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Catania, Italy

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, a major transport hub, economic center 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 center, mainly due to its port. Again, since the '70s, the city economy is growing... Read more

Catania, Italy

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, a major transport hub, economic center 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 center, mainly due to its port. Again, since the '70s, the city economy is growing as the urban area and the suburbs, making Catania a large metropolitan center, 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 the 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: M-Sa 08:00-19:15, Su 08:30-13:30

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Catania, Italy: Port Information

Cruise ships dock at the pier. The port is a 15-minute walk from the city center. Besides, you can take a taxi.

Get around Catania, Italy

By foot

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

By bus

To reach, for example, the university, you'll need the bus, run by AMT (Azienda Metropolitana Trasporti Catania). Use their interactive map to find bus lines.

By train

Ferrovia Circumetnea (FCE) is a narrow-gauge railway that loops around the west flanks of Etna then back to the coast and mainline at Giarre-Riposto, 28 km north of Catania. The terminus in Catania is Borgo, with a metro connection to Centrale railway station and downtown. Trains run from Catania Borgo Mon-Sat hourly, all as far as Paterno, most as far as Adrano, and eight per day reach Bronte and Randazzo (2 hours) where these south-side trains terminate. To complete the circuit, you change to the north-side train Randazzo-Linguaglossa-Giarre-Riposto, taking 70 min. There are 3 or 4 of these per day in summer but only one or two in winter. At Giarre the Circumetnea and mainline stations are side by side, with Circumetnea trains continuing for a final km to terminate at Riposto. There is no Sunday or public holiday service on the Circumetnea line.
Visitors to Catania are only likely to use the metro to reach the Circumetnea railway. It's possibly the shortest metro in the world, just under 9 km long, and it's run by the same company. The line starts from Stesicoro in midtown Catania, runs east to the transport hub of Giovanni XXIII, then turns west. Get off at Borgo for the Circumetnea railway. The metro line ends at the suburb of Nesima, which has Park & Ride.

By car

Driving in the center is difficult because of congestion, one-way systems, and pedestrianized areas. There are ten main parking lots around the city.

What to see in Catania, Italy

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 buildings 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
  • 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). 
  • Monastero dei Benedettini di San Nicolò l'Arena (The Benedictine Monastery), Piazza Dante, 32, ☎ +39 095 7102767, e-mail: 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
  • 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.
  • Via Crociferi. It's a center of 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Chiesa di San Giuliano, Via Crociferi, 36, ☎ +39 095 7159360.
  • Basilica S. Maria dell'Elemosina (Basilica della Collegiata), ☎ Via Etnea 23FORMATNOCC. Tu-Su 9:00-12:00, 17:00-19:00. 
  • Palazzo Biscari, Via Museo Biscari, 10 - 16, ☎ +39 095 7152508, e-mail: 7:00-13.00, 15:00-19:00. It is one of 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). 
  • Anfiteatro RomanoPiazza Stesicoro, ☎ +39 095 7472268. Tu-Sa 9:00-13:30 e 14:30-17:00. Modest remains of the Roman Amphitheatre
  • Terme della Rotonda, Via della Rotonda, ☎ +39 095 7150508. W Su 9:00-13:00. the remains of ancient Roman Baths. 

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 neighborhood 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.
Parks and gardens
  • 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. 
  • Orto Botanico dell'Università di Catania (Botanical garden), Via Etnea, 397 (just north of the Villa Bellini), ☎ +39 095 430901. M-F 9:00-19:30, Sa 9:00-14:00. A nice botanical garden of the University of Catania

What to do in Catania, Italy

  • 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.

Visit museums:

  • 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. Museum, Terme Achilliane, Benedictine Monastery
  • 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
  • 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

What to eat and drink in Catania, Italy


Catania is proud of its specialties. A famous specialty 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). Don’t forget that most of salumerias are closed between 1-4 PM 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.
Another Sicilian specialty is arancino, which are deep fried rice balls with various fillings, meat or eggplant or spinach. 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. They are very popular among teenagers. Because it's 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.

Shopping in Catania, Italy

The Addiopizzo Catania is a movement of shopkeepers who refuse to pay the racket to the Mafia. 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.

Safety in Catania, Italy

Be careful not to look conspicuously touristy, exposing jewelry, large bags or photo gear that might entice fast pickpockets or robbers. They are abundant all around the city and they recognize immediately anyone who is not from around here.

Also, there will be A LOT of people that WILL stop you and aggressively ask you for money.

As in any other city avoid the station area.

San Cristoforo is the most dangerous neighborhood in Catania and is located near the city center, at the end of Via Plebiscito. Do not wander the streets alone. Another dangerous neighborhood is Librino, but of no interest for a tourist.

Language spoken in Catania, Italy

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.

English is understood in tourist places.


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