One of the prettiest places in south-east Sicily, Ortigia is a small island which sits within Syracuse and is less than an hour's drive south of Catania. Here are my reasons why you should visit right now:

mussels ortigia market

MARKETS:

Get lost in the hullabaloo of the historic weekday market (except Mondays) to fondle and drool over stalls laden with fresh produce. Shiny purple aubergines nestle alongside tables of trembling ricotta and fat-fingered fishmongers bellow and beckon you over to trays of cockles and clams that wink and shiver in the sunlight. Locals perch on stools eating fresh fried octopus wrapped in newspaper while dogs thread their way through the crowds, licking the streets. Stop for a macchiato in the lovely deli Caseificio Borderi and pick up some cold pressed olive oil and fresh bread.

restaurant ortigia

EAT:

A lunchtime favourite is The Three Sisters, just around the corner from the market and well known by locals who recommend it. It is run by… well, three sisters who whip up authentic and delicious dishes including a divine caponata and seafood risotto. Le Vin de l'Assassin Bistrot is a gem of a place hidden in a little alleyway behind the Duomo. It's a romantic spot for supper so try to get a table in the courtyard at the back of the restaurant and order the burrata in gazpacho.

VISIT:

The Duomo - the main Cathedral of Syracuse. The remains of a sixth century AD temple of Athena are still preserved within its interior, the ancient Greek columns still supporting the original structure. Walk from the cathedral to the church of Santa Lucia al Badia to see Caravaggio's dreamlike Burial of St. Lucy.

plaza_duomo_ortigia

DRINK:

One of the nicest things to do in Ortigia is partake in the early evening passagiata - by which I mean sit and watch the people sashay past as you sip your aperol spritz. Do this at the café opposite the Duomo in the main square when the evening light casts a pinky glow on the magnificent Baroque façade.

ortigia street

SHOP:

Ortigia is a beautiful Italian soap and perfume shop. Inspired by the architecture of the town, the clever branding and exotic packaging perfectly sum up the place, and the products make wonderful gifts. Not far from Ortigia is Ebano, a leather shop that crafts beautiful bags, belts and boots which you'll be itching to take home with you. Just make sure you leave enough space in your bag.

dona corally resort

STAY:

The Donna Coraly resort is a gorgeous little boutique hotel just south of Ortigia. Set in charming grounds, the hotel boasts an abundant vegetable garden and a lovely natural pool. Run by the delightful Lucia, this is the perfect base to explore Ortigia from.

gelsomineto beach

SWIM:

There is a swimming spot on Ortigia at Belvedere San Giacomo where you can sunbathe on the rocks and jump into the sea. Alternatively head to Gelsomineto - my favourite beach set in a natural cove and backed by pine trees, it's only a 30 minute drive south from the town.