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The Fonte Aretusa of Syracuse
This curious freshwater spring has the peculiarity of flowing right to the seashore.
This unusual phenomenon has affected the establishment of the city, which originated
on the island of Ortigia in part because of its presence. It since has captured
the imagination for millennia, making the reservoir famous in legends and literature.
Since ancient times the fountain was, in fact, cited by poets and writers (Pindar,
Moschus, Ovid, Virgil, and then John Milton, Alexander Pope, Gabriele D’Annunzio),
and even inspired the Polish composer Karol Szymanowski.
In ancient Greek myth, the origin of the spring was attributed to the fate of
a nymph, Arethusa, who was transformed by the goddess Artemis into a spring to escape the stalking
courtship of Alpheus (son of the god Oceanus). He, in despair, was in turn transformed into a river
by Zeus and thereby succeeded to finally mix his water with that of Arethusa.
The myth probably attempts to explain the brackish taste of the water that results
from the infiltration of the bordering sea.
The fountain has changed in appearance many times over the centuries. The last
alteration was in 1540 when, constructing ramparts around the island of Ortigia,
the Spanish reduced the lake created by the spring of approximately 200 meters
to the much smaller, semicircular pool (at the foot of the wall) that one sees
These overlying walls were demolished in 1847, with the bases of the ramparts
transformed into the Belvedere (redesigned in 1947) that one can admire today.
This pond also has a second peculiarity: at its center a collection of wild papyrus has grown for millennia. This thicket, together with the similar growths along
the Ciane/Anapo river, constitutes the only wild papyrus existing in Europe.
To the delight of youngsters, freshwater fish and domesticated ducks swim in the
deep water of the spring.
How to reach the Fonte Aretusa from the Algilà Ortigia Charme Hotel
and from the Antico Hotel Roma 1880
From the Hotel Algilà, one finds the Fonte Aretusa on the opposite side of the
island of Ortigia, whereas it stands within a short walking distance from the
Hotel Roma. The entrance to the Aquarium
opens onto the foot of the Spanish ramparts, a few meters from the seaside and
the Arethusa Spring. Given the modest size of the island, one can easily reach
it by foot, perhaps visiting Piazza Duomo
along the way.
For those, however, who don’t want or cannot go by foot, bus #20 is available
(which makes a loop around Ortigia every 30 minutes and runs from 7:20 a.m. to
1:30 a.m. every day), as is taxi service or the complimentary bicycles
that the Hotel Algilà makes available to its guests. Please ask at the hotel’s
reception desk for information on the availability and reservation of taxis.
One can admire the fountain from above from the Belvedere, which runs along all
sides. No accessibility exist, as the descent between the top and the base of
the ramparts is served by a ramp and not a stairway. Those who wish to admire
the fountain from ground level can enter the Aquarium
(with a ticket), make their way to the exit on the sea, and walk directly to
the wall of the fountain
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