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 the all Val di Noto area), 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. 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.), façades which are taller than the nave (to fool the viewer of 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 façade itself and grotesque masks and putti.
- Bureau Turismo, via Vittorio Emanuele II, 172, ☎ +39 095 742 55 73, toll-free: 800 841 042, e-mail: email@example.com. M-Sa 8:00-19:15.
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.
From the airport, there are half-hourly buses (number 457) to Catania's bus station. The trip takes about 20 minutes. Tickets cost €1 and must be purchased from a tobacconist or lottery kiosk in the terminal before boarding.
- Tourist information counter (Ground floor, Arrivals area, east side), ☎ +39 095 723 96 82. M-Sa 08:00-19:15.
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.
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.
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 Civitavechia. One can also get a ferry to/from Valletta.
Catania has a compact centre and it is most convenient just to walk around.
City bus services are provided by AMT (Azienda Metropolitana Trasporti Catania). It is said though that travelling by public transport may be quite problematic, as waiting time sometimes could be quite long.
The city also boasts a short metro line. Unfortunately the line does not cross the city centre, instead it rather skirts it when running from the Catania's port (Porto station) to the Circumetnea train terminal (Borgo station), from where you can reach villages on the slopes of Mount Etna. 2 extension branches of the metro are under construction which is planned to finish in the middle of 2016.
If you drive, you may have to put up with heavy, slow, messy, unruly traffic jams.
If you want to travel along the coast (Aci Castello, Aci Trezza, Acireale), you can drive or call for a taxi (there are several at Piazza Duomo), or you can also use the train or bus.
World Heritage Sites
- Piazza del Duomo. An attractive, lively baroque square. Here you can find the Fontana dell'Elefante (Elephant Fountain) or U Liotru - the symbol of the city. 3 building located there are World Heritage Sites. The square is also an entrance to the elegant via Etnea, the main shopping street.
- Cattedrale di Sant'Agata (Duomo), Piazza del Duomo. An imposing Catania Cathedral, well worth visiting.
- Palazzo degli Elefanti (Palazzo Municipale).
- Palazzo dei Chierici (Palace of Clerks).
- Chiesa della Badia di S.Agata, Via Vittorio Emanuele 184. Tu-Su 9:00-12:00; Guided tours to the dome and the terraces: Th-Su 9:00-12:00, F-Sa 19:00-22:00 € 3.00). Free admission.
- Castello Ursino (Castello Svevo di Catania), Piazza Federico Di Svevia, ☎ +39 095 345830. until 14/2/2016 M-Fr 9:00-19:00, Sa 9:00-23:00, Su 9:00-22:00. a 13th century castle near center. Currently it hosts Museo civico (Civic Museum). €12.
- Monastero dei Benedettini di San Nicolò l'Arena (The Benedictine Monastery), Piazza Dante, 32, ☎ +39 095 7102767, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Fr 8:00-20:00, Sa 8:00-14:00. Su (only for guided tours) 9:00-12:00. It is the oldest one in Sicily and it is one of the biggest monasteries in Europe. It hosts now the Faculty of Literature of the University of Catania. €6.
- Chiesa di San Nicolò l'Arena, Piazza Dante (adjacent to the Benedictine Monastery), ☎ +39 095 7159912. M-Su 9:00-12:30. It is an unachieved church which was supposed the be the biggest one in Sicily. the church: free; Path Gronda €3.00;.
- Via Crociferi. It's a centre of an ecclesiastical architecture in Catania: in no more than 200 meters there are 4 churches, 3 monasteries and a college are located there.
- Monastero S.Benedetto (entrance from via Teatro Greco, 2), ☎ +39 095 7152207. F-W 9:00-18:00, Su only before a messa. A splendid baroque monument. €5 (guided tours only).
- Chiesa S.Francesco Borgia, Via Crociferi, 17, ☎ +39 095 310762. M-Sa 9:00-19:30, 1st Su/month 9:00-19:30, 3rd Su/month 9:00-13:30. Today the church used for various cultural events. Next to the church is a former Jesuit college. Free admission.
- Chiesa di San Giuliano, Via Crociferi, 36, ☎ +39 095 7159360.
- Basilica S. Maria dell'Elemosina (Basilica della Collegiata), ☎ Via Etnea 23. Tu-Su 9:00-12:00, 17:00-19:00. Free admission.
- Palazzo Biscari, Via Museo Biscari, 10 - 16, ☎ +39 095 7152508, e-mail: email@example.com. 7:00-13.00, 15:00-19:00. It is one the most interesting baroque palaces in Catania. The palace is privately owned. It is advised to check with the tourist office for possibilities to visit it.
Ancient Roman and Greek
- Teatro Romano (Roman Theatre), Via Vittorio Emanuele II, 266, ☎ +39 095 7150508. Mo-Su 9:00-19:00 (last admission 18:30). €6; 1st Su/month free.
- Anfiteatro Romano, Piazza Stesicoro, ☎ +39 095 7472268. Tu-Sa 9:00-13:30 e 14:30-17:00. A modest remains of the Roman Amphitheatre. Free admission.
- Terme della Rotonda, Via della Rotonda, ☎ +39 095 7150508. W Su 9:00-13:00. the remains of ancient Roman Baths. Free admission.
Other notable attractions
- Teatro Massimo Bellini, Piazza Vincenzo Bellini, ☎ +39 095 7306111. A 19th-century opera theatre named after the Catania-born composer Vincenzo Bellini. The square before the theatre is said to be a popular meeting place among the local young people, so its neighbourhood is very lively and busy by night.
- Palazzo dell'Università, Piazza Università.
- Palazzo Platamone (Palazzo Della Cultura), Via Vitt. Emanuele 121, ☎ +39 095 7428038. M-Sa 9:00-9:00, Su 9:00-13:00. The former Convento San Placido. Free admission.
- Porta Garibaldi (Porta Ferdinandea), Via Garibaldi (at the E end of Piazza Palestro). The gates erected in 1768 in honor of King Ferdinand IV and his family.
- Walk 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.
- Giardino Bellini (Villa Bellini). Relax at a beautiful 19th century park. The oldest part of it, known as Laberinto Biscari, dates even back to the 18th century.
- 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
- Visit a minor religious festival, but avoid Sant'Agata on the 5th February due to the excessive crowds.
- Museo Diocesano (Diocesan Museum), Via Etnea 8, ☎ +39 095 281635. M W F 9:00-14:00, Tu Th 9:00-14:00, 15:00-18:00, Sa 9:00-13:00. €7; Museum, Terme Achilliane, Benedictine Monastery €12.
- Museo Belliniano (Bellini Museum), Piazza S. Francesco, 3, ☎ +39 095 7150535. M-Sa 9:00-19:00, Su 9:00-13:00. A museum devoted to Vincenzo Bellini, a famous Italian composer. Combined ticket with Museo Emilio Greco: €5.
- Museo Emilio Greco (Emilio Greco Museum), Piazza S. Francesco, 3, ☎ +39 095 7150535. M-Sa 9:00-19:00, Su 9:00-13:00. A museum devoted to Italian artist Emilio Greco. Combined ticket with Museo Belliniano: €5.
- Federico II (School of Italian language and culture), via Garibaldi 9 (first building on via Garibaldi, close to the Amenano fountain in piazza Duomo), ☎ +39 095 9890689. The school is hosted in a Baroque building located downtown. The school offers year-round intensive language courses, full immersion classes for all levels, while the afternoon provides a program of cultural activities to learn the culture and practice the language. The cultural themes of the lectures are: cinema, art history, songs and music, traditions and mythology, visits to museums and monuments, food and wine tasting. During the summer the school offers the Summer School program, which includes language classes in the morning, and in the afternoon a cooking class, a visit to a monument, and three sports or recreational activities, taking place in beach clubs having an agreement with the school. €170.
The Addiopizzo Catania is a movement of shopkeepers who refuse to pay the racket to the Mafia. The Catania's consumers sustain them by going shopping in their stores.
Every morning,except Sundays, two fascinating markets are held:
- Fera 'o Luni, Piazza Carlo Alberto. M-Sa morning. A bustling food and clothes market. The main historic market of Catania.
- La Piscaria, Piazza Alonzo di Benedetto. M-Sa morning. A large fish market in a beautiful setting off Piazza Duomo. You could have to haggle the price.
Catania is proud of its specialities. A famous speciality is pasta alla Norma which consists in pasta (generally macaroni) dressed with tomato sauce and topped with fried eggplant slices, grated ricotta salad and fresh basil. 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".
Typical Catanese pastry include the world-wide famous cannolo alla Ricotta, cassatella di Sant'Agata (a small cassata) and pasta di Mandorla" (based on almond meal).
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 are probably the most popular ones), for €1-3. Don’t forget that most of salumerias are closed between 1-4PM and on Sunday afternoon.
You can also have some tavola calda (“hot bite”) meal, most of them made with cheese and meat, fried or baked. You will normally pay €1,50 for one piece.
Another Sicilian speciality is 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.
Also, especially in the evening, some big kiosks sell hot, tasty and fat panini, some even even horse meat filling. 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.
In summer, a typical breakfast consists of "Granita" (a kind of sorbet of almond or black mulberry) served with a brioscia (sweet round small loaf): it is a nourishing and refreshing combination that can be found in almost any bar of the city.
- Spinella Pasticceria, Via Etna 300, ☎ +39 095 327247. Sicilian cakes, cannolis, arancini, espresso. Outdoor seating. $.
- Trattoria Il Mare, Via San Michele 11, ☎ +39 095 0930595. Delicious seafood. Casual atmosphere.
In the proximity of Ursino Castle, there is a good selection of restaurants. Good food quality and decent prices. Among the others are:
- 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 home cooking joint. Traditional Sicilian dishes from caponata to polli alla brace. Not for the posh, but great for lovers of street food.
- Sicilia in bocca, Via Beato Cardinale G.B. Dusmet, 35, ☎ +39 095 2500208. To try typical Sicilian food and pizza. Beware that there are in fact two restaurants in the city with this name. The other 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 correct address.
You'd find all kinds of kiosks in the city which sell various refreshments, such as coffee, lemoncello or popular local 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).
- Barrique Club, Via S. Guliano, 242, ☎ +39 3206103478. Great atmosphere, good bar with Italian and international drinks, excellent snacks and cakes. At night live jazz and Sicilian music.
- Agora Hostel, 6 Piazza Curro, ☎ +39 095 7233010, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. In a backstreet under the Duomo, it's lively and can fill up even out of season. Beds in a dorm rooms from €18.
- Ananda B&B, Via Muscatello 7 (Near Piazza Roma), ☎ +39 095 446760. B&B in the centre, walking distance from the Bellini Gardens, Via Etnea and the Market. 30.
- Bed and Breakfast SuiteInn Catania, Via Vittorio Emanuele II, 108 (In the heart of the historical center), ☎ +39 095 715 9383, e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 12.00, check-out: 11.00. Boasts a unique design environment and features spacious rooms equipped with amenities like TV, wifi, minibar, safe, private bathroom and air conditioning. € 45.
- B&B Opera, Via Antonio di Sangiuliano, 129 (Catania centre), ☎ +39 337 49 27 14, +39 349 26 89 998, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 11-22, check-out: 10.30. Bed and breakfast Opera is located in the heart of the historical centre, near some of the most important attractions of the city (Via Etnea, Piazza Duomo, Piazza Stesicoro, Piazza Teatro Massimo). The bb offers spacious rooms with balconies, private bathroom, hairdryer, TV, air conditioning, minibar. The wi-fi is free in the rooms and in common areas, such as the large sunny terrace, ideal for relaxing and having breakfast. double: min 60, max 80 (price for 2).
- City Lounge B&B, Via Gagliani 13, ☎ +39 095 2861703, e-mail: email@example.com. In the centre, in a building typical of the 1800s, the city lounge is an open and sunny place. A two minute walk to Piazza Duomo; with bus stop nearby for day-drips out of Catania. Rooms with either private or shared bathrooms, Wi-Fi, parking spot, breakfast included. Doubles available from 24 per person. Rooms able to sleep up to 6.
- Hotel Etnea 316, ☎ +39 095 2503076, fax: +39 095 2503076. Via Etnea 316. Bright and airy 3 star guest house ideal for young travellers.
- Hotel Valentino, ☎ +39 095 2503072, fax: 39 095 2503072. Piazza Santo Spirito 39. 3 star hotel in the centre with friendly staff and a pleasant and peaceful atmosphere.
- 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.
- Hotel Villa Romeo, ☎ +39 095 534714, fax: +39 095 530257. Via Platamone 8. Elegant, exquisite and comfortable hotel near the railway station.
- B&B Globetrotter Catania, Vicolo della Lanterna, 14 (close to Duomo square), ☎ +39 0950933021, +39 3936863217. Check-in: 12, check-out: 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.
- 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.
Around Catania and Etna
- 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.
- La Pietra Antica O'Munti, Via Andronico s.n. - Fraz. Puntalazzo - 95010 Mascali CT, ☎ +39 095 7824035, fax: +39 095 968792, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Farm house La Pietra Antica O'Munti, between Taormina and Acireale, near volcano Etna. Farm holiday.
- Farmhouse Accommodation Arrigo, ☎ +39 095 643612, fax: +39 095 7774518. C.da Arrigo Soprano Linguaglossa. 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, fax: +39 095 525872. Via Sagone, 5 - Valverde (CT) Tel/. BB in aristocratic Villa sea view and swimming pool.
Mid-range to High
- Hotel Maugeri (Grande Albergo Maugeri), P.zza Garibaldi, 27-95024 Acireale (CT), ☎ +39 095 608666, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Hotel Agathae, ☎ +39 095 2500436, fax: 0957152668. Via Etnea 229. 3 star accommodation on the main drag running through Catania.
- Gresi Hotel, ☎ +39 095 322709, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Via Pacini 28. Off Via Etnea close to the post office. 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 €140-220.
- Hotel Savona, Via Vitt. Emanuele, 210, ☎ +39 095 326982, fax: +39 095 326982, e-mail: email@example.com.
- 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, ☎ +39 095-2500345, fax: +39 095-325799. Via Alessi, 20/26. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 & sprinklers
- 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.
Be careful not to look conspicuously touristy, exposing jewelry, large bags or photo gear that might entice fast pickpockets or robbers.
- Mount Etna — an eerie volcanic landscape, with "rivers" of solidified lava. The top is 3,323 m high, so regardless of the summer heat at sea level, the summit will be cold, so make sure to have some worm clothing with you. One blue AST bus a day runs at about 8:15AM from Piazza Papa Giovanni XXIII, near the railway station, via Nicolosi to the Rifugio Sapienza, 1,400 m below the summit. The return bus is at 4:30PM. Unlike the morning bus, the driver will not hang about. A return ticket costs €6.20. Another options is to take a Circumetnea train (local narrow gauge service) at Borgo metro station. From there, you can get to the top of the mountain (spring/summer only). The metro and the train to Mount Etna run every day but Sunday.
- You could also have a walk along the coast towards Aci Castello, where you could see Castello Normanno ("Norman Castle"), a nice medieval castle built on a giant rock, just over the sea.
- Aci Trezza — 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 visit Acireale, a town known for its carnival, which is claimed to be one of the greatest carnivals in Sicilia (end of January - beginning of February).