Brent and I spent two magical days in Syracuse last month, eating our way around the city and its island-next-door Ortygia. We’re talking a balmy seaside town, full of history, restaurants, and culture, clean and comparatively easy to navigate, a place where our level of Italian perfectly paired with the town’s level of English (aka almost everyone there knew some English).

But I digress. Syracuse (which for the rest of this post will also mean Ortygia) is a magnificent place, full of Grecian glory. In fact, a few thousand years ago, Syracuse was the largest city in the ancient world. Founded by Corinthian colonists in the 8th century BC, Syracuse  eventually surpassed both its mother city and Athens in terms of size and importance. To add to its natural harbor, it had also had excellent defenses (designed by its most famous son, Archimedes). Five hundred years of flourishing and culture were cut short by the Romans in 200 BC, but that is another story.

Part of the reason we loved it so much was because of our hosts, Ornella and her husband Santo, Syracuse’s second most famous son. Our rave review is a tribute to their warmth and hospitality.

We are not now and never have been travel guides. But we do love to eat. Here is our restaurant formula for a weekend of exploring, with a few tips mixed between bites. Buono Appetito!

– If your weekend begins Friday night, opt for a light dinner. After a long trip, you want a place  in Syracuse that feels cozy and elegant at the same time. Porquois Pas is that place. Ornella says this is a restaurant that cooks fresh family food with heart. That sounds right but only if the family you’re visiting are chic interior designers. Make sure you get the sampler to start and if you’re into natural wines, a natural wine (their collection is beautifully curated with special attention to Sicilian producers).

– Saturday morning, treat yourself to a coffee and cornetta in the duomo piazza. The cobbled and narrow streets of Ortygia burst open into this square dominated by the cathedral. It is beautiful in the sunshine and makes for fabulous people watching. Soak in the sun with a cappuccino before ducking into the cathedral (or the church of St. Lucy on the other end of the square, with a Caravaggio painting over the altar).  

– Caffeinated, head to the market in Ortygia. Held every morning except Sunday, it is a fantastic Sicilian market with all the requisite sights, sounds, and smells. Buy spices and sun-dried tomatoes here, plus capers and dried fruit. Also note the fish stalls that display the swordfish heads like spiky markers. Walk all the way to the Fratelli Burgio, an incredible salumeria and sandwich shop. This is your lunch spot. There might be a wait, but it is worth it. The caponata sandwich is so delicious, as are all the appetizer boards. 

– When you need a break, get your pick-me-up at Biblios Cafe. Natalie recommended this hip spot. A book shop with mismatched and cozy chairs and a menu, it’s a great place to rest from touring. Listen, coffee you can get in any Italian bar. A cozy chair? The rarest afternoon treasure you never found. Get there as it opens and you can have your velvety pick.

– For dinner, eat seafood at Onda Blu. This pescateria-turned-restaurant has many of their ingredients swimming in the front in tiled pools. The seafood is fresh, the menu ranges from comfort food to elegant, and they have a great wine list as well.

– For breakfast the last morning, try Angelina’s Bakery. Here is a Sicilian pasticceria that also makes bacon-egg-and toast breakfasts. Yes, there is avocado toast. There is also a French Toast dish with white chocolate, nutella, and gelato. Layer upon layer upon layer of sweet goodness. .

And there our menu ends. As always, we hope your explorations take you far beyond our highlights. After all, wandering the side streets and alleyways is the most enchanting part of traveling. 

Arrivederci, Syracuse. We’ll be back soon!