Catania, Best of the Baroque City

Updated On: November 07, 2023

Air photo of Catania city in Sicily with the Etna Volcano in the back.

Usually, when you hear the name Catania of Sicily, a certain recently active volcano by the name of Mount Etna pops into your mind. Except that, apart from the fluctuating nature of Etna, there’s much more to the city of Catania.

The second largest city in Sicily after Palermo, located at the foot of Mount Etna facing the Ionian Sea. Catania is the industrial and commercial heart of Sicily with the largest airport in the South of Italy.

You may wonder what is there to Catania that would fascinate a traveler seeking a bit of adventure. Or what would distinguish this city from its neighbor Palermo. Even though Palermo has a great share of historical sites and monuments.

Catania has also been blessed with breathtaking castles, solemn churches and bustling city life to accommodate for every year’s visitors. In this article we will learn more about how to get to Catania, what to do when you get there and how to make sure you absorb all of the city’s charms.

So let’s get to it!

How to get to Catania?

  1. Fly in:

Catania-Fontanarossa Airport, also known as Vincenzo Bellini Airport is the busiest airport in Sicily. There’s an organized shuttle service that would take you, for a ticket of 4 Euros, to the city center or the train station. You can buy your ticket at the airport or on board of the shuttle itself. It is valid for 90 minutes and you have to validate it in the electronic ticket machine on the bus.

  1. Ferry boat:

You can use the ferry to get to Catania from other cities like Salerno or Valletta. The ferry ride is quite long and you would need to book it in advance. One trip from Salerno to Catania can take up to 13 hours. You have to have the time and be up for the ride. You can use a website called Direct Ferries to compare prices, companies and routes choose your best option.

  1. Taxi services:

There’s an authorized taxi service in Catania called Radio Taxi Catania and it’s most advisable to use it to avoid getting scammed or getting asked for more than the trip should cost.

  1. Rent a Car service:

To facilitate getting around during your stay in Catania you might like to rent a car. No worries, there are three major car renting companies that you can choose from; Sixt, Budget and Hertz. Another renowned company is Avis rental company which is located near the Catania International Airport Hotel.

  1. Rent a Bus Service:

If you’re a group traveling together through Catania, renting a bus instead of a car is a more than convenient way to go about the city and enjoy your time and stay. You can check with Rent Autobus for the best suitable options for you and your companions.

What Catania has to Wow You With!

Many often compare between Catania and Palermo, thinking both cities are the same. Even though Italian cities can be seem similar, they are never the same. Catania is a city where you can enjoy the tales of history during the day and get entangled in its bustling nightlife later in the day.

Or you can even aim for a bit of adventure by joining a hiking trip to the top of the highest active volcano in Europe; Mount Etna. If you’re in need of some relaxation time, you can relax on Isola Bella Island or try the local dishes for some satisfaction.

Shall we explore some of Catania’s gems together?

  1. Parco Archeologico Greco-Romano di Catania:

Despite the numerous monuments in Catania, there are more hidden beneath the city itself. Due to the city getting covered by lava more than ten times during its lifetime. The Roman city that preceded Catania is buried underneath it and underneath that is the Greek city that lived before. In this archeological park in the city center, you can see some of the ancient remains of both the Roman and Greek previous cities.

  1. Cattedrale di Sant’Agata (Cathedral of Saint Agatha):

Located in Piazza Duomo, this Roman Catholic Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Agatha. It was reduced to ruins several times following devastating earthquakes and eruptions of the nearby Mount Etna. After its most destructive event, the cathedral was rebuilt in Baroque style.

Catania Cathedral (Duomo)
Catania Cathedral (Duomo)

It’s worth mentioning that the cathedral is built on the ruins of the ancient Roman Achillean Baths. The two towers and the three semicircular apses; composed of large lava stones, are actually remains of the original structure.

  1. Fontana dell’Elefante (The Elephant):

Also known as u’Liotru. The elephant; the symbol of the city of Catania, is carved from basalt and is located right in front of the cathedral. It is said that the elephant points its trunk in the direction of the cathedral so as to pay respect to the city’s patron; St. Agatha. The elephant is topped by an Egyptian obelisk from Syene.

A mysterious legend says that u’Liotru refers to a nobleman with the name Heliodorus who’d previously tried to become bishop of the city. With the failure of his attempts he decided to become a sorcerer and was condemned to burn on the stake.

Legend says that Heliodorus himself was the sculptor of the elephant and he used to ride it from Catania to Constantinople. Another legend says that Heliodorus used to transform himself into an elephant.

  1. Teatro Romano di Catania (Greek-Roman Theater of Catania and Odeon):

Mainly consists of the ruins of two open air semicircular Ancient Roman theaters, located in Via Vittoria Emanuele at the center of the city of Catania. The larger of the two; Teatro Romano, has an open air orchestra pit that would fit around 7,000 people.

Teatro Odeon; the smaller one, is about half the size of Teatro Romano and still in use until today for live shows and music shows. Both theaters have the common design most Roman theaters follow where the spectators would be facing south and towards the sea.

  1. Amphitheatre of Catania:

Only a small section of the Roman Imperial era amphitheatre, below ground level to the north of Piazza Stesicoro. It is also part of the Parco Archeologico Greco-Romano di Catania. Despite the existence of several amphitheatres in Catania, this one is by far the largest. It consists of a group of large arenas that also includes the Colosseum, the Amphitheatre of Capua and the Verona Arena.

Different building techniques have been used to build the amphitheatre, with opus vittatum for the construction of the interior and opus quadratum for the exterior. The cavea was made of basalt from Mount Etna, faced with marble. However, the outside walls indicate some degree of carelessness in construction as the building blocks seem to have been cut irregularly.

The recent structure suffers from instability due to early modern excavations, this led to the parliament to declare that the building is in danger of collapsing. In 2014, an expert board was established with the sole purpose of organizing the recuperation of the monument and protect the neighborhood that’s grown on top of the amphiteatre over the years.

  1. San Francesco d’Assisi all’Immacolata:

The first Franciscan Roman church in Catania, since its construction was supported by Queen Eleanor of Anjou, wife of Frederick II of Aragon and sister of the Franciscan monk and bishop St. Louis of Toulouse. The church was destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 1693 and later rebuilt in the 17th century. Vincenzo Bellini was born adjacent to this church in the Palazzo Gravina-Cruyllas, now a civic museum dedicated to the composer.

  1. Statua Cardinale Beato Dusmet (The Monument to the Blessed Giuseppe Dusmet):

This statue is located between the church of San Francesco and the Palazzo Gravina-Cruyllas (Museo Belliniano) on Piazza San Francesco d’Assisi. Cardinal Giuseppe Benedetto Dusmet; the former archbishop of Catania was admired for his dedication to charity and helping the poor. The base of the monument has four reliefs that depict acts of charity such as one showing the cardinal with Mount Etna in the background.

  1. Museo Civico Belliniano (The Museum of Vincenzo Bellini):

One of Sicily’s most iconic composers was born in this building, now a museum showcasing many of his belongings. Photographs, autographed manuscripts, personal belongings such as his death mask and 2 pianos are found in this museum. The building was damaged by the 1693 Sicily earthquake, only to be rebuilt in the 18th century and the most recent modification was the addition of a fourth floor. The house was declared as a museum by 1930 and entrance is free.

  1. Monastery of San Nicolò l’Arena:

Facing Piazza Dante, Monastero dei Benedettini di San Nicolò l’Arena has a surreal Baroque appearance due to it being unfinished. Although construction began in 1687, these efforts came to a halt because of the 1693 earthquake. Reconstruction might’ve begun in the 17th century but the façade was never finished.

Now, it has half-completed columns that are filled with holes which were meant to hold affix marble facing. The building is currently used by the Department of Humanities of Catania University. For 7 E you can take a guided tour where you can look over from the balcony of San Nicolò l’Arena Churh’s main altar.

  1. Santa Agata al Carcere (Saint Agatha at the Prison):

Is a Roman Catholic church and is one of three nearly adjacent churches venerating St. Agatha of Sicily in the neighborhood, the other two being Sant’Agata alla Fornace and Sant’Agata la Vetere. Like most of the city of Catania, the church was razed by the 1693 earthquake but the portal of the church survived and was moved, at first, to the Senatorial palace then to this particular building in the middle of the 18th century.

As the name suggests, this is where St. Agatha was imprisoned during her martyrdom. The façade faces apse of the church of Sant’Agata alla Fornace, which was built in the same spot of the furnace where Saint Agatha miraculously survived cremation. On February 3rd to 5th of each year, a half-bust of Agatha that is studded with jewels is paraded across the city during the Festival of Saint Agatha.

  1. San Biagio:

Once known as Sant’Agata alla Fornace or La Fornace, is a neoclassical architecture, Roman Catholic Church and is dedicated to St. Blaise. It overlooks a portion of the Ancient Roman Amphitheater and behind the apse are two other churches that venerate St. Agatha of Sicily.

Two churches existed in the area at the beginning, one dedicated to St. Blaise and the other one was presumably built on the ruins of the furnace from which St. Agatha escaped. Later after the 1693 earthquake, the two parishes joined.

  1. San Benedetto:

Is a church dedicated to Saint Benedict of Nursia and has a late Baroque architecture style. As it is with most of the buildings in Catania, the first church was damaged following the 1693 earthquake. The church was rebuilt by 1714 but construction of the monastery continued until 1763.

During the Second World War the church was damaged by bombs and was restored by the architect Armand Dillon. The broken pediment of the tympanum is decorated by two reclining allegorical female statues representing Fortitude and Temperance. The entrance door is made of wood and has panels with scenes from the life of St. Benedict.

The church’s most famous feature is the Angel’s Staircase or Scalinata dell’Angelo which is a marble entrance stair decorated with statues of angels and surrounded by a wrought iron railings. The Church of San Benedetto is open on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 am to 5:00 p.m.

  1. Basilica della Colleggiata:

Also known as The Ancient Royal and Eminent Basilica Collegiate of Our Lady of the Alms is an example of Sicilian Baroque. Although the church was first established in the early Middle Ages, it was rebuilt and elevated to a collegiate church by Pope Eugenius IV. The church’s façade, a clear example of late Baroques in Catania, was designed by the polish architect Stefano Ittar.

  1. San Camillo dei Mercedari:

Also known as San Camillo de Lellis, named after the saint it pays tribute to, is a Roman Catholic Church that exists in the piazza of the same name. It is one of four major baroque church-monasteries on the same street. These churches are San Francesco BorgiaSan Giuliano, and San Benedetto. On its door there’s the red cross of the Camillan order which signifies which is dedicated to ministering to the sick.

  1. Santa Chiara:

Is a Roman Catholic Church with a monastery behind it that houses a gallery of modern art. The site was adopted by a convent in 1563 after nuns of the Clarissan order established themselves in that building in the 16th century. After the 1693 Sicily earthquake, the church and convent were completed by 1760.

  1. San Francesco Borgia:

Is a church parallel to San Benedetto and is used mainly now for exhibits yet still holds much of the original Jesuit artwork. The original church was finished by 1578 and after the 1693 earthquake, the new baroque church was built on the site of the Ascencione church which was finished by 1736.

Since 1995 the building has been used by the region’s cultural offices and houses a regional library. The church is now deconsecrated and is used for cultural activities by Soprintendenza Regionale ai Beni Culturali or The Regional Superintendence for Cultural Heritage.

  1. San Gaetano alle Grotte:

The substructure of this church is said to have been a burial chapel in a lava cave in use as a cistern and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The church was actually built atop this presumably burial chapel in the 7th century. The Norman rulers restored the church adding the large columns of the upper presbytery. After the 1693 earthquake, the church was restored all throughout the 18th century and later another restoration took place in 1958.

  1. Santuario della Madonna del Carmine:

Also called Basilica di Maria Santissima Annunziata al Carmine is another Roman Catholic church that was said was built on the ruins of multiple temples. Successively, there used to be a pagan temple dedicated to Jove then the first church was built on its ruins.

After an earthquake in 1075, another church was built and was dedicated to Virgin of the Annunciation. Following the earthquake of 1693, the church was rebuilt by 1729. The church was elevated to minor basilica in 1988. Legend has it that the church was once the first burial place of Saint Agatha.

  1. San Gaetano alla Marina:

The present day church which is close to the former port of Catania, was built after the 1693 earthquake. Prior to that the site had a church dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury and a monastery dedicated to San Giuliano which became a hospital dedicated to San Marco.

  1. San Giuliano:

This church is located on Via Crocifero #36 of Catania and is dedicated to St Julian the Hospitaller. As it is with many of Catania’s churches, this church was built on the remains of a previous church that was demolished by the 1693 earthquake.

  1. Santa Maria di Gesù:

The site of the present church used to hold a small chapel attached to a convent of Franciscans in the 14th century. The church erected in 1442 acquired many artworks including a Madonna and Child sculptue by Antonello Gagini.

  1. Santa Maria dell’Indirizzo:

This is a deconsecrated church now that is located in the pizza of the same name in the center of the Catania. Located behind the apse of the church are some ruins of a former Ancient Roman baths.

  1. Chiesa della Purità:

This former deconsecrated Roman Catholic Church functions as the auditorium for the Faculty of Jurisprudence of the University of Catania.

  1. Santa Maria della Rotonda:

During the Byzantine era, this church was built on the remains of the Roman Baths of Rotonda. The church’s walls are still covered in medieval and baroque frescoes. The church was damaged in the 1943 bombing and works were carried out during the 1940s – 1950s to repair the damage. Many of the frescos the covered the walls of Santa Maria della Rotonda were removed during restoration activities directed by Guido Libertini.

  1. Santa Maria dell’Aiuto:

The church once named Santissimi Pietro e Paolo was renamed Santa Maria dell’Aiuto when a venerated icon of the Virgin was moved inside. After the rebuilding of the church following the 1963 earthquake, the statue of the Virgin was situated above the polychrome marble altar.

  1. San Martino dei Bianchi:

The current late Baroque styled façade of the church was built in the 18th century on the remains of a prior church of the lay confraternity which used to provide comfort and burial assistance to those condemned to death.

  1. San Michele Arcangelo ai Minoriti:

The monastery attached to the church now houses the offices of Provincial government and the Prefettura or Prefecture. An old order of priests and brothers were assigned the old church that once stood in the place of San Michele Arcangelo ai Minoriti, they were mainly dedicated to the care of the infirm and needy. After the 1693 leveled the old church which was dedicated to St Michael Arcangel, the minorities commissioned a new church and monastery.

  1. San Placido:

The former Benedictine monastery serves as the Archivio di Stato di Catania (State Archives of Catania). While part of the convent occupied by the Palazzo della Cultura is used nowadays for cultural activities and exhibitions. This church and monastery are rumored to have built on the ruins of an old Roman temple of Bacchus.

Legend also says that it was the place where Saint Agatha was born. San Placido is one of many churches and monasteries for nuns that suffered great losses due to the 1693 earthquake. The three surviving nuns from the earthquake were able to get work started on a new church by 1723. The monastery was suppressed in 1873.

  1. Santa Rita in San’Agostino:

Once this church was known as Sant’Agostino except in the 20th century, it became a sanctuary dedicated to Santa Rita of Cascia. Initially, dedicated to St. James (San Giacomo), all the monastery’s contents were burnt after all the monks died of the plague.

Another monastery was built by 1637, only to be destroyed by the 1693 earthquake and many of the reconstruction done was also destroyed by the 1818 earthquake. There are many alter-pieces in Santa Rita, such as Charity of St Thomas of Villanova by Giuseppe Zacco.

  1. Santa Teresa:

Also known as Santa Teresa del Bambin Gesú, was not built in its present form until after the 1693 earthquake. Originally, a Roman Catholic parish church and Discalced Carmelite were located at the church of Santa Spirito outside town which was destroyed to enhance the city’s defenses against the moving French army.

  1. Santissima Trinità (Holiest Trinity):

Now a science high school, this Roman Catholic Church has late Baroque style. This church in its current location was not initiated until the 18th century when the Benedictine nuns moved there after the 1693 earthquake. There are some notable art-pieces inside Santissima Trinità such as a Baptism of Jesus by Olivio Sozzi which is housed by the first alter on the right.

  1. Conservatorio delle Verginelle di Sant’Agata (Conservatory of the Young Virgins of St. Agatha):

An esteemed building currently serves the Faculty of Scienza della Formazione of the University of Catania, responsible for the education of future science teachers. The present building was not established until around 1720, before it was a conservatory of the same name that was noted in 1586 which aimed at providing for poor young abandoned girls.

  1. Sant’Agata al Borgo:

The Borgo is one of the original four districts of Catania, the church was built at first to care for the villagers displaced by the eruption of Aetna in 1669. Rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake, another earthquake shook the people of Catania in 1908. Feeling the tremors of the earthquake, the people of the city led a procession that started from this church with the veil of Saint Agatha to thank the patron saint for sparing their town from the earthquake.

  1. Sant’Agata la Vetere:

Is one of several churches in Catania paying tribute to Saint Agatha of Sicily. Not far from Sant’Agata la Vetere are the churches of Sant’Agata al Carcere and Sant’Agata alla Fornace, now known San Biagio.

Many stories surround Sant’Agata la Vetere, one story says it was the place where Saint Agatha was placed on trial. Another story says that her relics were supposedly brought there in the 8th century when the area was used for burials. The current church was rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake while the roof collapsed after an earthquake in 1818.

  1. Badia di Sant’Agata (Abbey of St. Agatha):

This Baroque style Roman Catholic Church is across the street from the left side of Cathedral of Catania. Like many churches in Catania, this one was established on the ruins of a previous church that was razed by the 1693 earthquake.

Reconstruction of the church was slow, the façade finished in 1742 while the dome was completed by 1768. Another time the church was damaged was due to the 1990 earthquake after which the reconstruction repairs were only finished in 2021. Abbey of St. Agatha is dedicated to Saint Agatha; much like dozens of other churches in Catania.

Catania’s Castles and Palaces

If walking through history is your favorite leisure time activity, you can choose to visit any of Catania’s majestic palaces and castles.

  1. Castello Ursino:

Also known as Castello Svevo di Catania, is a 13th century royal castle that is open to the public as a museum nowadays. Originally built as one of Emperor Fredrick II’s royal castles, this it was used as a prison after the castle lost its military role and it is one of the few buildings to have survived the 1693 earthquake.

Panorama of the Castello Ursino, also known as Castello Svevo di Catania
Panorama of the Castello Ursino, also known as Castello Svevo di Catania

The museum within the castle houses many artifacts from the castle itself and the surrounding geographical area. The mainly archeologic collections of the fifth Prince of Biscari; Ignazio Paternò Castello, are on display in Castello Ursino. This beautiful castle is also used, in recent days, for art exhibitions but the opportunity to use it to tie the knot is the most romantic thing to do.

  1. Palazzo degli Elefanti (Elephant’s Palace):

Is the current house of Catania’s City Hall. Remember u’Liotru or Fontana dell’Elefante? The Elephant’s Palace was built in 1696 after the shocking earthquake of 1693. In 1736, the black lava stone statue of the elephant was erected in the center of Piazza del Duomo, of which the main façade of the palace faces its northern side. The second floor of the palace displays a number of large historical oil paintings.

  1. Palazzo Biscari:

This palace was built after the destructive earthquake of 1693, with construction beginning with the third Prince of Biscari and ended with his son’s nephew; the fifth Prince of Biscari who completed the decorations in 1763. The palace is open for guided tours and social and cultural events.

  1. Palazzo Tezzano:

This palace was once a hospital from 1720 to 1727 which faced many economic difficulties that parts of the building were subsequently rented out in 1837 and 1844. The complete move of the hospital status and facilities from the building was done by 1880. This late Baroque style palace was house to the General Court till 1953. Nowadays, the palace houses the Ceramographic Archive of the University of Catania.

  1. Palazzo Paternò del Toscano:

Also known as Palazzo del Toscano is currently used by many schools, shops and for cultural programs, even some of its rooms were used as movie sets in recent decades. Building began after the deadly earthquake of 1693 in the 18th century, only to be finished by 1873.

  1. Palazzo delle Poste:

This new-Baroque style building might have the status of a palace, it was and still does house postal offices in Catania. It is one of the most recent palaces built in the city, with construction beginning in 1922 and ending in 1930.

  1. Teatro Massimo Bellini:

A majestic Sicilian Baroque style opera house dedicated to Catania’s famous composer Vincenzo Bellini. The foundation for the theater was put in 1812 except that the construction period took almost 200 years.

For more than once, construction works came to halt due to funding problems until a municipal committee decided that the structure of the building was to be a single-purpose opera house dedicated to Bellini. From there construction works went on smoothly till the opera’s opening in May, 1890. The building’s painted ceiling exhibits four of Bellini’s most famous operas.

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Catania: A Nature Escape

Catania’s landscape might seem full of prestigious churches except that this is only a fraction of what this beautiful city can offer you during your holiday. If you’re seeking a taste of adventure and edge, you can select from a different array of activities involving Mount Etna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013 and the largest of the three active volcanos in Italy.

It is worth mentioning that while it might seem scary, the benefits Mount Etna provide for the field of agriculture in the area are immense. Vineyards and orchards cover many of the slopes of the mountain and the broad plain of Catania to the south.

  1. Join a hiking trip to the top of Mount Etna:

If you’re a hiking enthusiast or just want to immerse yourself in the beautiful nature around this mighty volcano. You can book a hiking trip that will do more than test your endurance. You can catch a bus from the Catania Railway Station for around 7 Euros that will take you to the base of the mountain in a one hour ride.

You can explore the old craters, spotting ancient lava flows or you can pay up to 30 E for a cable car to take you to the crater zone. You can also venture to explore the botanic garden of Giardino Botanico “Nuova Gussonea” which replicates the entire volcano’s plant environment.

  1. Etna Jeep Tours:

If you want to enjoy the beautiful nature of the Etna reserve without the hassle of a hike, you can book a jeep tour that will take you all the way from your hotel, you will get to witness the remains of lava flows that once threatened entire villages, you can experience the thrill of descending into a lava tube; a lava flow cave.

  1. Book a trip with a volcano-logical guide:

Some travel agencies offer you the opportunity to explore Mount Etna with a volcano-logical guide. A commute will take you from your hotel door, followed by the trip in the cable car to reach the top. Then you will go on foot for about 2 hours with occasional stops until you finally reach the summit.

  1. A romantic sunset half-day tour:

Another special trip that would allow you to watch the mesmerizing sunset from Mount Etna can last for about 6 hours. You will get to watch the sunset in the most romantic atmosphere after exploring some of the old craters and lava flows. On your way back you will head to a local farm to have a taste of local goods such as honey and wine.

Gardens of Catania

If you fancy the beautiful organization of flowers and plants, you can opt for a visit to one of three main gardens in Catania.

  1. Orto Botanico dell’Università di Catania:

This botanic garden is a member of what’s known as BGCI or Botanic Gardens Conservation International. It is operated by the Department of Botany in the University of Catania. The idea of a botanical garden was first discussed in 1847 except that the foundation of today’s garden was laid in 1858 with the first plantings set in 1862.

uring the Second World War the main garden was damaged but was renewed in the following years. The garden is divided into two main parts. The Hortus Generalis which collects mainly exotic plants, and the Hortus Siculus which cultivates Sicilian species.

  1. Giardino Botanico (Nuova Gussonea):

This new botanic garden was established in 1979 and inaugurated in 1981 as a result of an agreement between the Directorate General of Forests of the Sicilian Region and the University of Catania. It is located on the Southern side of Mount Etna, at an altitude of 1,700 meters, in area B in Etna Natural Park.

  1. Giardino Bellini:

Also known as Villa Bellini or Bellini Garden is the oldest urban park in Catania. This once home to swans, geese, deer, cows and monkeys used to be a garden maze until 1854.

Catania’s Mesmerizing Beaches

If your desire is to escape the city and lose yourself along the waves of the Mediterranean Sea, you can head to one of two very distinguished monuments overlooking this vast sea.

  1. Aci Castello:

This Norman style castle has a town developed around it in 1076 and is located 9 kilometers north of Catania on the Mediterranean coast. The castle has a museum inside which displays archeological remains dating back from prehistoric to medieval times. One of the landmarks included in Aci Castello is the Church of St. Joseph that is home to many beautiful frescos.

  1. The Isola Bella Island (Taormina):

You can catch a bus from the Terminal Interbus – Etna Transporti from the center of Catania to the hilltop town of Taormina. In Taormina, you can explore the remains of Greek structures that survived throughout the years and left by those who first arrived at the island in 734 BC. From atop the town you can enjoy the views of Mount Etna and the Mediterranean Sea.

Ancient Greek Ruins in Taormina-Catania
Ancient Greek Ruins in Taormina-Catania

Sunbathing on the shore of Isola Bella is the most relaxing pass-time. Isola Bella is a small island near Taormina, which was proclaimed as a nature reserve after getting bought by the Region of Sicily. It is administered by the Italian branch of the World Wide Fund for nature. Isola Bella is home to many species of birds and few types of lizards.

Festivals in Catania

As it is with most Italian cities, Catania has its share of yearly festivals that are not to be missed if you’re ever going to be in the city. Religious, musical and food festivals in Catania will, without a doubt, pull you in the atmosphere of this Mediterranean city.

  1. Festa di San’Agata (February 3rd to 5th and 12th and August 17th):

Saint Agatha, the patron saint of Catania is celebrated every year with a month worth of preparation before the festival begins. It is the third religious festival in the world for the participation of the faithful. While her martyrdom is celebrated in February, the return of her remains from Constantinople is celebrated in August.

The procession goes through the places of martyrdom and the oldest road layout of the city with the use of a candelore, beautifully decorated candlesticks that are carried by believers and devotees. The magnificent fireworks which mark the end of the festival is a reminder that Saint Agatha is always there looking over the fire of Etna and the people of the city of Catania.

  1. Festa di Sant’Alfio (End of April):

In the village of Sant’Alfio; located at the slopes of Mount Etna, celebrates every year three saints that are St. Alfio, Saints Cirinus and Philadelphus. This festival attracts a large number of faithful.

  1. Festa di Sant’Alfio, Cherry Festival Edition:

You can choose a villa online in Sant’Alfio to be able to participate in this delicious festival. Since the weather at this village is a Mediterranean one, it is the perfect environment for growing high quality cherries. This festival gives all producers to showcase their products in the charming town. The Etna cherry is one of the products of excellence in Catania. This festival is also decorated by music shows and colorful floral exhibitions forming a carpet of petal mosaic.

  1. Carnival (February – March):

Every year during this period of time, Acireale starts celebrating. This carnival is a complete show, with wagons, floats, parades and masks that manage to surprise its visitors. This carnival is one of the most famous both in Sicily and Italy.

  1. Pistachio Festival (Last weekend of September and first weekend of October):

The so-called “Green Gold” of Sicily; pistachio, is celebrated in the Bronte Pistachio Festival. Pistachio is used in everything not just ice creams, but in creams even making pesto. Typical local products are displayed, cooking shows and handiworks and live music shows take place to entertain the attendance.

  1. Etna Wine Festival (End of August – Beginning of September):

In the town of Milo, the Sagra dei Vini dell’Etna takes place. This festival attracts thousands of tourists every year who are interested in good food and good wine. The best Sicilian wineries come together to decorate the beautiful city center of Catania in a marvelous celebration.

  1. Catania Jazz Festival (Winter season):

This Jazz festival includes concerts in different locations throughout the city. In the late 1980s and during the 1990s, Catania had a growing musical scene. Many indie pop and indie rocks bands came into existence which led to the birth of independent music labels.

  1. Natività della Beata Vergine Maria (December 8th):

On this day local people carry the statue of the saint through the main streets of the city of Catania.

  1. Catania Tango Festival (9 days in August):

For those in love with Tango or those who wish to start taking dance lessons in this unique dancing style, this festival is the best place to start. For nine days, many events and workshops are set up with the sole purpose of teaching and practicing Tango.

Italians flock to the city on these days to enjoy this favorite dance. The festival is held in three areas, Romano Palace Hotel that also hosts competitions between dancers, Lido Azzurro Beach where regular visitors can dance the tango, and Royal Hotel that hosts fabulous performances and shows.

Catania’s Cuisine

Wandering about the city of Catania or the nearby towns and villages you will most certainly feel hungry and thirsty. Some of the local markets are worth a visit even if you’re casually browsing through the city and some local dishes are definitely worth the try. How about we have a look at those?

  1. The Fish Market (Behind the Cathedral of Catania):

The cries of the sellers of all sorts of fish, meat and vegetables will draw your attention to this market. It takes place on a display of marble counters. Exploring this market is one way to get closer to the everyday life of the people of Catania and their culture.

  1. The Kiosks of Catania:

As the name explains, these kiosks are located everywhere in Catania and the drinking method; “u cioscu” meaning “at the kiosk” is one of the most distinguishable habits of people in Catania. To name a few of the places where these kiosks stand, there are ones at Piazza Roma, Piazza Cavour, and Piazza della Borsa.

The ingredients of the drinks are always the same; sugar, fruits, cups, measuring cups and presses to squeeze the citrus fruits. Nowadays, sparkling water from the slopes of Mount Etna is added to the mineral water along with syrups and soda water.

  1. Pasta alla Norma:

Is one of Catania’s signature cuisines. This vegetarian dish is mainly made of fusilli or rigatoni pasta tossed in tomatoes, basil, sautéed eggplant and topped with a cheesy goodness of salty ricotta cheese. The best thing about pasta alla norma is that it is served in almost any restaurant in Catania. It is said that this dish was named after Vincenzo Bellini’s opera.

One more thing, if you love shopping then Catania is the perfect place for you. You can find boutique shops on via Etnea such as Camula, as well as hypermarkets such as Porte di Catania, Centro Commerciale Grandecina Catania, all around the city.

So, have I convinced you to come to Catania yet?

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