Visiting Catania - What to See and Do
(Catania Vincenzo Bellini Airport CTA, Italy)
With a history that spans more than 2,700 years, Catania is among Sicily's more intriguing tourism destinations. Resting at the foot of Europe's most active volcanic mountain, Catania continues to blossom despite wave after wave of relentless attacks by Mother Nature. This defiance has led to a unique landscape of Baroque, Roman, and Greek marvels, hidden throughout the city.
Modern Catania is a dynamic commercial centre that plugs itself as Europe's 'Silicon Valley'. Nevertheless, tourism remains the focal industry, especially after UNESCO listed the entire city centre as a heritage site. Ancient, medieval and Renaissance-erected attractions surreptitiously poke through the city's modern facade, despite being buried by an earthquake and eruption during the 15th century. Sightseeing may be challenging, but the beautiful sights are well-worth it.
After dark, there are plenty of entertainment venues to visit, from the bars of Via Teatro Massimo, to the kiosks popping up on virtually every corner. However, the night is only part of the fun in Catania. Wake up early in the morning to visit the local produce markets, which dot the city centre. These are the last true bastions of thriving Catanesi culture.
Ten things you must do in Catania
- Via Etnea is the place to shop. However, it is not as chaotic as tourists would think. It is quite spacious and in addition to shops, restaurants and cafés, plenty of churches and other significant structures line the street. Tourists are advised to have their credit cards in order, as the strip boasts a tremendous arrangement of shops and boutique stores to experience.
- Explore the food and fish market, which offers exactly what the title suggests - food and fish. This is the most energetic spot in the city, especially on a Friday or Saturday morning. Practice negotiating skills and pick up a bargain on the absolutely freshest food in Catania. The market is found just a few minutes on foot from the Piazza Duomo.
- The Roman Amphitheatre is but one of many ancient landmarks in this Sicilian city. Tourists can experience life before Mount Etna buried Catania's Roman-built landscape. Even though this site barely compares to the once 16,000-seat theatre, it still provides tourists with a fascinating trip back in time. The amphitheatre is only a short stroll from the Piazza Stesicoro.
- St. Agatha's Cathedral may have been destroyed and rebuilt several times due to fire, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, but this 9th-century Baroque structure still stands proudly in the city centre. Climb the 70-metre / 230-foot high cupola for 360-degree views. The marble facade is a tremendous addition to the city's beautiful landscape.
- The Massimo Bellini Theatre (Teatro Massimo Bellini) may be a fascinating 19th-century opera house, but its surrounding area should also be a high priority for anyone's Catania itinerary. The district is a trendy, almost bohemian-type neighbourhood, boasting plenty of bars and clubs. For a memorable evening, enjoy a night out at the opera, then unwind in one of the establishments around the corner.
- Despite standing outside the city, Mount Etna is the most recognisable attraction in Catania. This active, yet safe-to-visit volcano has buried the region more times than locals care to remember. Buses, trains and shuttle vans take tourists to the foot of the mountain every day except Sundays. For those ascending to the top, bring cold weather gear, regardless of the season.
- Believe it or not, Ursino Castle (Castello Ursino) was once perched upon cliff-tops and overlooked the sea. However, since then, volcanic eruptions have surrounded the castle by land and rock. The fortress is quite eerie-looking, but inside this landmark is the Civic Museum, which portrays a history of Catania through Greek and Roman relics, paintings, sculptures and ceramics.
- Although it doesn't look like much, the old refinery building, known as Le Ciminiere, has been refurbished and redesigned to accommodate the city's most adored art museum. Visitors will be able to set eyes upon a collection of very valuable war memorabilia and photography from local artists. Tours of the cultural centre are available, and temporary exhibitions are regularly hosted by the complex.
- The Botanical Gardens of Catania are an idyllic site for relaxation, or for green-fingered visitors. Two different sections have been created inside the park. Tourists can bask in the beauty of local, Sicilian floral species in one area, then visit exotic species from equatorial regions around the globe.
- Baroque church tours of the city could last for days. However, most guided tours visit a dozen or so, which should be enough. Some of the structures are nothing more than ruins, but many still host worshippers daily. Saint Agatha Abbey, the Saint Francis of Assisi Church and the classic Sicilian-Baroque Basilica della Collegiata are notable sites along a church tour of Catania.