport. Unfortunately, the public transport is not very reliable in Sicily, so the best way to explore the island is by car.
The suggested itinerary of two days in Sicily includes two culturally rich cities (Syracuse and Noto), the natural paradise of the Nature Reserve of Vendicari and a cute small fishing village (Marzamemi).
Here the details of the itinerary!
Day 1: Syracuse
The day 1 is dedicated to the exploration of the city of Syracuse, the most important city of Magna Graecia and birthplace of the inventor Archimedes. The visit can be split into two parts: the Neapolis Archaeological Park and the island of Ortygia.
Neapolis Archeological Park of Syracuse
The morning starts with a visit to the main attraction of Syracuse: the Neapolis Archaeological Park of Syracuse. Here, two significant ancient archaeological sites from the Greek and Roman periods are located next to each other, making this park one of the most relevant archaeological sites in Italy. The star of this park is the amazing Greek Theatre. This amphitheatre, which could seat up to 16000 people, is a masterpiece of classical architecture and it is very relevant because it staged the works of Sophocles, Euripides and the last tragedies of Aeschylus. During summer, the Greek Theatre is still used as an evocative stage for many classical plays. Here you can find more information about times and prices of the spectacles.
Besides the theatre, there is a deep limestone quarry, called “Latomia del Paradiso”. Here, there is an ear-shaped artificial grotto, known as the Ear of Dionysius “Orecchio di Dionisio”. This grotto, which is 23 meters high and 65 meters deep, was named by Caravaggio after the tyrant Dionysius. Legends say that the tyrant used the perfect acoustics of the cave to eavesdrop on the prisoners who were incarcerated here.
Right next to the Greek archaeological site, there is the Roman amphitheatre “Anfiteatro Romano”, which was used for gladiatorial combats and horse races.
Here you can find a map of the park. The regular ticket of the park is 10 euro. Reduced ticket (18-25 years old) is 5 euro, while the entrance is free of charge for children (under the age of 18). The opening time changes according to the period of the year. You can find all the info you need on the city of Syracuse website.
The afternoon is dedicated to the exploration of Ortygia, the historical centre of Syracuse. Ortygia is a small island which is connected with the city of Syracuse through two bridges. Streets in Ortygia are very narrow and most of them are pedestrian. For this reason, it’s better to park right after the bridge. Ortigia is very small so it can be easily visited on foot. Keep in mind that you have to pay an hourly fee if you park within the blue lines, while parking is free within the white lines. If you prefer, you can also park at Talete Car Park or Molo S. Antonio Car park, where the daily fee is 10 euro.
Wandering around the streets of Ortygia you can find remains of Greek and Roman periods mixed with Mediaeval Norman buildings and Baroque facades. Not to be missed is the “Piazza Duomo”, the hearth of Ortygia. Here you can find the wonderful Cathedral, the Baroque Palazzo Beneventano and the church of Santa Lucia, the patron of the city. Some streets open out at the extreme of the island, from where you can have a view over the lagoon.
Day 2: Noto, Vendicari and Marzamemi
The second day of the itinerary includes three stops: Noto, the pearl of the Sicilian Baroque, the Natural Reserve of Vendicari and Marzamemi, a fishing village.
Noto dazzles with the golden-honeyed glow of its buildings. This city is about 40 minutes away from Syracuse and it is considered the capital of Sicilian Baroque. The city centre, built with limestone, is one of the most beautiful of the island. The main street is “Corso Vittorio Emanuele”, where most of the representative buildings of the city are located. This street begins at the “Porta Reale”, which is considered the door to the city.
Walking through “Corso Vittorio Emanuele” you can admire the beautiful architecture of the churches of Noto. Among the most important of these is the Church of Santa Chiara, which can be visited for free. Definitely worth paying 2 euro to access the roof terrace for panoramic views of this lovely town.
Few meters away from the Santa Chiara Church there is the stunning “Noto Cathedral“, one of the most famous buildings of the city. The cathedral is located in front of the Town Hall and it is preceded by a grand staircase formed by three different ramps. The construction of this beautiful example of Sicilian baroque was completed in 1776. The cathedral dome collapsed in 1996, because of a thunderstorm. It was reopened in 2007, after an extensive renovation.
Next to the cathedral, there is the monastery of Santissimo Salvatore. The monastic complex includes the church of Santissimo Salvatore (Holy Savior), the seminary of the Noto Diocese and the former Benedictine monastery of the Holy Savior. The bell tower of the church is one of the highest viewpoints over the city and it is definitely a place that you cannot miss. You can get amazing views of the cathedral also from the monastery. Both places are accessible from the church in exchange for a voluntary fee.
Noto is quite small but the number of churches to visit in this place is so high that you need a map if you want to avoid missing one of them. Here you can find a very useful map of all the most interesting monuments of the city.
Foodie tip: in Noto you can find the most delicious “Pani Cunzato” of the island. Go to “Panificio la Maidda” and ask for one of these delicious traditional meals of the Sicilian cuisine. I’m sure you will ask for more!
After a cultural morning, it’s time to relax on the beach. Few kilometres away from Noto there is the natural reserve of Vendicari, which offers breathtaking landscapes. The very long and golden beaches can be reached after short hikes through a dense vegetation that suddenly opens to a clear sea. Here you can also visit the “Tonnara di Vendicari“. This construction, which was used to caught tunas and mackerels returning to the open sea after the mating season, is one of the symbols of Vendicari.
Around the reserve, there are few observation cabins perfect for birdwatching. Flamingos, Herons, and Storks stop here before reaching the definitive migratory destinations. However, some flamingos stay in the reserve all year round, so you can always see some of them.
At this time of the day you must be very hungry! It’s time to go to Marzamemi, a super cute fishing village where you can satisfy your craving for good fish. This small village was home to one of the most important “tonnara” of the island. The “tonnara”, where tunas were caught and processed, is not used anymore, but Marzamemi continues its artisanal fishing and processing activities.
The main square is the heart of Marzameni. Here you can enjoy a delicious meal in one of the several restaurants and bar serving fresh fish. Every corner of this small village is super cute and can bring you back in time.
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