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Traveling Italian

Posted On April 4, 2023 By Louis

The Catania Travel Guide

About Catania

Catania is an ancient port city on the east coast of Sicily. It is home to some of the most incredible views such as the Ionian Sea, the volcano Mount Etna and its own architecture. Catania was founded in the 8th century by the Greeks and since then has been impacted by many geological events. In 1169 it was almost destroyed by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3, a Mount Etna eruption in 1669 that swamped the city, and another 7.4 earthquake in 1693. This is great for those looking for an adventure and to learn more about history.

With a population of around 311,000, it is the second largest city in Sicily however during summer it can balloon higher as it is a very popular place to go especially for its nightlife.

Apart from its beautiful views, Catania is also rich in history. It has many baroque architecture and now is the industrial, commercial and logistical centre of Sicily.

What is Catania known for?

Baroque architecture: Catania's town centre has a lot of Baroque architecture, such as the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Agatha, Ursino Castle which is a medieval 13th-century fortress and the Monastery of San Nicolò l'Arena which is the 2nd largest Benedictine monastery in Europe.

Food - There is some incredible local Sicilian fresh seafood as Catania is a port town. They have their own fish market which is considered one of the best markets in Italy. Some of the best restaurants in Catania are in the town however you can find more a bit further out.

Hotels & Shopping - Being a large City Catania has many prestigious hotels to go to and many speciality & luxury stores to visit.

Nightlife - The town is known for its nightlife, as there are many bars, clubs and restaurants that are open late. You will also see locals traveling from all over Sicily to go clubbing in Catania and then take the train back in the morning.

Beaches - If you are looking for a relaxing Italian holiday there are amazing beaches such as the Spiaggia della Plaia (sandy beach) that are just south of the city, Le Capannine a beach club with Tiki huts, DJs & bars, or San Giovanni Li Cuti which is known for snorkelling and swimming as has crystal clear water. There are so many other beaches to discover though.

Languages Spoken in Catania

Most of the city speaks Italian however being the second largest city in Sicily, many residents also speak English. It would be good though to spend some time learning some local phrases in case you wander away from the centre.

Catania Market stalls down an alley

How to get around Catania

There are many ways to get to Catania, along with lots of options to travel around the City. Here are my tips also taking into consideration where you started.

Aeroplane - From any other country, this is the fastest method to reach Catania. From the city, the nearest Airport is Catania Airport CTA which takes around 10-15 minutes to take a taxi to and from. You hop over in just 3 hours to Catania from the UK and only costs around £13. From Australia, you can fly direct via Dubai in 25 hours or if you want to explore mainland Italy you can fly to Rome Airport which also has many flight routes.

Train - This is an easy way to get to. Catania from mainland Italy and also from other towns in Sicily. Catania Aeroporto Fontanarossa is the closest to the airport and you can be in Catania Centrale in just 10 minutes costing €2.10 one way. TRENITALIA operates from the Airport starting 5.50 am until 8 pm so is super convenient.

Bus - Taking the Bus is easy to travel around in Sicily, especially to the towns that don't have train stations but can be delayed or even cancelled. From Catania Airport to Catania Centrale the bus is just 25 minutes using Capolinea ALIBUS and conveniently operates from 4 am to midnight. Rome to Sicily in 11 hours 15 minutes and most take this overnight.

Car - Catania town being so close to the Airport means it only takes around 10 minutes if you book a rental car but note that parking can be difficult during the hot seasons. From mainland Italy to Catania you have to cross via ferry in Villa San Giovanni to Messina which takes around 30 minutes. In Italy always remember that drivers are on the left side of the car and actually drive on the right-hand side. This can be further confusing if you are used to driving a manual. Most people opt for automatic but it does creep up in price as manuals are the most common in Sicily.

Cycling - Catania is a very cycle-friendly town and you can easily rent one from many places. There are also many cycle lanes for your safety when getting around

Walking - As the city is pretty compact walking around Catania is a great option as you can visit and get close to all of its amazing buildings.

Taxi - A taxi from the Airport into town costs €30 one way and would advise getting the one outside of arrivals. Taxis are convenient when flying in from overseas as you don't have the struggle of trying to sort out public transport or rental cars late at night. Sometimes you just want to check into the hotel ASAP. Whilst it might be the most expensive option it's super useful and works out cost effective when in a group. A good taxi company in Catania is Sicily Transfer Taxi.

Parking in Catania

Parking can be quite intimidating for tourists when visiting a new country, as it is essential to ensure that you park in the appropriate location and avoid getting fined. Here's a simplified guide to parking in Catania. Please note that most of the time, parking requires payment, and it's advisable to carry cash in case card payment is not accepted.

Navigating parking in Catania can be quite challenging, especially during the summer season. Street parking is available but limited, and you need to exercise caution to avoid resident-only parking areas. Resident parking areas are indicated by white lines, while blue lines indicate paid parking zones. Always be on the lookout for parking meters or consider purchasing a ticket from a local newsagent. It's crucial to display the ticket prominently on your dashboard and ensure you're not even a minute late, as parking attendants are present at all times.

The easiest way to pay for parking in Italy is with the EasyPark app. It works in most places around the country and lets you pay directly from your phone, so you don't have to find a parking meter or newsagent, which may be far away or closed. You can pay for a few hours, or stop the timer and pay less if you come back early. One tip: when you download the app, enter a random Italian phone number, because your local number won't work. EasyPark charges a small fee, but the convenience is worth it.

In some parts of the Catania city centre, there are designated areas known as Zona Traffico Limitato (ZTL), where only residents and specific vehicles are permitted to enter. If you're not a resident, it's crucial to avoid entering these ZTL areas in your own or rental car, as doing so can result in significant fines.

The most common and easily accessible parking option is parking garages, which can be found by searching "Parcheggio" on Google Maps near your desired destination. If you're staying at a hotel, the safest and most convenient choice is to utilize the hotel's parking lot. Some hotels offer free parking, while others may charge a fee.

Best things to do in Catania

There are many things to do in Catania as it's surrounded by the Ionian Sea and is rich in History. Here are some of the best things to do in Catania.

  • Spend some time at the Fish Market. The fish market in Catania is one of the best and largest in Italy. You can sample and purchase fresh seafood, vegetables cakes and much more here.
  • Have a picnic at the Giardino Bellini, which is one of the oldest gardens in Catania dating back to the 18th century. It features lots of tall trees fountains and ponds. Entry is free.
  • Hit Aperitivo time. When it's early evening, the locals will go for snacks and drinks before dinner. There are many places that do Aperitivo specials, a good place is Deliziosa.
  • Visit Via Etnea. This is the main street in Catania featuring many bars, clubs and restaurants. It runs for 2.8km and comes alive in the evening full of music. During the day there are many shops to go shopping.
  • Have a culinary experience. The town has 4 Michelin awarded venues. You eat at many of the best restaurants in Catania.
  • Visit some of the historical sites such as the Cathedral of Saint Agatha, Ursino Castle, Palazzo degli Elefanti, or the Roman Amphitheatre.
  • Visit some of the beaches. Catania has many beaches like the Spiaggia della Plaia, San Giovanni Li Cuti, and Aci Trezza beach.
  • Climb Mount Etna. 1 hour away from town is The Etna volcano and you can take the cable car up to 2500 metres. Mt Etna cable car prices are from €50 and if you take a guided tour that can go higher for just €78. The operating hours for visiting the Etna volcano are from 8:30 am to 4:10 pm every day subject to the weather. 
  • Go wine tasting. There are many wineries around Catania as is so close to Mount Etna that has great soil. Try Cantine Privitera, Etna Urban Winery, and Benanti. Also call them to check on opening hours and because they are outside of town learn some Italian phrases due to the language barriers.
Roman Ampitheatre of Catania

The Top 5 Hotels in Catania

  • Romano Palace Luxury Hotel is a 5* beachfront hotel just 2.7km from the centre. It also has its own pool; each room has free wifi tv and a balcony.
  • The Duomo Suites & Spa is an 18th-century 4* hotel in the centre of Catania town. It also features a panoramic terrace to relax on for guests. Despite the renovation, you can still feel its charm.
  • 20 Miglia Boutique Hotel is a popular 4* hotel in the town centre. The property is boutique and feels like a luxury renovated family home.
  • Situated in town, the Liberty Hotel is a luxurious Art Nouveau villa dating back to the early 20th century, boasting a 4-star rating. Each room is elegantly furnished, featuring a mosaic marble bathroom, complimentary wifi, and air conditioning.
  • 900 metres away from Catania train station is Katane Palace Hotel a 4* hotel. It features a precious tapestry, an arched ceiling, and paintings that create a sophisticated atmosphere. When you stay you receive free parking, breakfast and wifi.

How much should you budget for a trip in Catania?

There are various activity-based categories to consider, but currently, I suggest setting aside around €260 per day per person. To delve deeper:

Breakfast (sometimes included in accommodation)€20
Lunch €30
Tourist Activities€30
Going out€30
Total cost per day€260

Best travel card to use on Vacation.

I highly recommend utilizing the Wise card for money transfers during your vacation. It's one of the top international cards available, eliminating the need for post office currency conversions. With Wise, you can use Apple Pay or Google Pay even before receiving the physical card.

Wise offers lower fees compared to banks, with no additional markups. They provide the current day's exchange rate without inflation. It's wise to carry some cash while traveling, and Wise's fees are reasonable, making it worth comparing to your local debit card.

I've personally used Wise for over five years, saving a significant amount compared to my local bank. I also use it for money transfers abroad, where I save on exchange fees. It's not a one-time use especially if you go away often or if you have a business paying suppliers abroad.

How long should you stay in Catania?

How long to stay in Catania town depend on your interests and travel plans. If you're interested in exploring the historical sites, enjoying the local Sicilian food, and experiencing the culture, a stay of 2-3 days is usually sufficient.

If you're interested in activities to do in Catania such as going to Mount Etna, wineries or relaxing at the beaches, you may want to consider staying in the city for longer, perhaps 5-7 days.

Catania is a very popular place to go, especially with only a handful of 4 and 5* hotels so make sure to book your accommodation early. These often get taken first especially if you booked before the end of the year. The next year the prices usually go up.

Make sure to read our blog on Travel Essentials for Europe for more tips when planning a trip.

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