photo by isabella

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 most major currently active volcano in Europe and has been destroyed many times in the past. The result, a city where you can find a great variety of landscape and architecture, a lot of dirty buildings and also lot of abandoned houses, especially in the mountain. Whenever, since the city is a World Heritage Site, lot of renovations are made.

Today, you will feel in Catania a mix of nostalgia and "joie de vivre", especially at night or during festivals.

Sicilian Baroque

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 preceeding style was Renaissance, while the succeeding was Neo-classicism. The three major features are a near excessive amount of detail (statues, lots of gold, coulumns and pilasters, garlands and wreaths etc), façades which are taller than the nave (to fool the viewer of the size) and frescos often featuring trompe d'eol (). Baroque from Catania has several unique features such as use of dark lava stone (basalt), the Bell in the façade itself and grotesque masks and putti ()


Some of the best feature of Catania's area are

  • The Baroque architecture, mainly downtown

  • Every morning,except Sundays, two fascinating markets are held:

  • a large fish market in a beautiful setting off Piazza 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 Selsa al limone or mandarino al limone.

  • The Elephant Fountain, from the 17th century, in Piazza Duomo

  • La Plaja, sandy beaches along the south coast of the bay

  • The Riviera dei ciclopi, a rocky, volcano coast along the north of the bay, streaching to Taormina

Getting there

By plane

Catania, along with Palermo, has a major airport with scheduled and charter planes arriving from destinations throughout Italy and Europe.

From the airport, there are 1/2 hourly buses to Catania's bus station. It takes about 20 minutes.

By bus

Frequent buses run to Taormina, Messina, Enna, Caltanissetta, Ragusa and Syracuse. Less frequent buses run to local destinations, Naples, Rome etc. The main bus station is opposite the railway station and 10 minutes walk from the city centre.

By train

Frequent trains run up the east coast to and from Taormina (but the station is a long walk below the town, at Giardini Naxos) 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. The railway station is 10 minutes walk from the city centre.

Traveling around


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. This metro line (metropolitana) 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.

The metropolitan area

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.


Must see

  • 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 Barcellona, 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.

Other sites

  • Castello Ursino, a great medieval construction near center that host the Civic Museum.

  • The Greek/Roman Theatre and the Odeon, still in good condition.

  • Palazzo Biscari, the most beautiful baroque palace of Catania (can't visit).

  • The Villa, a great urban park of the 19e century (currently closed for renovation)

  • The Benedictine monastery that host now the Faculty of Litterature of the University of Catania, the oldest in Sicily. That building used to be one of the biggest monastery of Europe.

  • The adjacent unachieved church of San Nicolo, which was supposed the be the biggest in Sicily.

Things to do

Volcano Trek, Via Minicucca 16, +39 333 2096604, . The obvious thing to do is the volcano trek. Go to the top of Mount Etna. There are many organised tours, but you can hire the services of a Volcanologist as your tour guide and go off the usual tourist trail.

Visit a minor religious festival, but avoid Sant'Agata on the 5th February due to the excessive crowds.


Catania is proud of some specialities, like Arancino (fried ball of rice, tomato and cheese), cannoli alla ricotta (known worldwide) and 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".

Fast food

Like in most of Sicily, you can get a freshly made cold panini in a “salumeria”, where you choose whenever you want to put in (prosciutto cotto/crudo and cheese is probably the most popular), for 1 to 3 euros. Don’t forget that most of them are closed between 1-4 PM and on Sunday afternoon. You can also have a tavola calda which mean “hot bite”, most of them made with cheese and meat, fried and baked. You will normally pay 1,50 euros for one piece. Finally, you will find, especially during the evening, big kiosks that sell hot, tasty and fat panini with even horse meat inside. Most people add fries into the sandwich. Usually, it’s about 2,50-3,00 euros and they are very popular among teenagers. Because its quite cheap, there is normally confusion at these kiosks.


  • 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.


  • Barrique Club, Via S. Guliano, 242, Tel +39 3206103478, . Great atmosphere, good bar with Italian and international drinks, excellent snacks and cakes. At night live jazz and Sicilian music


  • Hotel Catania Cristal Park, Via Narciso 3, Phone: 0039 095 7164456(Fax: 0039 095443444),Info Catania Cristal Park is a charming family-run hotel in the centre of Catania, Sicily, located a few steps from the main monuments and attractions of the city. This newly opened hotel offers cozy interiors and a welcoming, intimate atmosphere, providing the perfect accommodation to enjoy a relaxing holiday in Sicily.This enchanting Catania hotel, easily accessible by public transport, offers a perfect base from which to explore this ancient city full of history and discover all its highlights.The hotel is fully air-conditioned and boasts a bar and a wonderful terrace with garden (200 sqm) where guests can relax taking a refreshing drink while admiring the fascinating Sicilian sky. Furthermore, hotel Catania Cristal Park features a private parking, an Internet Point, a 24-hours reception, and free newspapers. The hotel is pet-friendly.

  • Hotel Agathae, Via Etnea 229, Phone: 095 2500436 (Fax: 0957152668), . 3 star accommodation on the main drag running through Catania.

  • Agora Hostel , +39 095 7233010, +39 095 7233010, 6 Piazza Curro, In a backstreet under the Duomo, it's lively and can fill up even out of season.

  • Gresi Hotel, Via Pacini 28. Off Via Etnea close to the post office. Tel:+39 095 322709, email:hotelgresi@tin.com, . Shiny clean, AC, bathroom, balcony, high arched ceilings with paintings. €75 without breakfast.

  • 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 il Picchio Golf Resort, Via Nazionale, S.S. 120, 135 - 95012 Rovittello, Castiglione di Sicilia. Italy - 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, 95121, Tel. +39 095 7234073 and the Jolly Hotel Bellini , Piazza Trento, 13, 95129, Tel. +39 095 316933, are the two NH .

  • 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 of Catania. Availability and rates provided on the official web site.

  • La Pietra Antica O'Munti , +39 095.7824035, +39 095.7824035, Via Andronico s.n. - Fraz. Puntalazzo - 95010 Mascali CT, Farm house La Pietra Antica O'Munti, between Taormina and Acireale, near volcano Etna, is a good solution for your farm holiday in Sicily, Italy

  • Hotel La Ville , +39 095 7465230, Via Monteverdi, 15, 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.

  • Hotel Nettuno , =+39 095 712 2006, Viale Ruggero Di Lauria 121,, 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.

  • Hotel Savona , +39 095.326982, +39 095.326982, Via Vitt. Emanuele, 210

  • 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.

  • Farmhouse Accommodation Arrigo, C.da Arrigo Soprano Linguaglossa, Tel. +39 095 643612 (Fax +39 095 7774518), . The Agriturismo Arrigo is located 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.

  • Ananda B&B , +39 095 446760, Via Muscatello 7, Near Piazza Roma, Very Friendly B&B in the centre of Catania, walking distance from the Bellini Gardens, Via Etnea and the Market.

  • Hotel Villa Cibele (Hotel Villa Cibele) , +39 095 351480, Marletta st. 17/b (Cibele st. corner) 95123 Catania (CT) - Sicily, The hotel residence Villa Cibele is housed 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. The Hotel Villa Cibele offers high quality service and relax.

  • Bed and Breakfast Bruca (near Duomo) , 3337097607, via Vittorio Emanuele,201, Catania centro, The bed and breakfast has a great position and the main attractions are easy to reach in a few minutes also by feet(the baroque dome, the ancient fish market).In the evening it'is possible to enjoy the night life in the area very rich of the most famous and most interesting bars and restaurants.

  • Hotel Villa Romeo, Via Platamone 8, Phone: +39 095 534714 (Fax: +39 095 530257), . Elegant, exquisite and comfortable hotel near the railway station.

  • Luxury Hotel Romano Palace (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.

  • Holidays Houses Catania , +393335779854, vicolo della lanterna 14, Self-catering apartments


  • Gianni House , 0039 3382 383 732, Via Pergusa, 47, just off the main street, on the left, 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).

  • Bed & Breakfast Villa Etelka, Via Sagone, 5 - Valverde (CT) Tel/Fax: +39 095 525872 . BB in aristocratic Villa sea view and swimming pool.


The "Pizzo free" shops are a group of shopkeepers that refuse to pay the racket to the Mafia. The Catania's consumers sustain them by going shopping in their stores. The list of these stores will be soon available.

You can find fresh fish at the main fish market, Piazza Duomo. You could have to bargain the price.


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 (as Palermo, Catania has its own dialect) in some neighborhoods, especially in inner areas, while most people speak mainly Italian in the city center.

Get out

  • Visit Mount Etna - an eerie volcanic landscape, with solidifed "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 see) are 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).

  • Within a day, you can easily reach Taormina, Syracuse, Ragusa, Piazza Amerina, Messina, Cefalu or Enna.

Contact & location

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isabella, Davide Restivo, Giovanni, Eduardo M., gnuckx cc0, Allie_Caulfield

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