Frugal City Guide: Ortigia

Dress: Free People (gift – buy similar here). Leather jacket: £299, Jigsaw. Sandals: £69, And Other Stories. Velvet bag: £99, LK Bennett (gift). Photographs: Christopher O’Donnell

Well, it’s safe to say we loved Ortigia…we knew we wanted to try and get some late sun this summer and were initially looking at Greece but really struggled to find affordable flights and accommodation.

But then someone recommended Sicily and it ticked all of the boxes for us. Surprisingly inexpensive and with super easy connections, it’s the perfect late summer getaway.

Tee: €39, Le Mot. Skirt: £70, Baukjen. Bag: J Crew (old). Sandals: Gap (instore).

Sicily, in itself, has loads of great destinations but I had heard Ortigia was beautiful. And small. We wanted somewhere where we didn’t need a car and had a mix of city as well as coastal vibes, was big enough to spend 4 nights yet small enough that we didn’t feel the need to do ‘too’ much.

The first two nights we stayed at Hotel Gutowski via i-escape (we only moved because it was booked for the rest of our stay!), which was wonderful. Right on the water, it is the perfect mix of boutique budget – rooms are super clean, minimal but chic and the roof terrace is the ideal place to read a book at sunset (or pose for photos!)…

We stayed 2 nights complimentary, rooms are from £67, i-escape

Location-wise, for us, it was perfect. Right by the sea but also by the food market, on the edge of town. Ortigia is so easily walkable but this was also a quiet part of town – and we never walked longer than 15 minutes home from dinner.

In terms of our ‘to do’ list, as we were travelling with a baby, we kept it short. A few recommended Noto or nearby islands or even exploring more of Syracuse but by day 1, we knew we would be happy sticking to Ortigia.

The Food Market is pretty unmissable, it’s not huge and you don’t have to buy anything – but just to walk through the hustle and bustle is fascinating. All the mini vans dropping off produce, the locals selling their fish to the nearby restaurants and the smells and noise is like something out of a filmset with larger than life characters. Try and stop for lunch (or dinner!) here, too. We loved La Lisca and Carnezzeria.

The Temple of Apollo is something to see and admire, but takes about 5 minutes – usually, I’m all about the Classical sites and ruins but this time, I’m not ashamed to admit it was all about the food.

In fact, we almost forgot to visit the Duomo, in a beautiful square at the top of town, and we’re glad we squeezed it in –  it was one of the highlights of the trip arriving as the sun was setting and walking back via the cobbled streets and quaint shops.

To love Ortigia, you have to love crumbling walls and a bit of disrepair – it’s not perfect, but for me, that’s the charm. I loved wandering around the narrow streets and finding little shops selling ceramics, as well as little stalls selling shell necklaces.

If you love meat and seafood, you’re in luck – its all about fish and pasta here (in that delicious pistachio pesto). I was, however, disappointed in the lack of gelato (just a few places sold it) and beach – it’s more of a rocky, walled coastline and you pay to spend a day at a beach club rather than just hang for a few hours at the beach. So we gave it a miss (although I’m sure, if we had a car, we could have explored further up the coat and found something).

For the last few nights of our stay, we found an Air bnb which we loved – it was just off the bridge between Syracuse and Ortigia (so 5 minutes further than the hotel) and gave us a lot of freedom with a baby. We even rented a travel cot from a local company (Baby In Travel) who dropped it off, with sheets, to the apartment.

It was one of those rare moments where the flat was actually nicer than the images on the site!

Flat, from £67 a night, Air BnB

Dress: £185, Pampelone (gift). Sandals: Asos (old).

So if you’re ever looking for a short break, direct flights (we flew to Catania), delicious food, great weather (28 degrees late September) and affordable accommodation, I know of a little place…..

13 Comments

  1. I think you have just sold me a holiday to Sicily :). Mr Mc and I were just wondering where ‘Jilly’s Jaunts’ would head to for September 2019 ( after our daughters wedding ). I love to visit islands and this is one we have yet to visit. Looks like you had a fabulous time.

  2. Hi Alex, another great post thanks. Having just returned from Valencia ( second time around). Although we love it very much and can recommend it , we will be looking at different places to try. This may well fit the bill; we generally stay around four nights for a city break. We have been gaining a lot of inspiration from Travel Man too. It all looks fab and the question is can you fly from Manchester? We are very tired of flying with a certain low cost airline however. That Airbnb looks great too, what a find!

  3. I have been spending my holiday in Siracuse and in a village nearby for 30 years. Thank you for your interesting guide that I enjoyed. May I add something? I like trattoria Kalliope, corte degli Avolio (traditional Sicilian food, for example, swordfish and salad with orange, olives and onions).
    Did you go inside the Duomo? It is an authentic Greek temple, perfectly preserved with still standing columns! Don’t miss a walk along lungomare Alfeo: many nice bars and a wonderful view of Porto Grande at sunset.

  4. Hi Tricia

    We went to Siciliy from Manchester a few years back direct. Like Alex we went into Catania which is the main airport on the east coast.
    We stayed in Taormina which I would highly recommend. Was easy to do a trip down the coast (train) to Syracuse/Ortiga as well as various other locations.

  5. Looks stunning Alex. We were in Calabria on the mainland in August but didn’t make it over to Sicily. Next time! However we have just booked a weekend at Hotel Brummell in Barcelona on your recommendation, for the end of November. Looks fabulous!

  6. We were in Southern Italy in August but didn’t make it to Sicily. Wish we had now! Have just booked Hotel Brummell in Barcelona though for next month 🙂 X

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