Siracusa has such fond memories for me and my latest return did not let me down. The city is old, and there are parts that are falling down and in desperate need of repair, and then there are parts that are charming and inviting and, inevitably, the whole place puts a smile on my face.
In trying to find hotels that I could recommend, I happened upon the Charme Hotel Henry’s House (http://www.hotelhenryshouse.com/en) which I recommend whole-heartedly. Henry’s House is not your cookie cutter hotel so if you are looking for bland rooms and uniformed staff, this is not the place for you. But if you want the most amazing and helpful owners – the brothers were simply the best – the funkiest rooms, and some of the most amazing and stunning rooms, this is the hotel for you. I loved this hotel and can’t wait to try another room now that I’ve stayed in what I believe is affectionately called “the boat”.
If you want something that isn’t quite as funky as Henry’s House, but is still a total charmer, I would highly recommend the Algila Ortigia Charme Hotel. This is true stunner of a hotel in Ortigia and there is something about this hotel that reminds me of Alacati and the hotels and the town combined.
There are currently only two slow food movement restaurants in Siracusa (and arguably a third, but more on that in a moment). And as a fan of the slow food movement and what it is that they promote and are trying to do with their food, I am so very pleased to say that neither disappointed.
The Taberna Sveva (no website) is not far from Henry’s House and is absolutely divine! Even in late October, Siracusa is still warm so al fresco dining is possible, and encouraged, and I was fortunate enough to sit outside, gaze upon the up lit buildings and enjoy the most amazing gnocchi with pistachio cream sauce I have ever had. And as someone who really doesn’t enjoy gnocchi (I find it a tad too heavy), and on a warm night even less enjoyable, Teberna Sveva changed my mind! And kudos to the staff for, when I saw that they only had wine by the bottle and I wanted to have a glass with my dinner, they opened a bottle and gave me a glass. Thank you Taberna Sveva.
The other slow food restaurant in Siracusa that I loved and cannot stop thinking about is La Gazza Ladra (http://www.gazzaladrasiracusa.com/). Situated right in the heart of Ortigia, on the primary shopping street, this little restaurant (of 30 or so seats?) is an absolute oasis. The restaurant is adorned with kitschy photos and paintings and you won’t sit down to china and crystal stemware. But you will sit down to amazing food, much like nonna would make, that is simple, classic, and truly mouthwatering.
The third restaurant that I tried, which should arguably be a slow food restaurant was Osteria del Vecchio Ponte (no website). I honestly don’t remember how I found this restaurant, and the guys at Henry’s House had no idea about this restaurant, but it’s a short walk over the bridge from Ortigia and located on a small side street. When I arrived for my reservation, there was only one other table occupied which made me nervous. And then when I looked at the menu and everything was fish, I was more nervous. But then the owner (and chef) came over, I asked if it was a problem that I was vegetarian and he said no. But, better yet, as we were figuring out what to make, his daughter (I think), came over said she didn’t like to eat too much meat and suggested one of the pastas just without the pancetta. And it was absolutely divine: pasta, with tomatoes, zucchini, onion, garlic, and hidden beneath the pasta, the softest, most delicious soft cheese that when combined created the most amazing cream sauce I have ever had. (Yes, my mouth is watering!)
And before I forget… after dinner, as you take that lovely stroll, whether it be to your hotel or just to take in this lovely city, be sure to stop at Bel Bon. It’s a chain of gelaterie around the city but they are amazing. And if you can’t make up your mind, go with riccotta gelato. I salivate just thinking about it!
For me, the primary thing to do in Siracusa is to walk. To just stroll, people watch, and take numerous photos. But I must admit that a trip to the Parco Archeologico della Neapolis really should be on everyone’s list. When I first went to Siracusa, the park wasn’t opened so I walked the perimeter and just peered through the fences. This time, it was open and although some parts were still closed, and others not clearly marked so that I got yelled at for being somewhere that I shouldn’t have been, it was truly such an amazing experience. And yes, you must see the Ear of Dionysius (and hear everyone trying to sing and experience the echoes) but the rest of the park is just stunning and enchanting and literally takes you back to years gone by and a completely different civilization.