Fonte Aretusa

Fonte Aretusa fountain, Siracusa

The Fonte Aretusa fountain in Siracusa

The Fonte Arethusa in Siracusa, Sicily
The papyrus and white ducks of the famous Fonte Arethusa fountain in Siracusa, Sicily.

Just down Via P. Picherali, near the southern end of Ortigia, you'll find the harborside Largo Arethusa, whose centerpiece is the lovely little sunken pond containing the Fonte Aretusa, Siracusa's most famous mythological site.

Half a dozen Greek poets wrote the tale of the nymph Arethusa, who was bathing in the Alpheus River in Greece one day when the god of that river took a liking to her.

She begged for deliverance from his advances, and Artemis in pity turned the nymph into a spring, allowing her to escape underground. She traveled under the sea to emerge here, in Siracusa. Alpheus, though, was hot on her heels, and came gushing out in the same spot, mingling his waters with hers for eternity.

Apparently this, to the Greeks, was romantic.

They used to say you could toss a goblet into a spring at Arcadia in Greece and it would pop up here.

Today the font still flows softly from its grotto into the pond, swimming with fish and ducks and planted with puffy-headed, willowy papyrus—Siracusa is the only place outside of Greece where papyrus grows wild (descended from ancient Cyperus Papyrus Linneo plants that were given to the local tyrant by one of the Ptolemys).

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Fonte Aretusa
Largo Arethusa, Ortigia, Siracusa, Sicily

Planning your time

You just kinda look at it, snap a few pictures, and you're done. But this is a nice little piazza in which to hang out (and a popular meeting place), so maybe stick around for 15–20 minutes to people-watch.

Papyrus paper-making at a shop on Via Capodieci

Shops selling sheets of papyrus "paper" pigeonhole the surrounding streets, especially Via Capodieci.

The aquarium

The ramp that curves down around the spring leads to the tiny Aquarium; no great shakes, but as you exit it you get to cross through the fenced-off Fonte Aretusa—it's only way to get down there amid the ducks and papyrus.

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Fonte Aretusa
Largo Arethusa, Ortigia, Siracusa, Sicily

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