Vegan Foodie Paradise in Siracusa, Sicily

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Vegan travel in Siracusa, Sicily

UPDATE 2020: This post was originally published in 2015. Check out this newer article for an updated and more comprehensive look at the vegan scene in Sicily.

I don’t even know how to begin to describe our wonderful weekend in Siracusa, Sicily.

From the markets filled with fresh, local produce, to the friendly restaurant staff who made us feel like regulars the moment we stepped in the door, this island really is a food-lover’s paradise, and as a vegan I never felt left out of this vibrant celebration of food.

Nope, not for one second. The local market in Siracusa was just bursting with freshly-picked fruits and vegetables being sold at insanely cheap prices. During our travels around the area we passed through multiple citrus orchards, and indeed the most popular local products seemed to be lemons and oranges (especially Tarocco blood oranges), fennel, pumpkin and nuts of all kinds.

Not surprisingly, these also kept showing up as ingredients in the dishes we ordered in local restaurants. This pretty much sums it up:

Fresh squeezed juice in Sicily

And when you factor in the narrow cobblestone alleyways and Baroque architecture of Ortygia, plus the impressive ancient Roman ruins and caves nearby, Siracusa really has it all.

DSC03660 DSC03717 DSC03731 DSC03820 DSC03646 Vegan travel in Siracusa, Sicily

While traditional Sicilian fare is already very vegan-friendly, there are actually a couple of vegetarian restaurants on the beautiful Baroque island of Ortygia – the heart of Siracusa – so we began our Sicilian adventure by heading for one of these.

The first one we came across was an all-vegan restaurant called MOON (which stands for “Move Ortigia Out of Normality”). This is quite a classy-looking place and even has a grand piano in one corner of the dining room, though the prices are still quite reasonable.

MOON - vegan restaurant in Siracusa, Sicily

Just a few steps away in Piazza San Giuseppe is Le Comari Inn, which is a cute and welcoming vegetarian restaurant and is where we decided to have our first dinner. I didn’t make it back to MOON during our short trip, so if you get the chance to eat there then please leave a comment and let me know how it was!

The majority of the items on the menu at Le Comari contained dairy and eggs. Nevertheless, there were also several vegan dishes, including three soups, some salads, a pasta dish, a seitan steak and a chocolate and pear cake. Soon after we ordered, we were treated to complimentary garlic bread and a lovely beetroot dip.

Beetroot dip at Le Comari Inn, Siracusa, Sicily

As my main dish, I chose the pasta, which was actually pasta fresca (fresh, hand-made pasta, as opposed to pasta secca, the stuff in a box that you find in most supermarkets).

Pasta fresca is almost always made with eggs, so it was a rare treat to find a vegan version, and to top it off it was made in the shape of trofie, one of my favourite pasta shapes. The dish was topped with a red pesto made from nuts, sun-dried tomatoes and wild fennel fronds.

Pasta dish at Le Comari Inn, Siracusa, Sicily

I was astounded at how much the liquorice flavour of the fennel really shone through from just the little green fronds, as I couldn’t find any pieces of the bulb itself in the pasta. I later learned that the wild fennel used in Sicily is quite different from the domesticated kind grown for its bulb, and that only the fronds are used.

While the sauce was not described as a pesto on the menu, that’s essentially what it was. As I was soon to discover, pesto is incredibly popular in Sicily and comes in a variety of flavours. And the amazing part is that almost all of these are vegan!

Pesto alla genovese – the type that originated in Genova and is by far the most widely-known version of the dish – is one of those foods that is annoyingly almost vegan, except for the sprinkle of parmesan cheese that is pretty much always added to the sauce.

Well, in the markets and supermarkets of Siracusa I came across a number of pesto varieties made with different nuts and herbs, and none of these contained any cheese! I did see one with anchovies, but all the rest were vegan.

And, what was even better, I found several that were sold in little 90 gram jars – just small enough to make it through security at the airport (we were travelling with carry-on luggage only). I brought four of these little beauties home with me.

Sicilian pesto sauces

Anyway, returning to our dinner at Le Comari, we both rounded off the meal with a slice of chocolate pear cake, which was simply delicious.

Vegan chocolate pear cake at Le Comari Inn, Siracusa, Sicily

As for breakfast, we were staying in a studio apartment that we had booked through Airbnb, which meant that I had access to a working stove. Regular readers of this blog will know that this could mean only one thing – oatmeal! Shortly before our trip I had been unable to resist a sale on strawberries at my local supermarket, so I actually brought my own fruit with me this time. The strawberries travelled surprisingly well.

Strawberry Kiwi Oatmeal

Chocolate Strawberry Oatmeal

I was eager to experiment with local Sicilian flavours though, so when we got home I came up with a new recipe: Blood Orange, Almond and Wild Fennel Oatmeal!

Blood Orange, Almond and Wild Fennel Oatmeal

For those who would like to recreate this (assuming you can get hold of some wild fennel), here’s the recipe:

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 2 blood oranges (or 1 large one)
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • a few sprigs of wild fennel
  • pinch of salt


  1. Segment your oranges.
  2. Bring the milk to a boil, add oats, and reduce heat to medium.
  3. Stir in the segments from one orange and about half the fennel, saving the rest for topping.
  4. Once more of the liquid has absorbed, add almond extract and salt, stirring occasionally.
  5. Once the milk is fully absorbed and the oatmeal looks nice and fluffy, transfer to a bowl and top with remaining orange segments, fennel and sliced almonds.
  6. Eat!

Our second day in Sicily was basically a Sicilian street food tour. We started off at the market, which is best described in pictures rather than words.

DSC03670 DSC03675 Produce market in Siracusa, Sicily

I was going to say, “Check out the size of those lemons!”, but the interwebs tell me they’re not lemons at all. Rather, they are a citrus fruit called “citron” in English and “cedro” in Italian, and they’re used not for their pulp or juice but for their thick white rind. Sicily is just full of new discoveries!

Inside the market is a little shop called Caseificio Borderi that sells the most wonderful sandwiches, made fresh to order while you watch. I told the man behind the counter that I didn’t eat meat, fish, dairy or eggs, and without batting an eye he said “OK, leave it to me” and created the most delicious sandwich, then told me what a great pleasure it had been for him to make it.

And he meant it too. In Sicily I was impressed just as much by the sincere hospitality of the people as I was by the freshness and simplicity of the food. This sandwich, like so much else in Sicily, was made with love. Eat your heart out Subway; this is a true sandwich artist at work.

Sicilian sandwich artist

We ate our sandwiches a bit later in a little park while waiting for a bus, and it was then that I opened it up and analysed the ingredients, which included sun-dried tomatoes, capers, olives, mushrooms, lemon zest, mint and olive oil. In a word, perfection.

Vegan sandwich made with love in Sicily

From Siracusa we made a quick day trip to Noto – one of several towns in the area that were completely destroyed by a huge earthquake in 1693 and then rebuilt following the Baroque style that was in vogue at the time. While Noto is a very small, quiet town and can easily be covered in a couple of hours, its ornate palaces and churches might make you want to linger awhile.Vegan travel in Noto

DSC03748 Noto, Sicily

Most of these are concentrated along the main street, Corso Vittorio Emannuele, where you’ll also find Bar Gelateria Pinguino – the perfect place to enjoy a refreshing gelato while soaking up the views of the cathedral across the street.

Vegan gelato in Noto, Sicily

Just a little further along Corso Vittorio Emanuele and up to the right is Rosticceria Palermitana da Andrea.

Sicilian fast food

This is a simple local-style fast food restaurant with just a few tables, but what caught my eye was the sign advertising their panelle. This is a local specialty made from chickpea flour and is similar to the farinata found in Genova or the socca eaten on the streets of Nice in southern France. A basket of these little, fried rectangles is a steal at only two euros and makes a great snack for sharing.

Panelle makes a great vegan snack in Sicily

Another one of the Baroque towns in the area is called Modica and is particularly famous for its chocolate. We didn’t have time to visit during our short stay, but you don’t have to go all the way there to enjoy this local delicacy, as cioccolato di Modica is sold throughout the region.

I picked up a few bars in a shop called Fratelli Burgio, which was just next to Caseificio Borderi in the Siracusa market where we got the wonderful sandwiches. They had at least a dozen different flavours, and all the ones I looked at were vegan and were made with the simplest of ingredients. In fact, the ingredients list generally contained just three items: cacao, sugar and whatever else was used to provide the particular flavour of that bar (lemon zest, orange zest, star anise, etc.).

Chocolate from Modica, Sicily

Another great place to pick up local specialties as well as any staples you might need is a shop called Gusto, which markets itself as a “Gourmet Store”. This is where I bought three of the four little jars of pesto, and they also have a huge selection of organic fresh produce, non-dairy milks, and items that you would normally expect to find only in a health food store. I saw several types of vegan cookies and cereal bars here too, though they are not all clearly labelled as vegan, so check the ingredients list.

DSCN0838 Gusto Gourmet Store in Siracusa, Sicily

We were back in Siracusa for dinner, and this time it was Nick’s turn to choose the restaurant. He wanted to try somewhere with super-traditional Sicilian fare, so we ended up at a place in Ortygia called Osteria Mariano.

Vegan-friendly Osteria da Mariano

I was confident that I would be able to find something vegan on the menu, but when we arrived I was completely blown away by the number of naturally vegan dishes on offer. I think there more vegan choices here than at Le Comari, which is a vegetarian restaurant! I managed to narrow my choice down to two pasta dishes and then asked the server for his advice. Without hesitation he recommended the penne Monte Iblei , which was a plate of penne pasta served with a sauce of with mint, basil, parsley, pine nuts and fennel. Again, this was basically a pesto, even though it wasn’t described as such. And once again, it was delicious.

Vegan penne con pesto in Siracusa, Sicily

Nick had the pasta al capuliato, which looked tempting too.

Vegan pasta al capuliato

Ooh, and guess what? For sprinkling on top they gave us little bowls of…nope, not grated parmesan cheese. Breadcrumbs and crushed pistachios! How awesome is that?

Vegan pasta toppings in Siracusa, Sicily

Always keen to sample as much local produce as possible, I also ordered a side salad of Sicilian oranges and onion. These turned out to be the beautiful Tarocco blood oranges that we came across everywhere in Sicily. I would never have thought of combining oranges with onions, but it works!

Orange and onion salad, Siracusa, Sicily

Now, Sicily had already been reminding me a lot of Greece – the amazing vegan food, the warm yellow sunlight and clear blue sea, the friendliness of the people, etc. But when the waiter brought this out, I had to do a double take:

Free vegan dessert and Moscato wine at Osteria da Mariano

Complimentary dessert and liquor at the end of our meal. It was like we were back on Crete again! And to top it all off, these candied ginger pieces and nut brittle were egg-and-dairy-free (though the nut brittle might have contained honey). I had no idea what was in the bottle and was bracing myself for the burn of a locally-made firewater, but it was delicious and surprisingly sweet. The waiter said it was a muscat (moscato) wine, which in this case seemed to be a dessert wine. It was the perfect ending to a very memorable meal.

On our final day in Siracusa, we knew we wouldn’t have time for a sit-down lunch before heading to the airport. I was perfectly fine with that, though, because the day before I had seen a quick snack that I was just dying to try:

Arancini in Siracusa, Sicily

Arancini (whose name means little oranges) are the quintessential cibo da strada (street food) in Sicily. While they are often filled with a meat-based ragù sauce, an Italian friend had told me that vegan versions could also be found, so I had been keeping an eye out during our trip and had eventually happened upon this sign:

Menu with vegan arancini

Arancina, a little hole-in-the-wall establishment near the market in Ortygia, specializes in arancini and has at least 10 different varieties on offer every day, including two vegan ones! These are the “Italian Style” and the “Vegetariana”. Now, don’t be thrown off by the English translations, which still list “cheese” as an ingredient in both of these. In the Italian description, the word “formaggio” has been covered over by a sticker that reads “vegana”. Do you realize what this means? These two items used to be lacto-vegetarian, but the owner must have gotten enough requests from people who wanted vegan options that he decided to change the recipe. Woo hoo! I can’t say it too many times: don’t be shy about asking for what you want! The more demand we create for vegan food, the more of it there will be.

Now unfortunately, the very friendly man behind the counter accidentally mixed up my order, so I ended up with one “Italian Style” and one “Parmigiana” (which contains eggs and cheese). He offered to replace it, but I decided to go ahead and eat it, because (a) we had to get to the airport and really didn’t have time to wait, and (b) since I had already taken a bite out of it, sending it back would have meant throwing it away, which in my mind is worse than eating it. How you choose to deal with such situations if of course entirely up to you, but do be prepared for mistakes like this to happen on occasion. When they do, know that you’ve done your best and just move on. Despite this little hitch, I was still thrilled to find this place and have no hesitation in recommending it.

There was one other vegan street food vendor that I had passed by several times and was hoping to try before we left, but sadly it had not yet opened by the time we had to leave.

Vegan ice cream at Stecco Natura

Stecco Natura brings a new twist to the conventional Italian gelateria by serving ice pops on a stick. Noticing the sign advertising gluten-free and lactose-free ice cream, I had inquired about vegan flavours and the girl behind the counter had pointed to about 20 different ones. I didn’t get a chance to try them myself, but please leave a comment and let me know if you do! They get great reviews on Trip Advisor and seem to have locations in several cities around Sicily and beyond.

And let me just stop right there, because if I keep going on about all the wonderful vegan delicacies that I wanted to try in Sicily but didn’t have time for, then this blog post will go on forever. Suffice it to say that one weekend is definitely NOT long enough to sample everything Sicily has to offer, and I for one cannot wait to get back there. Who knows, I could even see myself living there one day.

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About Wendy Werneth

Intrepid traveler, vegan foodie and animal lover. I uncover vegan treasures all around the world, so you can be vegan anywhere and spread compassion everywhere.


  1. Thanks for your great tips for eating vegan in Sicily. I love the incredible, completely vegan restaurant that just opened last year in Ortigia called MOON: MOVE ORTIGIA OUT OF NORMALITY. I had the incredible opportunity to enjoy the wonderful food and atmosphere of MOON on a trip to share TriYoga in Ortigia and now I am enjoying a two month residency at MOON. As an ethical vegan, it is difficult for me to find restaurants where I feel comfortable eating and who cater to customer satisfaction. MOON is not only a fully, vegan restaurant, but offers whole-grain, organic, gluten-free and raw-vegan options, and the most incredible chocolate desserts I have ever eaten. The vegan chef, Enza is very accommodating if you have special requests. MOON is not only a unique, beautiful restaurant and bar, but a cultural center that hosts all varieties of artists, musicians and practitioners of holistic arts for people of all ages and for the welfare and benefit of All Sentient Beings. MOON also offers opportunities to travelers on a budget to work 5 hours a day 5 days a week in exchange for a room in a beautiful, shared apartment and meals at MOON.

    • Thanks for all the great info on MOON! It did look intriguing, and I was sorry I didn’t get a chance to check it out when I was there. I will be sure to head straight there the next time I’m in Siracusa!

    • Moons was fantastic, went to Siracusa this year and ate at Moons twice. I loved it so much that I asked to buy one of their unique T Shirts .

  2. I also had great food at MOON. The bruchetta were amazing, and pumpkin had just come into season so I had their pumpkin pistachio pasta. They cook seasonally there. We also had great food at La Taverna Giudecca who although they do serve meat, offer vegan and vegetarian samplers. Antonio, the owner, was fantastically accommodating and friendly. It’s a tiny place, and the food changes pretty much daily. They also have an extensive selection of Sicilian wines and beers. We thoroughly enjoyed the food.

  3. Hey Wendy, great post! Forgot to tell you in the email, you should have gone to Modica, Lenny’s family is from there, it is sooooo beautiful!!

    Stacie and Lenny

  4. Hi Wendy
    We met you and Nick on Stromboli. Just got back from Sicily, our last few days were spent in Syracuse and Noto. Love the blog and website and will share the link. Hope you had a fab time on the rest f your trip.

    • Hi Val!
      It was great meeting you on Stromboli. I hope you had a lovely time in Syracuse and Noto! We are still in Sicily, but on the other side of the island. Right now we’re in Trapani and are heading to Marsala tomorrow, then on to Malta.

  5. Osteria da Mariano
    Il posto migliore e unico per mangiare in Ortigia. Mariano apre il suo ristorante e il suo cuore. Egli fa sentire il suo ristorante come la vostra casa. Mariano se leggete queste recensioni, ci sono la coppia americana dalla Florida che ha visitato per un mese nel 2005, mentre facendo ricerca genealogia e mangiato ogni giorno nel vostro ristorante. Ci hai messo a lavorare per aiutare con il Lingua inglese clienti e di rispondere al telefono. Ho salvato i biglietti per pagare la scheda. Sei sempre nel mio cuore. Grazie per farci sentire come se fossimo a casa. Linda e Bill

  6. Hello Wendy

    Your information on vegan cuisine Ortigia and Siracusa is out of date and invalid. I have been living in Ortigia, Siracusa, Sicily, since 2018.

    I have been vegan since 1989 (I founded Vegans In South Africa – V.I.S.A.). I doubt very much that Arancina actually sells vegan arancini – he does not keep the utensils separate from animal preparation products, and is coompletely unable to explain what he uses to make the stock. and how he fries it – in the same oil as the animal ingredient arancini, etc.

    Vegan DOES NOT MEAN JUST WHAT THE FILLINGS ARE, but the whole process from start to finish. See the Vegan Society *UK) information sheet for Caterers that stipulates criteria.

    As far as your review of the sandwich shop in the Ortigia market goes – they uses the same cutting boards and knives for animal and so-called vegan sandwiches. I have asked repeatedly that they make me a vegan sandwich and they refuse, saying, “non é possible” (not possible!)

    BTW, wonderful vegan ice creams are available in Siracusa from Voglia Matta in Corso Umberto I, as well as from Bel Fiore in Via Luigi Greco Cassia.

    The best wood oven fired pizza that you can get in Ortigia that is vegan is from the restaurant Castello Fiorentina in Via del Crocifisso 6. I buy the (huge) Russa (a delicious rich tomato base with garlic and oregano) for only 4 euros and get artichoke as a topping which brings the total to 5 euros.

    I never order in (expensive and lousy service) but take away. The artichoke portions are extremely generous, and the pizza is great, and really filling.

    • Hi Gail,

      Thanks for your updated information about vegan food in Ortigia. I wrote this article more than five years ago, so I have no doubt that more vegan options have popped up since then. I appreciate you pointing some of those out, such as the ice cream at Voglia Matta and the pizza at Castello Fiorentina.

      We do seem to have differing views about what is and isn’t vegan. I personally have no problems with eating food that has been prepared on the same surface or with the same utensils as non-vegan food. On the contrary, I feel strongly that making such demands of non-vegan establishments will only discourage them from attempting to offer vegan options.

      The reason I am vegan is to avoid contributing to unnecessary suffering as much as possible. My sandwich touching a surface that was previously touched by animal flesh does not make that animal’s suffering any greater, so I would have no qualms with eating that sandwich. And by showing non-vegan establishments that there is a demand for vegan options, I hope to encourage them to increase the number of vegan options they offer, thereby reducing the suffering of animals. In any case, I’m glad that you have found options in Oritiga that meet your requirements.

      • There is NO DEBATE about what veganism is. Definition of veganism: “…one thing all vegans have in common is a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat (including fish, shellfish and insects), dairy, eggs and honey – as well as avoiding animal-derived materials, products tested on animals and places that use animals for entertainment.”

        Risotto for arancini is traditionally prepared by frying onions and the rice in butter (ANIMAL CRUELTY!), then adding stock: usually chicken, beef or veal (ANIMAL CRUELTY!), then finishing the cooked risotto with butter and parmesan cheese (ANIMAL CRUELTY!). This cooked risotto is the main ingredient for making arancini. The fact that he will not tell me what ingredients he uses to make the risotto, or whether he uses the same vat and the same oil to fry the ‘vegan-filled’ arancini as the traditional mozzarella- or meat-filled arancini, speaks volumes about the dishonesty of his claim to offer vegan arancini.

        There is no sense in the 21st century in mollycoddling restaurants that are non-vegan and meekly accepting whatever they feel will be a Band Aid plaster or sop to vegans by offering one or two dishes. The strong moral feelings of ethical vegans with their demands for vegan dishes, has resulted in many hundreds of vegan restaurants opening world wide. THIS is the reason that has spurred non-vegan restaurants to make an attempt to offer vegan dishes, because they know they are losing custom, and consequently, profits. Money is the sole motivating factor for non-vegan restaurants to offer vegan dishes.

        As an ethical vegan, there is no way that I would drink alcoholic beverages that have been refined with animal ingredients or eat a so-called ‘vegan’ sandwich that has been prepared with utensils (chopping board, knife, pans, spoons, etc.) and processes ( e.g. separate food washing and dishwashing facilities and drying cloths) that have been used seconds before, without cleaning, to prepare meat, fish, poultry, dairy or eggs.

        Also from a food hygiene standard, meat, fish, poultry, dairy and eggs have contaminants which can be transferred to vegan foods: Salmonella, E. Coli, Listeria Monocytogenes, Campylobacter Jejuni and Staphylococcus Aureus. Having to treat infected people as a result would usually mean them taking medicines which have been tested on laboratory animals (ANIMAL CRUELTY).

        Although you say you would be happy to eat a ‘vegan’ sandwich which contains traces of blood, flesh or fats from animal ingredients (because the Ortigia Market sandwich maker uses the same unwashed utensils with animal ingredients, as I have watched him do repeatedly), then I am afraid you cannot claim the resulting sandwich is actually vegan. It would be hardly onerous for a separate set of equipment to be kept solely for preparing non-animal ingredients.

  7. Amazing page Wendy , we followed a lot of your recommendations and had a great time in Siracusa.
    We had the chance to try MOON … it is heaven on earth !
    i struggled to have Tempeh / Tofu / Soy or Seitan in Sicily but this place has it all, with vegan italian Cheese and an array of special cocktails.
    The decoration and the staff are both a delight. You immediately feel welcome and at home.
    They also have a beautiful cat that spends a lot of its time on the indoors couch.
    This place is a must try for all people in siracusa, vegans or not. A real delight 😀
    Hope you get to experience it on your next visit.
    Thanks again for all the advice 🙂

    • Hi Geoffrey,

      Thank you for taking the time to write in and give this update. I’m so glad to hear that you had a great time in Siracusa and that my recommendations were helpful to you! I’ve heard from several people who have raved about how wonderful MOON is, so I will absolutely visit the next time I’m in Siracusa. It does sound fantastic!

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