Catania is a city located on the eastern coast of Sicily at the foot of Mount Etna, the biggest volcano in Europe. It is the second largest city in Sicily with the metropolitan area reaching one million inhabitants, a major transport hub, economic centre and a university city where you will enjoy a busy downtown and an active nightlife. Catania is also well known for its particular baroque architecture and urban design (the downtown area is a World Heritage Site, along with all the Val di Noto), consequences of the great earthquake of 1693 after which the city had to be rebuilt, like most of eastern Sicily.
The city has a history dating back 2700 years, dominated by several different cultures (Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spanish, etc.) and was a rich commercial centre, mainly due to its port. Again, since the 70's, the city economy is growing as the urban area and the suburbs, making Catania a large metropolitan centre, mainly between the volcano and the sea. Today, even if you can find there most of the biggest commercial centers in Europe (especially Etnapolis); the old 17th century downtown area is still the center of the day-to-day life.
Catania is situated under the biggest active volcano in Europe and has been destroyed many times in the past. As a result, Catania is a city where you can find a great variety of landscape and architecture, a lot of dirty buildings and also a lot of abandoned houses, especially in the mountains. However, since the city is a World Heritage Site, a lot of renovations have been made.
Today, you will feel in Catania a mix of nostalgia and "joie de vivre", especially at night or during festivals.
The major feature of this city is its architecture, which is predominantly baroque.
The major characteristic of Baroque architectural is its theatricality. This style dominated Europe in the 17th century as a result of the reformation/counter-reformation where the statement given was one of grandeur. The preceding style was Renaissance, while the succeeding was Neoclassicism. The three major features are a near excessive amount of detail (statues, lots of gold, columns and pilasters, garlands and wreaths etc), facades which are taller than the nave (to fool the viewer about the size) and frescoes often featuring trompe-l'œil.
Baroque from Catania has several unique features such as use of dark lava stone (basalt), the Bell in the facade itself and grotesque masks and putti.
Every morning, except Sundays, two fascinating markets are held:
- a large fish market in a beautiful setting off Piazza del Duomo
- a bustling food and clothes market off Via Etnea
Mount Etna, which has reshaped the city several times
The kiosks which act as social area for the locals by selling refreshments, such as coffee, Lemoncello or popular unique drinks such as "seltz al limone" (soda water with fresh-squeezed lemon juice) or "mandarino al limone" (soda water with tangerine syrup AND fresh-squeezed lemon juice).
The Elephant Fountain, from the 17th century, in Piazza Duomo
La Plaja, sandy beaches south of the city along the bay.
The Riviera dei Ciclopi, a rocky, volcano coast north of the city, stretching almost to Taormina
Sicilian used to be the common language here for centuries, as the Sicilian culture is isolated on an island. Even in Catania, you will notice Italian and Sicilian (like Palermo, Catania has its own dialect) in some neighborhoods, especially in inner areas, while most people speak mainly Italian in the city center.
Frequent trains run up the east coast to and from Taormina (but the station in Taormina is a long walk below the town, at Giardini Naxos better to take the Bus) and Messina, then on to Naples and Rome etc. Trains also run to Enna, Palermo (slower than the buses) and Syracuse. A scenic route runs inland to Caltagirone and Gela. There is one daily train to Agrigento. The railway station is 10 minutes walk from the city centre.
Several Ferries run from mainland Italy to Catania. There is an overnight car ferry that runs daily between Naples and Catania as well as ones from Genova and Civitavecchia. One can also get a ferry to/from Valletta, Malta.
Catania has a compact centre and it is most convenient just to walk around. Travelling by public transport may be quite problematic, (watch out for your wallet too), due to the long waiting times for buses (even more than 1 hour). The city also boasts a very short metro line, which is still under construction; it runs from the Port (Porto station) to the Circumetnea train station (Borgo station), from where you can reach villages on the slopes of Mount Etna.
When driving around in a rented car, you may have to put up with heavy, slow, messy, unruly traffic jams. Be careful not to look conspicuously touristy, exposing jewelry, large bags or photo gear that might entice fast pickpockets or robbers.
If you want to get along the coast (Acicastello, Acitrezza, Acireale), you better drive or call for a taxi (they are several at Piazza Duomo). You could also use the train or one of the bus.
To get up Mount Etna, you can take the private train line (Circumetnea) at Borgo metro station or a shuttle from the central station that reaches Rifugio Sapienza(usually leaving in the morning and return the evening) from where you can get to the top of the mountain (spring/summer only, regardless of the summer heat the summit will be cold so do bring a jumper).
Please note that the metro and the train to Mount Etna are closed on Sunday.
The baroque Piazza del Duomo is attractive, lively and contains the Elephant Fountain - the symbol of the city and the entrance to the elegant via Etnea, the main shopping street.
The adjacent Norman Cathedral (Duomo) is imposing and worth a visit
The food and fish markets just below the Piazza del Duomo are a lively and colourful place to visit. This fish market is the busiest and most exotic of all over Sicily and has been described by the British TV chef Rick Stein as the best fish market in the world. Monday to Saturday morning only.
Via Etnea - the main shopping avenue, running North from the Piazza del Duomo has most of the city's imposing building and is busy throughout the day and evening. Lots of churches. This road is the equivalent of Las Ramblas in Barcelona, so in the evenings the local people put on their Sunday clothes and walk at a relaxed pace along this avenue.
Piazza Stesicoro, the original centre containing ruins of the Roman Amphitheatre. It is also the entrance to the main market (Mercato de la Fiera) which is worth a visit. Additionally it is one of the main bus hubs.
Teatro Massimo, a 19th century opera house in Piazza Teatro, which is the main meeting for the local young people. So its neighbourhood is very lively and busy by night.
Taormina, a world famous city, being both beautiful and the quintessential medieval town on a mountain top.
St. Agata Festival 3 day long religious festival dedicated to St. Agata (Patron Saint of Catania) always the 1st week of February. Expect huge crowds (100,000+), never-ending firework displays, parades, street food and more. Book well in advance if you wanna see this incredible event. A lot of the locals leave the city but that doesn't mean you shouldn't see it at least once.
Take a tour to Mt. Etna. There are many different tour companies around the city with all about the same rates and routes. Most hotels/hostels can help you book a good one that will usually pick you up from your accommodations.
Visit the La Plaja the cities long, sandy beach just outside of town. Take bus D-EST and get of at "La Plaja" You ill have to pay to get into the different beach areas but it will include a Chair and Umbrella. The are plenty of beach bars serving food and drinks up and down the beach.
Catania is proud of some specialities, like Arancino (cone-shaped rice croquette filled with meat, tomato sauce, cheese and peas) and other many typical tavola calda. The fish is also good, as Catania is a large port. The city is also known for horse meat, especially in some areas around the "Benedictine Monastery". Another famous speciality is Pasta alla Norma which consists in pasta (generally macaroni) dressed with tomato sauce and topped with fried eggplant slices, grated ricotta salata and fresh basil. Catanese pastry include the world-wide famous Cannolo alla Ricotta, the "Cassatella di Sant'Agata" (a small cassata) and the "Pasta di Mandorla" (based on almond meal). In summer, the typical breakfast consists in "Granita" (a kind of sorbet of almond or black mulberry) served with a sweet round loaf ("brioscia"): it is a nourishing and refreshing combination that can be found in almost any bar of the city.
Like in most of Sicily, you can get a freshly made cold Panini in a “salumeria”, where you choose whatever you want to put in (prosciutto cotto/crudo and cheese is probably the most popular), for €1 to €3 . Don’t forget that most of them are closed between 1-4PM and on Sunday afternoon.
You can also have a tavola calda which mean “hot bite”, most of them made with cheese and meat, fried or baked. You will normally pay €1,50 for one piece.
There is also the Sicilian specialty of Arancino, which are deep fried rice balls with various fillings, meat or eggplant or spinach, that sell for €1,50 at most places. They make a good lunch snack.
During the evening, food trucks that sell hot, tasty Panini with even horse meat inside. Most people add fries into the sandwich. Usually, it’s about €2,50-3,00 and they are very popular among teenagers. Because its quite cheap, there is normally confusion at these kiosks. The last few years Kebab shops have popped up all the city around €3-4.
Etoile D'or is just off the Doumo Square near the fish market. Arancini, Panzerotti, Pizza, Pastries and Sweets. Locals swear by the this place for fresh, hot food any time night or day. Open 24hrs.
Sicilia in bocca, Via Beato Cardinale G.B. Dusmet, 35. Tel “+39” 095 2500208, . To try typical Sicilian food and pizza.
Beware that there are in fact two restaurants called Sicilia in bocca. The second one has very poor food quality, long waits, smoky outside section, and bad attitude towards foreigners (along with a different menu). When going to Sicilia in Bocca by taxi, be sure to specify the address.
In the proximity of Ursino Castle, there is a good selection of restaurants. Good food quality and decent prices. Camelot is great for the meat lover, Roxy has standard Sicilian/Italian food for a decent price with friendly staff.
L'Angolo della Chef, 77 Via Plebiscito. Humble homecooking joint. Traditional Sicilian dishes from caponata to polli alla brace. Not for the posh, but great for lovers of street food.edit
Most of the nightlife is centered around the Piazza Bellini and the surrounding streets. Usually there are more people drinking on the streets than inside the bars. Tuesday is student night and gets quite packed. Another spot usually with a good mix of locals and tourists is the bar and courtyard of the Agora Hostel, usually packed on Mondays with live music most weekend nights. The area around the castle has plenty of places to drink and eat too.
Agora Hostel, 6 Piazza Curro, ☎ +39 095 7233010 (email@example.com), . In a backstreet under the Duomo, it's lively and can fill up even out of season.Beds in a dorm rooms from €18. edit
Ananda B&B, Via Muscatello 7 (Near Piazza Roma), ☎ +39 095 446760, . Very Friendly B&B in the centre of Catania, walking distance from the Bellini Gardens, Via Etnea and the Market. 30. edit
City Lounge B&B (http://www.cityloungebb.com), Via Gagliani 13, ☎ +39 095 2861703 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Situated right in the historic centre, in a building typical of the 1800s, the city lounge is an open and sunny place to call home. A two minute walk to Piazza Duomo; with bus stop nearby for day-drips out of Catania. Rooms with either private or shared bathrooms, wifi, parking spot, breakfast included.Doubles available from 24 per person. Rooms able to sleep up to 6. edit
BMoDe, Via Vittorio Emanuele II, 108. Phone: 39 095 7159383 . Set along the Via Vittorio Emanuele 2 main street in Catania, BMode is situated in the 18th-century Palazzo Tedeschi Paternò-Castello building. It offers free Wi-Fi, ultra-modern interiors and rooms with a minibar.
Hotel Etnea 316, Via Etnea 316, Phone: +39 095 2503076 (Fax: +39 095 2503076), . Bright and airy 3 star guest house ideal for young travellers.
Hotel Valentino, Piazza Santo Spirito 39. Phone: 39 095 2503072 Fax: 39 095 2503072, . Charming little 3 star hotel in the heart of the city with excellent friendly staff and a pleasant and peaceful atmosphere.
Suite Inn B&B Catania , Via Vittorio Emanuele II, 108, Tel: 393 955 2702.
i Vespri Rooms budget rooms , Via Montesano 5, Tel +39 095 310036.
Bed and Breakfast BAD, Via Cristoforo Colombo 24 (near Duomo), ☎ +39 095 346903, . BAD is the first designer Bed & Breakfast in Catania. Much more than a simple b&b, it is a unique mix of hospitality and creativity.edit
Hotel Villa Romeo, Via Platamone 8, Phone: +39 095 534714 (Fax: +39 095 530257), . Elegant, exquisite and comfortable hotel near the railway station.
Agriturismo san leonardello San Leonardello farmhouse is situated in the municipality of Giarre, in the province of Catania, a few-minute drive from Etna, Taormina and the sea of Riposto and Acireale.
B&B Globetrotter Catania, Vicolo della Lanterna, 14 (close to Duomo square), ☎ 0950933021/3936863217, . checkin: 12; checkout: till 11. An antique building that has been recently renovated. 200m from the Dome, cathedral and Via Etnea. Globetrotter rents independent apartments with fully equipped kitchen, bathroom, air conditioning, TV, DVD, HiFi, internet Wifi and hairdryer.€30. (37.500342,15.084812)edit
Gianni House, Via Pergusa, 47 (just off the main street, on the left), ☎ +39 3382 383 732, . Close to the main bus and train station. A start-up hostel that offers a wide range of accommodation. Pasta parties are a regular in the summer, held on the fifth floor terrace, which offers a views of the sea (just five minutes' walk from the hostel).From €20 dorms, €23 privates. edit
La Pietra Antica O'Munti, Via Andronico s.n. - Fraz. Puntalazzo - 95010 Mascali CT, ☎ +39 095.7824035 (email@example.com, fax: +39 095.968792), . Farm house La Pietra Antica O'Munti, between Taormina and Acireale, near volcano Etna. Farm holiday.edit
Farmhouse Accommodation Arrigo, C.da Arrigo Soprano Linguaglossa, Tel. +39 095 643612 (Fax +39 095 7774518), . At the slopes of Mount Etna surrounded by a striking and magnificent vegetation. In the silence of a land of strong and firm gastronomic traditions.
Bed & Breakfast Villa Etelka, Via Sagone, 5 - Valverde (CT) Tel/Fax: +39 095 525872 . BB in aristocratic Villa sea view and swimming pool.
B&B La Rena Rossa (B&B etna, Sicilia), Via Capuana 6 A, ☎ +39 3338628703, . The Bed and Breakfast La Rena Rossa has a quiet and sunny position, it is surrounded by a wide garden and is the ideal way to spend your holiday between mountain and sea. Nicolosi ( the B&B's town, called "the Etna's door") represents in fact a strategic point that enables you to visit all the main East Sicily's wonders. 30. edit
Aga Hotel Catania – V.le Ruggero di Lauria 43, - 95127 Catania, Italy  Telephone + 39 095 8362406 • Fax 39 095 8362385. The Aga is a four star hotel of Catania. Its bedrooms are divided in single, twin, double and junior suite. The services include the TV LCD, private bath, mini bar, safe, telephone, air conditioning Wi-Fi internet connection and Jacuzzi.
Hotel Agathae, Via Etnea 229, Phone: 095 2500436 (Fax: 0957152668), . 3 star accommodation on the main drag running through Catania.
Gresi Hotel, Via Pacini 28. Off Via Etnea close to the post office. Tel:+39 095 322709, email:firstname.lastname@example.org, . Shiny clean, AC, bathroom, balcony, high arched ceilings with paintings. €75 without breakfast.
Hotel il Picchio Golf Resort , Via Nazionale, S.S. 120, 135 - 95012 Rovittello, Castiglione di Sicilia. - Ph. +39.0942.986426 - Fax +39.0942.986323 . “Il Picchio Golf Resort” is immersed in the most fascinating scenery in Sicily, in the Alcantara Valley, a true oasis between Mount Etna and Catania. Double rooms from €140 to €220.
The Parco degli Aragonesi, Viale Kennedy. Località La Playa, Tel. +39 095 7234073 and the Jolly Hotel Bellini, Piazza Trento, 13, Tel. +39 095 316933, are the two NH hotels in Catania .
Hotel il Principe, Via Alessi, 20/26, Tel. +39-095-2500345 (Fax +39-095-325799), . Hotel Il Principe, boutique hotel located in a recently restored aristocratic building in the baroque heart of the historical centre.
Hotel La Ville, Via Monteverdi, 15, ☎ +39 095 7465230 (fax: +39 095 7465189), . One of the oldest hotels in Catania, this large 3 star family run establishment is well designed in a calming and refreshing liberty style and offers a homely welcome as well as business facilities. Self catering apartments also available.edit
Hotel Nettuno, Viale Ruggero Di Lauria 121, ☎ =+39 095 712 2006 (fax: +39 095 498 066), . Modern and spacious four star hotel on the beach of Catania with full facilities, including open air swimming pool, restaurants, health spa and full meeting facilities. Ideal for families as well as corporate.edit
Luxury Hotel Romano Palace, Viale Kennedy 28. Beach resort few minutes away from Catania historical center, very close to airport, with Jacuzzi, private beach and restaurant.edit
Sheraton Catania, Via Antonello da Messina 45, ☎ +39 095 7114111, . Luxury hotel with 162 rooms and 7 suites, that can be reached through two charming and panoramic lifts, are coloured in perfect harmony with the surrounding Mediterranean environment; each room grants our clients the highest quality and safety standards according to the Sheraton life style: air-condition, balcony/terrace, cable TV, wake-up service, minibar, safe, hairdryer, smoke detector & sprinklersedit
Hotel Villa Cibele, Marletta st. 17/b (Cibele st. corner), ☎ +39 095 351480, . The hotel is in an elegant early 19th century building. The villa was restructured and has reached the old time majesty and elegance. In it the villa emerge the ancient and the modern following by a logical line of design and colours.(37° 31' 00.91 N,15° 03' 47.10 E)edit
Visit Mount Etna - an eerie volcanic landscape, with solidified "rivers" of lava. The top is 3,323 m high, so be prepared for the cold, even in summer. One bus a day runs at about 8:30AM from near the railway station via Nicolosi to the Rifugio Sapienza, 1,400 m below the summit.
You could also have a visit along the coast for Acicastello (a nice medieval castle built on a giant rock, over the sea) or Acitrezza, a little fisherman village well known for its giant rocks lying in the sea, supposed to be the ones thrown by the Cyclops at Ulysses. You will also find good restaurants and a great port. You could have a look for Acireale, a town known for the greatest carnival of Sicilia (in February). Sicilian Sail do a nice one day sailing tour up to Acitrezza from the port of Catania which is a great way to see these beautiful sights.