According to Greek mythology, the goddess Leto gave birth to Artemis on Ortygia. The island’s name comes from the ancient Greek word forquail, as Leto’s sister is said to have turned into a quail that turned into the island when she fell into the sea.
Learn more about ancient legends by joining a guided walking tour of Ortygia, a popular day-trip destination from the nearby cities of Taormina and Catania. A tour of Ortygia is easily combined with a stop in the picturesque town of Noto.
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Things to Know Before You Go
Archaeology buffs particularly enjoy exploring Syracuse’s Old Town, where many ancient monuments were incorporated into later churches and palaces.
Modest attire is required to enter the Syracuse Duomo—cover your shoulders and knees.
The streets of the Old Town are largely accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
How to Get There
Located just off the mainland, Ortygia can be reached only on foot or by bus.
When to Get There
Visit Ortygia during daytime hours to ensure the Duomo and other Old Town attractions are open.
Must-Sees in Syracuse’s Unique Historic Center
Don’t miss the city’s Duomo, featuring an ornate 17th-century baroque facade and the interior of a former Greek temple. Other top sights are the Fountain of Arethusa (a natural spring where according to Greek mythology, the nymph Arethusa returned to Earth’s surface after escaping from underwater Arcadia) and the Temple of Apollo (Sicily’s oldest Doric temple, dating from the sixth century BC).
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- Syracuse Cathedral (Duomo di Siracusa)
- Syracuse Greek Theater (Teatro Greco)
- Tecnoparco Archimede Museum (Tecnoparco Museo di Archimede)
- Ear of Dionysius (Orecchio di Dionisio)
- Basilica of San Salvatore (Basilica del SS. Salvatore)
- Nicolaci di Villadorata Palace (Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata)
- Church of Santa Chiara (Chiesa di Santa Chiara)
- Church of San Domenico (Chiesa di San Domenico)
- Tellaro Roman Villa (Villa Romana del Tellaro)