What to see in Catania (Sicily)? Good itinerary!
Pop! Once you step off the plane, the Italian language instantly pulls you into the maelstrom of life and eternal summer. Vivid, fierce, emotional. Loudness, variety, richness of tones. In another country the main sound might be the singing of birds, the noise of trees or a metropolis, but here it is language. Away with the northern slowness and primness, we are in the south! Come on, have fun and wave your arms – whether you want it or not – you’re here, in Italy!
Nearby – an active volcano, in memory – the legends of the Sicilian Mafia, in the streets – almost Mumbai soup of people and cars. And contrary to common sense, and want to dive deeper into the cauldron: a smile on the cute salesman from the bakery, take pictures with macho policeman, indulge tongue fluffy luxurious sweets!
Let’s go deep! In the meantime, I’ll tell you in plain language what to do and see in Catania, and of course there will be sightseeing sites and places that few people know about
Introduction to Catania
It’s quite possible to stay in Catania for a few days (I spent a week here, but 2-3 days would be fine).
And in general, the ideal way to see more is to rent a car – you should see the huge lines at the rental offices at the airport! (if anything, I always compare car prices through this service ).
A handy tourist information center where you can get a free, explanatory map with directions is next to the main square at Via Vittorio Emanuele II 172 and Via Etnea 63. But if anything – I posted a photo of the main part of this map below in the article.
Read a separate article about the ascent of volcano Etna. And it is definitely worth a trip there!
As a rule almost all the institutions, including restaurants, are closed for a siesta from 13 to 15.00.
The public transport ticket costs 1 euro, there’s even a metro, but we walked everywhere and saw everything we needed.
Almost the entire city was destroyed after a terrible earthquake in the 17th century.
There are good tours of Catania for Russian speakers:
Main Square Duomo
And in the center – a black elephant! Not just any elephant, but with an Egyptian obelisk on his back Made of black basalt and designed to protect Catania from new volcanic eruptions.
It is not entirely clear where this particular elephant came from and if there were actually elephants in Sicily at all.
But now any traveler can sit at the foot of the statue and enjoy a beautiful evening in Catania.
By the way, on the square is a delicious and surprisingly inexpensive pastry shop Prestipino – two desserts, espresso and cappuccino cost us only 8 euros if you sit inside and 10 euros if you sit outside.
St. Agatha’s Cathedral and Cathedral
Agatha is the patron saint of lovers. Both temples are good, but there is one difference – in the Cathedral of St. Agatha you can go up to the terrace and to one of the halls for 1 euro, but the view from there, frankly, is not very good at all.
The observation deck in the Cathedral is much higher and has two levels – the terrace and the base of the dome itself. It costs 3 euros to go up there and it is worth doing.
This is it! This is the main local attraction, something worth coming to Catania for!
Giant swordfish heads, some completely flat fish, huge octopuses, whole squids, salmon of incredible size… Everything is the freshest, juiciest and at absolutely ridiculous prices!
And what colorful sellers!
Being in Catania, you can’t stay in a hotel – only in apartments with a kitchen .
We bought 3 big squids for 4 euros, a big salmon for 3 euros, some strange but tasty fish for 4 euros, we cleaned it, fried it on a skillet, ate it for a couple of days and it was so good that we envied each other The market is open at 8 o’clock!
The market is open from 8 am to 1 pm, closed on Sundays.
During the terrible earthquake of the 17th century the fortress was not damaged (they were able to build it in the Middle Ages!), but one third of it was buried under volcanic rock.
Nevertheless, the castle still makes quite an impressive impression and beckons to go inside. Well, it is worth giving in to the idea, especially since there you can breathe a little in the cool.
Now inside the castle is the city museum, with archaeological finds, paintings and sculptures. The exhibition can be seen in about an hour and a half.
Ticket price: 10 euros Opening hours: 9-19.00 Address: Piazza Federico di Svevia 3
Read more: What to see in 1 or 2 days and what to be afraid of? Bergamo: what to see in 1 day? What to see in Milan in 1 day?
Teatro Massimo Bellini
An architecturally interesting building. Experts say that the theater hall has one of the best acoustics in the world.
To see the interior, you can buy tickets and get to the show (20-100 euros per ticket) or ask for a tour – after returning home on one website I read that such tours are held on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays (price 5 euros), and on another – that for 5 euros from 10.00 to 13.00 you can just get inside from Tuesday to Saturday.
But on the official site I found no confirmation of either. If you know it, please write in comments.
Address: Via Giuseppe Perrotta 12
At the slightest opportunity in a trip I try to go to the university – I anticipate the old buildings and the special atmosphere. Catania did not let me down!
The fact that some universities are located in buildings belonging to the Bernardine monastery, and this means a different aesthetic. For example, the University of Catania (University of Catania Department of Humanities on Piazza Dante Alighieri, 24 ) is also compared to Hogwarts because of the round windows, vaulted ceilings and atypical lecture rooms, which resemble cells.
Admission here is absolutely free, and it’s definitely worth checking out the inner courtyard. There is no room for photos at all!
Another interesting building is the University of Catania – Department of Law in Via Gallo, 24 – where instead of chairs in the halls there are trunks, and students prepare for the lectures right on the terrace.
A cozy urban garden with terraces, fountain, flowerbeds, playground, gazebos and everything you need to take a little break in the shade of the trees. An oasis of calm in a cauldron of Sicilian passion. But be warned – you might not want to leave here at all
Admission here is free, and the gates, if they do close, are only for the night.
A modest but quite nice facility, especially if you like plants and taking pictures for instagram The small area has several greenhouses with cacti and outlandish plants, a greenhouse with exotic fauna, a few beds and a couple of paths.
The whole time we were in this garden, I had the feeling that I was inside some kind of scenery, but the static nature of it only adds to the zest.
A walk in the evening
Catania’s main shopping street, Via Etnea, is a realm of wide sidewalks, bright window displays, and bustling people. Most of the usual mass-market merchandise is sold here, but if you tune in first and foremost for a stroll along the broad avenue rather than shopping, you won’t be disappointed.
A place worth a visit after 8 p.m. is Piazza Vincenzo Bellini, from which you can walk along the lanes to Piazza Goliarda Sapienza.
Here, amongst the partially ruined buildings, the San Berillo District was created and frankly, it’s one of the best art districts I’ve seen in my life.
It’s not a deliberate ruin, a simple handmade, or an overworked loft style. Thanks to the lighting, music, and well-designed layout, it feels more like a variation on the Alice in Wonderland theme.
How to get from the airport to Catania
Nothing could be simpler! From the airport every 20 minutes there is a special bus called Alibus. The ticket price is 4€ and you can buy it from the driver. The ticket is valid for 90 minutes and you can ride it afterwards on any other city bus, if needed.
If there are a lot of you or you’re traveling with small children, you can order a Kiwi-transfer. This is especially useful if you want to go directly to another city, such as Palermo or Syracuse. Such a trip will cost 40-50 euros, which is comparable to the price of the train for 3-4 people.
Where to live in Catania
Choosing now, I would try to settle as close as possible to the main Duomo Square, to be in the maximum beauty. But in any case, the center is not very big, and everything is close.
For a family I would choose an apartment with a Bucking rating of 9.0 Sicily Wonderful Piazza Universita’ (if by some miracle it happens to be available).
And overall, I’ve been to Hotel Manganelli Palace – it’s surprisingly inexpensive and oooh very colorful! I recommend it.
If you want to rent an accommodation through AirBnb – here’s a discount for the first booking from me.
For the mood
…On the last night we went to the square with the elephant again. This time there was something else on it. A short girl sat on a speaker, pulled out her guitar and microphone and… goosebumps ran down my skin. She sang with her soul. Her strong and passionate voice told stories, one after another, and I stood there, clinging to my seat and unable to tear myself away. There were no people, the noise was gone… It was as if Catania itself – the square and these walls – were singing to me.
“I fed you, I fed you, I gave you sweets and wine, I gave you shelter, I showed you the sea and the volcano, I stroked the wind on your head. I make noise, I gesticulate, I don’t care what you think of my shabby buildings, and yes, I am what I am – sincere and open.”
Thank you, Catania, for a wonderful vacation and your contrasts! I’m going home!
And for you, for a starter, my chatty live stream where I’m answering questions from my instagram followers (mine is ochkarik_travel – come on in!) on a hot streak.
Dabbling on the following questions: 1. How was climbing volcano Etna? 2. English and Sicilians 3. Sicilians and gesticulation 4. The sea in Catania 5. Romantic places 6. So is there a mafia .
15 sights of Italian Catania that are definitely worth seeing
Today we will talk about the small Sicilian city of Catania. The sights of this town are sure to attract the attention of lovers of picturesque ancient architecture and fans of antiquity. So let’s get started.
During the Renaissance period Catania was considered one of the most influential cities of the country and was widely known for its rich culture, art and history. The city has managed to preserve a large part of this rich heritage so that today everyone can admire its amazing buildings and museums, among which are the Basilica of Sant’Agata and the city’s museum building.
Furthermore this charming Sicilian town is opposite the legendary volcano Etna so you can always book an interesting tour or excursion in the surrounding area.
St. Agatha’s Cathedral
St. Agatha’s Cathedral.
The cathedral of Catania is a majestic structure belonging to the Norman and Baroque style of architecture.
The cathedral stands in the center of the old city in Piazza del Duomo, in close proximity to many other attractions of Catania.
Piazza del Duomo was built in 1078 on the site of ancient Roman baths. The cathedral was rebuilt many times because of earthquakes that often took the region by surprise. The gray stone facade of the building is decorated with decorative statues of saints, and there is a massive dome on the east side of the structure.
Inside, you will find many interesting details: amazing frescoes on the main altar, decorative murals and paintings, as well as the tomb of the famous composer Bellini.
Address: Basilica Cattedrale Sant’Agata V. M., Via Vittorio Emanuele II, Catania, Italy.
Castle Ursino. | Photo: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo / Flickr.
In Sicily you can find several interesting castles, which serve as reminders of the periods of conquest, when the island passed from one ruler to another.
The castle of Ursino was built in the XII century by Emperor Frederick II, then king of the kingdom of Sicily. It is still in remarkable condition – all its four towers and walls are intact and have no visible damage. Moreover, next to the castle you will find the remains of the old outer walls.
You can take picturesque selfies and take walks around the castle and afterwards you should definitely visit the city museum, which is located right inside the castle.
Address: Castello Ursino, Piazza Federico di Svevia, Catania, Italy.
Catania is actually in the shadow of the huge Mount Etna and this active stratovolcano is one of the main tourist attractions in Sicily.
Etna is 3329 meters high and is currently the highest active volcano in Europe. The last eruption occurred in 2015, when the volcano even spewed lava.
When you come to Catania, you can’t deny yourself the pleasure of climbing Mount Etna and seeing its gaping caldera with your own eyes.
Various tour operators offer a variety of day trips to the volcano: you can go there on foot, ride a bike or even rent a quad bike or jeep. The choice is up to you.
When the weather is clear, the view from Mount Etna of Sicily and its scenery is incredible.
Address: Mount Etna, Adrano, Catania, Italy.
Benedictine Monastery.| Photo: Tauralbus / Flickr.
The Benedictine monastery is located in the center of Catania and is one of the most important and largest structures of its kind in all of Europe. Not surprisingly, this stunning monument of architecture, built in 1558, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The complex is an interesting structure that combines many different styles: you won’t be hard to see the difference in design between the marble cloister, the Red Hall and the Basilica of San Nicola.
Try climbing to the top of the monastery’s dome, for from here you can enjoy a splendid panoramic view of the city. Be sure to pay attention to the facade of the building with its windows decorated with decorative stucco, and stroll through the cloisters to take pictures of their picturesque arches and fountains.
Address: Monastero dei Benedettini di San Nicolò L’ Arena, Piazza Dante Alighieri, Catania, Italy.
Piazza del Duomo
Piazza del Duomo. | Photo: Richard / Flickr.
As the main square of Catania, Piazza del Duomo has a lot to offer tourists.
The square is located in the heart of the city, close to the port area, so it is a very popular meeting place for locals and many tourists. You can always ask locals what to see in Catania if you want to.
In the center of the square there is an impressive sized fountain “Elephant”, not far from it – the fountain “Amnano”, the Cathedral of Catania and the Elephant Palace. All of these are definitely worth your attention.
Also, here you can always relax and have a bite to eat in one of the many sidewalk cafes with a wonderful view of the square.
Piazza del Duomo is an excellent starting point for walking tours of Catania, as most of the key sights of the city can be easily reached on foot.
Address: Piazza Duomo, Piazza Duomo, Catania, Italy.
The Catania City Museum, located in the grounds of the Ursino Castle, has collected for its visitors many ancient relics and artifacts that tell the history of the city and the region.
The museum houses a vast collection of items that were originally housed in the Museo Biscari and were once considered one of the most valuable in Europe.
The collection features a wide variety of items, including Hellenistic and Roman sculptures, porcelain, ceramics, mosaics, ancient weapons and other finds from the island.
In addition, on the second floor of the museum you can see a collection of paintings of the XV-XVIII centuries.
Address: Museo Civico al Castello Ursino, Piazza Federico di Svevia, Catania, Catania, Italy.
San Nicolo L’Arena
San Nicolo L’Arena.| Photo: Allie_Caulfield / Flickr.
The church of San Nicolo L’Arena, located behind the monastery of St. Nicholas, was built on the site of a Greek acropolis – there are even several ancient columns on the front façade.
In fact, it is the largest church in Sicily and also one of the most intricate in terms of design – its façade was never finished, so the building looks rather strange and ominous. The ancient Greek columns in no way complement the church’s exterior, so its overall style is nothing short of “ridiculous. Inside, everything is more harmonious: plenty of austere columns, arches and classic moldings.
Address: Chiesa di San Nicolò arena, Piazza Dante Alighieri, Catania, Italy.
There are several Roman theaters in Sicily. They are all in excellent condition and the theater in Catania, built as early as the second century A.D., is no exception.
The theater is conveniently located between the Benedictine monastery and the cathedral and is a must visit while exploring the historic center of the city.
A small annex, the odeon, adjoins the main building on the west side. The grandstands and several other sections of the theater are actually made of lava taken from Mount Etna. This structure is still in excellent condition.
Address: Teatro Romano, Via Vittorio Emanuele II, Catania, Italy.
Giuseppe Garibaldi’s Gateway Arc of Triumph
Giuseppe Garibaldi’s Triumphal Arch.
This monumental gate, which many call one of the most striking structures in Catania, was built in 1768 in honor of King Ferdinand IV and his wife Maria Carolina.
The arch, designed and built by Francesco Bataglia and Stefano Ittar, now bears the name of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the man who played a crucial role in the unification of Italy in the 19th century.
The gate is made of black and white stone, which form a characteristic striking contrast. At the top you can see stone and marble statues, proudly towering above the arch. This grandeur is crowned by a huge clock and a coat of arms with an eagle.
Address: Porta Ferdinandea, Piazza Palestro, Catania, Italy.
Villa Bellini Park and Park of the Masters
Park “Villa Bellini”.
The Park “Villa Bellini” and the Park of Masters are located in the center of the city, west of Piazza Carlo Alberto. They are wonderful places to relax and be at one with nature.
In the eastern part of the park are the Bellini Gardens with picturesque fountains, flowerbeds and cozy gazebos set among many exotic trees and plants.
In the Park of the Masters you will have the opportunity to stroll along quiet walking paths surrounded by a picturesque forest.
Address: Giardino Bellini, Via Etnea, Catania, Italy.
Achi Castello. Photo: Alessandro Grussu / Flicr.
If you drive about 10 miles north of Catania along the coast, you will come to a charming village called Achi Castello. This village was formed around a castle built in 1076 during the Norman conquests of Sicily.
The castle is the main attraction of the place. It sits on a rock near the village and faces the sea.
The castle is an iconic place for this part of Sicily. You can freely explore its grounds and climb to the top of the castle walls from where you have a fantastic view of the sea and surroundings.
Address: Aci Castello, Catania, Italy.
Botanical Garden. | Photo: Life Pilgrim / Flickr.
The Botanical Garden of Catania is located on the university campus in close proximity to Bellini Park in the center of the old town.
If you are looking for a place where you can take a quiet walk, expand your knowledge of botany and just admire nature, this is definitely the place for you! The botanical garden has a fantastic collection of trees, shrubs, and exotic plant species from around the world.
The gardens are well organized, so it is a pleasure to walk around at any time of the day or night.
Address: Orto Botanico di Catania, Via Etnea, Catania, Italy.
San Giovanni Li Couti
San Giovanni Li Couti.
This beach is a true natural phenomenon, because its shore is strewn with volcanic sand and ash. San Giovanni Li Couti is located on the eastern coast of Sicily, not far from Via Zoccolanti. It’s a great place to relax and take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
At the north end of the beach there is a small harbor with a lot of old wooden fishing boats, which still serve the locals faithfully. Behind the harbor you can find several cozy bars and restaurants.
On the beach there are sections with wooden decking with sun loungers so you can relax, breathe the sea air and enjoy the beauty of the volcanic beach.
Address: Via San Giovanni Li Cuti, Catania, Catania, Italy.
Beach Lido Azzurro
Beach Lido Azzurro.
Lido Azzurro is the longest beach in Catania. This is a great place for those who want to bask in the sun and have fun.
It is a fantastic beach about 15 minutes south of Catania, close to the port and the harbor.
A beautiful golden spit of soft sand stretches for many kilometers ahead, and the warm Mediterranean Sea gently hugs the gentle shore.
There are plenty of sun loungers and umbrellas on the beach, so you can always lie down, have a cocktail and appreciate the glorious weather of this region.
There is also a separate children’s play area with slides and descents, as well as several beach bars and stores where you can get some snacks or popular products.
Address: Lido Azzurro, Litoranea Kennedy, Catania, Italy.
Via dei Crociferi
Via dei Crociferi.
This magnificent street stretches between the Roman theater and the Park “Villa Bellini” and is one of the main arteries of the city.
In addition to many wonderful historic buildings, the Via dei Crociferi has four pretty churches – the Church of St. Francesco Borgia, the Church of San Benedetto, the Church of St. Francis of Assisi and the Church of San Giuliano.
Each building has its own unique design and architectural “zest”. In addition, you can also see the arch of San Benedetto and the old Jesuit monastery. It makes sense to combine a visit to this street with a trip to the Roman theater.