Catania, Sicily at a glance
Overshadowed by the menacing Mount Etna, Catania exudes joie de vivre amidst crumbling Greco-Roman ruins and Baroque grandeur.
Piazza Teatro Massimo, with its many pubs and bars, is the heart of the Catanese movida (nightlife).
You probably didn’t know
Catania has the oldest university in Sicily, founded in 1434.
Suggested reading and viewing
Read The Viceroys (Federico De Roberto, 1894); watch Sparrow (1993), directed by Franco Zeffirelli.
- Population: 315,000
- Annual visitor numbers: 800,000 (2014)
- January mean temperature: 11°C
- August mean temperature: 27°C
Things to do in Catania, Sicily
Caffè del Duomo
The perfect place to start acquiring a taste for Sicilian delights is at the Caffè del Duomo, which offers a highly tempting array of sweets and savouries. Breakfast as the locals do, with a granita (ice smoothie) served in a brioscia (egg bun).
La Paglia Antica Trattoria
Open for business since 1814, La Paglia Antica Trattoria gets its ingredients right at its doorstep, at the neighbouring fish market. Seafood prepared in every way conceivable rules supreme here, but there are also vegetarian options, such as spaghetti alla norma, a dish synonymous with Catania.
Ciciulena takes classic Sicilian favourites and puts a new twist on them. To get the full culinary experience, go for one of the tasting menus, washed down with one of the many island wines from their well-stocked cellar.
For a quick bite to eat at lunch or dinner, FUD offers salads, Sicilian street food, pizzas with both classic and unusual toppings, and juicy hamburgers, island style. Our top tip: try the Bec Burger, which is topped with Nebrodi swine bacon and provolone cheese from the Madonie.
It seems like almost every brand of beer that has ever been brewed can be found at Birretteria in Via Vittorio Emanuele, bottled or on tap. The place is tiny but wholly convivial.
M.A. Music Action
Live acts, local bands or DJ sets convene under one roof at M.A. Music Action (6-10 Via Vela). For a quieter and more subdued evening, head to Prestipino Cafe and snack on cannoli while people watching.
A Fera ’o Luni
A Fera ’o Luni is a vast outdoor market that takes place in Piazza Carlo Alberto every Monday. Stalls offer everything from local foodstuff displayed in an explosion of colours to designer clothes and shoes. Get there early to beat the crowds, or late if you want to haggle for bargains.
Via Etnea and Etnapolis
Haute couture and global brands are found along Via Etnea, where there is everything from local designer boutiques to well-known retail chains. If you want an all-in-one shopping experience, head to the mall on the outskirts of town, Etnapolis.
The fish market
The cacophonous fish market behind the Amenano Fountain in Piazza Duomo is as much a visitor attraction as a genuine place to do your shopping. Wear slip-proof shoes and a pair of trousers you won’t mind getting dirty.
Via Etnea is the address of most of the city’s cultural sites, including the cathedral and its underlying Roman baths, two open-air Greek odeons (theatres) and what was once possibly the largest monastery in Europe (it’s now a library). Catania is also home to a Swabian castle (Castello Ursino) and black ash-covered, ornately decorated palaces. If you’re pressed for time and the weather is good, take an open-air bus tour run by tour company Katane Live, departing from Piazza Duomo.
The little ones – and the adults, too – will enjoy a visit to Le Ciminiere (Piazzale Asia). Not only are there art exhibits and food fairs going on at any given time of year, but Museo del Giocattolo (a magical toy museum) will keep them enthralled, wondering how it’s possible that playthings don’t need electronics to work.
Teatro Massimo Bellini
The Teatro Massimo Bellini pays homage to its favourite son, the composer of the opera Norma, with a rich annual opera and symphony season. Guided tours are also available weekday mornings.
Events to look out for:
- Sant’Agata feast and procession (February)
- The Carnival of Acireale and its parade (February)
- Tragedies at the Greek Theatre in Syracuse (May-June)
- Taormina Film Festival (June)
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