What to visit in Catania?
Updated: May 31
At the foot of the volcano Etna stands an ancient city that will be the next stop on our journey. Historic, dynamic, and sunny, it enchants its visitors with the charm of a Greek city surrounded by the sea. Each street has a history of settlements, symbols, and traces left behind over time, legends and mysteries handed down that will surely enrich your visit. Located on the coast washed by the Ionian Sea, this city is definitely for those who love to visit museums and archaeological sites, like to relax on the sea and beaches and explore the surrounding villages. Let’s go parrots!
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What not to miss?
Catania's historic center and the port area are what make this city so fascinating. Let's see its cardinal places together. As well as the center of Catania, we also recommend a visit to the surrounding area: an essential stop is the two seaside resorts popular with tourists and locals alike, namely Aci Castello and Aci Trezza, where the turquoise waters, the imposing Norman castle overhanging the rocks in the former and the seafront promenade in the latter, are the main attractions.
The Piazza Duomo is certainly the priceless jewel of the city, well known for its Baroque church, the Cathedral of Sant'Agata, but above all stands the symbol of the city: the Elephant Fountain. The elephant seems to represent protection against the eruptions of Etna. There are so many legends passed down about the creation of this monument to an almost unusual animal in Catania that it also seems to have a name, namely Liotru, also close to the square are the Achillian thermae, an underground thermal structure of Roman Catania.
Tips for you: In the confines of the square, you will notice another fountain (Amenano Fountain) with steps at the side. As you go down you will hear a great hubbub, this is the Pescaria, a famous and large fish market. Among the market stalls, the shouts of the fishermen looking for customers, you'll find an infinite number of restaurants where you can enjoy the city's typical dishes and street food.
Jewel of the Sicilian late baroque period with east and west cloisters characterized by an interior garden (Giardino dei Novizi) and the Monumental Staircase, made of marble and enriched by statues. This monastery seems to be the largest in Europe, today it’s the seat of the University of Catania. So, the complex can be visited but from Monday to Saturday they host university lectures. There are also night tours and treasure hunts for children. The guided tour will tell you the history of the palace that had to face the lava flows of Etna.
It is undoubtedly the most precious street in the historical center of the city of Etna. About 3 km long, it crosses rich squares and is the one that reflects an active and young Catania thanks to numerous historical bars, designer boutiques, open-air terraces but above all in the distance you can see Mount Etna, which at sunset its fiery red color will give you a fantastic view. If you have a moment to rest, we recommend a tour of Villa Bellini, a boast as it represents the oldest of the city's parks with a baroque style, rich in water features, labyrinthine hedges, and sculptures.
What else to visit?
Situated in Piazza Federico II di Svevia, the ursine castle is an imposing construction, which was the home of kings but also a prison, today it is a museum worth visiting. Certainly, this place is surrounded by many tales that continue to be handed down in popular tradition. Many graffiti on doors and windows conceal mysteries. Located in the historic center, it now represents the history and culture of the city by housing medieval, renaissance, and modern sections.
Catania being close to the volcano Etna, attracts many tourists per year wanting to visit/hike in the volcano. If you are one of these amateurs, a funicular will help you in your ascent of the volcano. You can book a guided hike on the volcano too.
Via Dei Crociferi
Considered the emblem of baroque in Catania, housing fascinating churches and many legends such as that of the headless horse, which is why no one ventured there after a certain hour. Traditions aside, this is a stop you absolutely must make because it is an open-air Baroque Museum with churches such as the Church of San Benedetto, the Church of San Francesco Borgia, and the Villa Cerami, which closes the promenade on this street.
Roman amphitheater and Roman theatre
In front of the Church of San Biagio in Sant'Agata alla Fornace, you can admire a historical gem of the city that stands only partly in the center of the city (Piazza Stesicoro). Built with lava stone, according to scholars structurally it is a very complex amphitheater, which falls within the level of the Colosseum, telling the story of Catania at the time of the Roman conquest. Similarly, the Roman theatre was built in the 2nd century on a pre-existing Greek theatre and located in Via Vittorio Emanuele. That is why it is also called Greek theatre. It also borders a smaller theatre called Odeon.
How to travel there?
Catania hosts a very functional airport called Catania-Fontanarossa airport 'Vincenzo Bellini' which is 10 minutes from the city center. We recommend booking your bus ticket online on Alibus that will take you to the city center. So, whatever your area of departure, you can land at this airport. In addition, to visit neighboring locations we recommend that you travel by bus by checking available timetables or otherwise hire a car.
The central station (Stazione Centrale Catania) is also 10 minutes away from the center where you can easily walk to, for example, it is 1 km away from the Piazza Duomo. Moreover, it is also the bus terminal, allowing for multiple connections or alternatives.
How many expenses can you expect for your trip to Catania?
You should plan to spend around 90 € per day on your vacation there, depending on your preferences.
Concerning the prices of accommodation, you can expect to spend around 20-30€ for a shared room in a hostel, 40€ for a private room while for a luxury hotel in the center or on the seafront about 150 euro. Obviously, the most expensive period is definitely the high season, where hotels are usually full, especially during July and August.
Catania is easily accessible without using buses, but if you want to take the bus to get to other places the cost is 1,00 €. Moreover, it is served by the metro which operates within the city connecting the historical center and the cost of a daily ticket is 2,00€.
Regarding food and drink prices, the average price of a meal is not very expensive. In general, it is around 11 euros depending on the courses, while the mid-range restaurant is around 50 EUR for two people. Specifically, you can expect around 15-20€ per person.
When to travel there?
The ideal time to visit Catania is between March and May as the city is pleasantly warm. Obviously, if you're planning a trip full of diving and swimming June and July are perfect for you. We warn you that August is very hot indeed if your aim is also to visit the city, consider the period. Even at night, the weather is scorching!
What to eat?
Pasta Alla norma
Mediterranean flavors and ingredients mingle in this pasta recipe with n tomato and the subsequent addition of fried aubergines, salted ricotta, and basil. This dish officially originated in Catania and its name seems to derive from an exclamation: "Chista è 'na vera Norma!" meaning "this is really a Norma" (famous opera by composer Vincenzo Bellini).
Be careful not to call it the feminine (Arancina) because that's what it's called on the other side of Sicily, in the Palermo area. Obviously, we are joking, but it seems to be a funny dispute over how to call this Sicilian specialty. The Arancini are round or cone-shaped rice timbales, filled with meat and tomato sauce with peas and caciocavallo cheese, breaded and then fried. Usually eaten as an appetizer with other fried foods, they are actually quite plentiful! If you want to taste the original one, we recommend Pasticceria Savia with the best Arancino of Catania. It is located on Via Etnea and you will recognize it by its line outside!
Another specialty of Catania is Brioche con tuppo and granita, which we recommend you eat at Prestipino bar. If you want to be a true Catanese, strictly pistachio and almond-flavored granita.
Finally, the horse meat, which we recommend eating at the trattoria Achille, although many other trattorias have this specialty on the menu.
To discover more typical food from there, read our article about the typical food in Sicily!
Feast of Sant’ Agata (5th of February and 17th of August)
The most important festival in Catania celebrates the day of the patron saint. A procession winds through the streets of the center of Catania with the traditional parade of “candelore”, huge candles covered with handmade decorations, golden wooden cherubs, saints, and flowers. The city is transformed into a huge event with many traditions. Moreover, some sweets are prepared for the occasion, such as “Cassateddi di Sant'Aita” and Olivette.
Catania book festival (May)
The city becomes a cultural center of sharing with a few days dedicated to this event where the main character is reading. The program is full of guests with main and current topics in the creation of collective debate with workshops, panels, and more.
Etna comics (June)
Famous international comics and culture festival with guests, authors, game publishers, associations with activities, interactive board games, and lots of entertainment.
Sagra del Pistacchio di Bronte (September)
Bronte green pistachio is a variety of pistachio, one of Sicily's excellent products and its taste tends to be very sweet. During the event, guided tours of Bronte's historical centre, exhibitions, conferences, shows and other side events are organized, all with a common denominator: the exquisite green fruit. Pistachio is the main ingredient in many delicious dishes are prepared with it such as homemade ice cream, pistachio cake, pistachio pesto, oil, pistachio filetta which is the traditional Brontese dessert.
Now that this guide about Catania is over, we hope you found what you wanted! Don't hesitate to discover more of our articles! You can read what to visit in Palermo which is also in Sicilia, or visiting Cagliari which is also situated on an island, or also visiting Cinque Terre which is a really beautiful place in the North West of Italy. Follow us on Instagram @thewalkingparrot to be alerted about the next articles coming!