Catania

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.

Understand

U Liotru — the symbol of Catania — at the Piazza del Duomo

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.

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 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.

Talk

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 in

By plane

Catania-Fontanarossa Airport (IATA: CTA) with scheduled and charter planes arriving from destinations throughout Italy and Europe.

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.

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.

By ferry

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.

Get around

By foot

Catania has a compact centre and it is most convenient just to walk around.

By bus

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.

By metro

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.

By car

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.

See

World Heritage Sites

Piazza del Duomo
Interior of the Duomo (Cattedrale Sant' Agata)
  •   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.
  •   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.
The old theater

Ancient Roman and Greek

Palazzo dell'Università

Other notable attractions

Do

Visit museums:

Learn

Buy

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:

Eat

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).

Fast food

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.

Restaurants

In the proximity of Ursino Castle, there is a good selection of restaurants. Good food quality and decent prices. Among the others are:

Also:

Drink

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).

Sleep

Budget

In Catania

Around Catania and Etna

Mid-range to High

Stay safe

Be careful not to look conspicuously touristy, exposing jewelry, large bags or photo gear that might entice fast pickpockets or robbers.

Go next


Some other places could be good destinations for a day trip: Taormina, Syracuse, Ragusa, Piazza Armerina, Messina, Cefalu or Enna.


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, March 31, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.