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Traveling Italian

Posted On July 5, 2023 By Louis

Best Things to Do in Catania 2023

On the east coast of Sicily is the ancient port city of Catania. This is the second largest city in Sicily and is filled with history dating back to the 8th century. Catania has been impacted & destroyed by a lot of geological events such as earthquakes and also eruptions from Mount Etna which is one of the most active volcanoes in Europe.

There are many things to do in Catania, here are the top ones:

Explore the history of the Cathedral of Saint Agatha

Initially built in 1078 by the order of Roger I of Sicily this roman catholic cathedral has been the seat of the bishops of Catania until 1859. From there it received archdiocese status and seated the archbishops of Catania. Over the years it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times due to the impact of Mount Etna. Most recently an earthquake in 1693 meant it has to be rebuilt again but this time in a highly decorative baroque style by Sicilan Architect Gian Battista Vaccarini. Outside you can also see apses from Mt Etna’s lava stones when it erupted, corinthian columns made in granite and marble statues of St Agatha. Inside you are able to see paintings & canvases of saints from the 17th century.

Visit the ruins of the Roman Amphitheatre in Catania

In the city centre is the Amphitheatre of Catania. It was built around 2AD between the emperors Hadrian & Antoninus Pius and now lies below ground level. In 3AD it was tripled in size and could hold 15-20,000 spectators. Over time it was buried by volcanic eruptions until the 18th century. From there it was rediscovered and had many excavations & restorations to reveal its structure. With all the history and renovations it can be closed at sudden notice so make sure to check ahead of time.

Climb Mount Etna Volcano

Around 50 minutes away from Catania City and close to Taormina is Mt Etna one of the tallest and most active volcanoes in Europe. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2013. As of 2021, it stood at 3357m however always changes after erupting. It has thought to have grown 30 metres of a string of eruptions recently. You can travel yourself and take the cable car up to 2500m but to get any higher you will need to book a Mount Etna tour and I would advise this due to how volcanic the site is. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and if you go around sunset it is magical. The Cable car and site is open from 8.30 am - 4.00 pm every day but always check timings ahead of time as they could be shut dependent on the weather.

Go Wine Tasting in Catania

Due to Mount Etna’s fertile volcanic soils, the lower part of the volcano is the perfect area for vineyards to be born. Open every day except Monday is the 19th century Benanti Winery that is on the slopes of the Volcano. There are many other popular wineries that are family run such as Cantina Etnella an organic winery, Etna Urban Winery, and Gambino Vini. You can book a winery tour and be surprised by the volcano-infused vino.

Try the local food in Catania

Catania is home to some of the best restaurants in Sicily. It has 8 Michelin-reviewed restaurants that include starred venues like Sapio and those awarded the Bib Gourmand Me Cumpari Turiddu. If you are looking for a top local restaurant in Catania try Due Pistacchi Restaurant.

The most typical food you can find in Catania is grilled meats and something you have to try is a Cartocciata. This looks like a small calzone but is a pastry that is filled with different ingredients like salami olives, eggplant, sausages and many other flavours. Something a bit different is the Cipollina, a puff pastry to snack on filled with ingredients like onions, tomato, ham and mozzarella.

Seafood & fish is also a delicacy as Catania is on the coast, so look out for Involtini di Pesce Spada. This is a grilled/pan-fried swordfish roll stuffed with herbs, nuts, and cheese. If cooked on charcoal it adds an amazing smoky flavour. A recommendation is booking a food tour from the local guide in Catania.

Go Shopping at the local Catania Markets

There a quite a few markets in Catania. The most popular one is the historic fish market. This is just behind the Piazza Duomo, down some lava steps and is open from Monday to Saturday from 7 am - 2 pm. It is huge, filled with music and many vendors. Definitely worth a visit even if you don’t buy anything, you can look at all the different types of fresh fish that were just caught.

Nearby is the Mercatino delle pulci, a flea market open just on Sundays. They open at 6 am and I would advise going early to pick some of the best goods that might be on offer. You can potentially purchase a piece of history at a bargain price.

In Catania, you can also find the Fera 'o Luni market which is where you will find a variety of merchants such as fruit stalls, vegetable traders, clothes and much more. It closes at 1 pm and being in the centre you can go for lunch or a coffee afterwards.

Go to the yearly Festival of Santa Agatha

Every year in February and August the religious festival of Santa Agatha is celebrated. In February it represents the martyrdom and the later date to celebrate the return of her remains to Catania.

Over three days the procession starts at noon, with 11 large candles in baroque casings going from the Church to the Cathedral of St Agatha. At around 3 pm there is a cross-country race around town. Celebrations go on all throughout the night. The second day after the mass at dawn a reliquary bust of St Agatha is carried around the streets and then concludes on the final day with another procession.

Here are some tips when planning your trip to Catania

  • Go to the markets early to get the freshest food and good items. When it hits around 8 am it gets very busy. These markets are close to all the hotels in Catania centre.
  • When going to restaurants in Catania, book early a few weeks in advance if possible as its an extremely popular town
  • In the summer wear a hat, sunglasses and suncream. Most places sell factor 30 so consider bringing in factor 50 from where you are departing.
  • Local tour guides are a great way to really understand the history of Catania.
  • If doing a lot of walking, make sure to bring comfortable walking shoes.

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