Piazza Duomo in Catania

How to spend 3 days in Catania, Sicily [Travel Itinerary]

Catania is a charming city, not only because it is the city where I was born and where I live, but also because it is the ideal place for any type of personality and it also lets you enjoy sea and mountain at the same time. Throughout history, Catania was hit by the most devastating volcanic eruptions, such as the one of 1669, which destroyed thousands of hectares of farmland. My city was also devastated by earthquakes, such as the one of 1693, which destroyed it completely. There were more than 15 thousands of victims.

NOTE: You can visit Catania alone or with other people. It is known as the “Milan of the South”, because it is a city that is always alive at all hours. If you love good food, culture and the contrasts between sea and mountains, you have chosen the right destination. My blog’s reader is going to visit it. She doesn’t like to sightsee. She prefers taking photos, enjoying a good pizza and traditional granita and buying souvenirs on a budget.

When you arrive at the airport I recommend you get to Catania by the bus Alibus AMT 457,which takes you directly to the center (according to where your accomodation is). This is the cheaper solution. You can buy the ticket at the airport or on the bus at the cost of €4, or you can catch a taxi at the cost of €20, if you don’t want to wait for the bus which leaves each 25 minutes.

DAY 1 – CENTER OF CATANIA

Spend your day exploring the historic center of Catania, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its Baroque. The main street is Via Etnea, about 3 km long. Along the street you will see many churches such as the Basilica of Collegiata, built in the early eighteenth century, after the 1693 earthquake, on the ruins of an earlier church belonged to the Aragonese and elevated to the Royal Chapel in 1396.

Near the Basilica there is Piazza Stesicoro, with the remains of the Anfiteatro Romano (Roman Amphitheater), dated around the II century. Admission is free and it is open every day, except Sundays and Mondays.

Behind the Amphitheater there is the S. Biagio Church, also called “Sant’Agata alla fornace”. The church was built in the eighteenth century after 1693.

Piazza Stesicoro in Catania, Roman Amphitheater

CURIOSITY: According to tradition, the Church stands where once the furnace of Sant’Agata’s martyrdom was located. After being locked up in jail for refusing to recant his faith, Agata was first tortured by fire and then her breasts were removed. Sant’Agata is the patron saint of my city and she is celebrated for 3 days, from 3 to 5 of February. This feast attracts many tourists from all over the world.

The monument of Vincenzo Bellini, the famous composer from Catania, is opposite the Amphitheater. The white marble statue represents Bellini sitting on a chair. The monument is on a base composed by seven steps, which indicate the 7 musical notes. On the four sides of the column there are 4 statues which represent his 4 famous works: Norma, I Puritani, La Sonnambula and Il Pirata.Piazza Stesicoro, Vincenzo Bellini MonumentBehind the Bellini monument, there is a huge market where you can truly find everything and also make good deals: clothes, accessories, perfumes, food. Go shopping! We call this place “Fera O’ Luni”. In Piazza Carlo Alberto there is the beautiful Santuario della Madonna del Carmine, dated 1729, which dominates the market.Catania market
Sant'Agata Church in CataniaCome back Via Etnea and walk down. You will be in Piazza Università (dated about 1696) characterised by two buildings, one front to another, the Palazzo dell’Università and the Palazzo di San Giuliano, built in 1738.
Piazza Università in Catania
Piazza Università in CataniaIf you walk down, on the right there is Via Antonino di Sangiuliano. Take this street and then turn left, where there is the beautiful Via Crociferi. The road is a symbol of Baroque architecture. In the short space of about 200 meters there are 4 churches: San Benedetto Church, San Francesco Borgia Church, San Giuliano Church, San Camillo Church.Catania Via CrociferiAnother amazing building is the Collegio dei Gesuiti, with the cloister, arcades and columns of lava stone. At the bottom of the street, there is Villa Cerami, a prestigious XVIII building which houses the University of Law. In Piazza San Francesco 3, a cross of Via Crociferi, you will find the Bellini Museum. The entrance ticket is €5, it is closed on Sundays. It is ideal for those who love music and want to relive the atmosphere of those times. Here there are the composer’s scores.

If you continue to climb the Via Sangiuliano you will find the beautiful Monastero dei Benedettini, built by the monks in 1558, a must for culture lovers and for anyone who loves to take photos of balconies and windows. It is a symbol of the late Sicilian Baroque. Today it hosts the Department of Humanities of the University of Catania. Here is where I studied and graduated 🙂Monastero dei Benedettini in Catania
Monastero dei Benedettini balconies in CataniaGuided tours are every day from 9:00 to 17:00. The ticket is €6 for the traditional tour. Here is the link to look at the different Monastero tours. Next to the Monastero dei Benedettini there is the stunning San Nicolò l’Arena Church.
San Nicolo l'Arena Church in CataniaWalk down Via Etnea and you will bump into the stunning Piazza Duomo, a large and bright square. You’ll see the famous Elephant, the lava sculpture, a symbol of the city, which stands on a white marble pedestal in a middle of a marbel pond. On the base there are two sculptures which represent Simeto and Amenano, the 2 rivers of Catania. The elephant points towards the cathedral of Sant’Agata. On the back of the animal there is an Egyptian obelisk, where there is a globe surrounded by a crown of a palm leaf (representing the martyrdom) and a branch of lilies (representing purity).
Piazza Duomo in Catania
Piazza Duomo in Catania, Elephant statue

CURIOSITY: Elephant statue was made by the arquitect Giovanni Battista Vaccarini between 1735 e il 1737. A legend says that when Catania was first inhabited , all fierce and dangerous animals were put to flight by an elephant. People, in a sign of gratitude, erected the statue and called it “Liotru”, which is a correction of the name of the erudite Elidoro. The most reliable hypothesis, according to the Arabian geographer Idrisi, is that the Elephant of Catania is a magical statue, built in Byzantine times, just to keep away assaults from Catania.

Here are 2 stunning panoramic views of Piazza Duomo by day and by night.
Catania Piazza Duomo

Catania Piazza Duomo by nightThe Cathedral of Sant’Agata, was built on the ruins of the Terme Achilliane. Here there is the beautiful Fontana dell’Amenano, a fountain fed by the waters of the underground river Amenano.Fontana Amenano in Catania
Fontana Amenano in CataniaBehind the fountain’s you will see the Pescheria, a famous fish market, a real folk place. Walk among the colorful vendor stalls. You can have a snack with typical local foods, such as the delicious “Siciliana” which is a type of fried pizza, stuffed with cheese and anchovies.

It is time to have lunch. Taste the arancino a typical pyramid-shaped fried food, stuffed with rice and meat sauce. Sublime! It costs about €2. Along the Via Etnea I recommend Savia or Spinella and if you want you can eat it at the Villa Bellini (right in front of the bars). If you are in Piazza Duomo you can go to the Etoile bar, near the Pescheria. If you prefer something sweet you cannot lose the granita! Granita is good everywhere. Here is my list with the top places to eat granita!

In the afternoon, you can choose to:

– walk from Via Garibaldi to Porta Garibaldi. You can visit Giovanni Verga‘s house. He was a famous writer.

NOTE: The House Museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 9 to 16. It is closed on Mondays. The ticket costs approximately €4. It would be more fascinating if it were held with higher regard.

– go to Castello Ursino which was surrounded by the lava of 1669. The entrance to the castle is €6. It houses the Museo Civico, with citizen’s assets. Often there are temporary exhibitions of great interest and relevance.

NOTE: if you have spent all the morning shopping, visit Via Crociferi and Monastero dei Benedettini instead of Castello Ursino. You won’t have the time to visit both of them!

Castello Ursino in CataniaIn the evening, for dinner, you have many choices. Catania is full of restaurants, especially in the area of Piazza Teatro Massimo and the alleys of Via Umberto. Tonight enjoy a delicious pizza at Al Vicolo Pizza&Vino in Via del Colosseo 5, one of the narrow streets of the Piazza Stesicoro (take the corner where Carpisa shop is, then turn left) Try to arrive before 20. It is always crowded, because here there is the best pizza of Catania at a low cost 😉

DAY 2 – TAORMINA

Taormina is a must for anyone coming to Catania. Buses depart from the bus station in Via D’Amico. A round trip is about €8.50 and it take 1 hour to arrive (depends on traffic jam). You can visit Taormina in half a day, but if it is summer stay all the day long so that you can spend more time at Isola Bella. Here is my tips to spend a day in Taormina.
Taormina squareFor dinner go to Via Santa Filomena, one of the most typical street full of nice restaurants. Do you want to taste sensational hamburgers? Go to the to the FUD. Otherwise, choose Il Sale (everything is tasty here).

DAY 3 – ETNA or ACITREZZA AND ACICASTELLO

Here are 2 options:

– Do you love hiking in the mountains? Visit Mount Etna and follow my guide to discover what to do here. The ideal way to visit this stunning Volcano is taking a car so that you can also discover the charming Etna villages.
There are many travel agencies that organize excursions to Mount Etna and offer pick-up at your hotel. Sometimes you can get all the info at your hotel. Etna excursions cost about €55, but look at the website, they often offer discounts. I recommend Etna Moving or Etna Sicily Touring. You can also visit Etna by yourself. The bus AST departs from Piazza Papa Giovanni XXIII at 8.15, and arrive at the Rifugio Sapienza in Nicolosi. The ticket is about €5 one way. Excursions starts from here. If you want to get higher, the cable ticket is €30. The departure from Etna is at 16.30. Always check out timetable!!

Mount Etna in Catania– Do you love traditional villages by the sea? Visit Acicastello and Acitrezza. The bus AMT departs from Piazza Stesicoro and other parts of the city. The line is 534.
Acitrezza harbour in Catania

NOTE: The ticket for local buses is €1.00 and is valid for 90 minutes. Day tickets cost €2.50 and allow you to move throughout the urban area.

In the afternoon, you can go to Piazza Europa (bus AMT line 443) to eat a tasty granita at Caffè Europa. Then take a walk along Ognina seafront and visit the small harbour of San Giovanni Li Cuti. This is my favourite part of the Catania seafront.

Ognina seafront in CataniaAre you curious about something in particular? Let me know! 🙂

Salva

23 replies
  1. Maria says:

    Hi there 🙂

    Would you recommend Catania in December? If so which are the best sites, cafes, restaurants to visit and what would the atmosphere be like?

    Many thanks,
    Maria

    Reply
    • Maria Orlando says:

      Hi Maria!

      Of course, Catania is the perfect city to enjoy each day of the year! Then it is very lively, so you can visit the same places I recommended inside my article (they are always open!). You cannot swim but don’t miss Taormina, and Isola Bella only to take some pics.

      Best wishes
      Maria

      Reply
  2. Clo says:

    Dear Maria – THANKS A MILLION!!!!
    I’m French and live in London – I’m coming to Catania in 2 weeks with my mum as a treat because she’s just finished a long treatment, we CANNOT WAIT!!!
    I have written down all your advice and I’m extremely excited! We will be travelling around the east coast so I’ve read all your articles – I’m so thankful for your local knowledge!!!
    Thanks again 🙂 I may reach out to you once on the trip if I have any questions!!

    Reply
  3. tony says:

    Hi Maria, you’re doing amazing work here with your blog. It’s very informative and helpful and also entertaining and well-written. Your love of Catania and Sicily comes through in every paragraph. We will make much use of your suggestions in our upcoming two week trip to Sicily and Malta in April. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a place that had so many natives publishing blogs and webpages to help and encourage visitors.

    Reply
    • Maria Orlando says:

      Hi Tony!

      Reading your comment makes me feel good. It is so kind of you!

      Although it is not always easy to find time to write, thinking that there are people like you reading my blog makes me feel more motivated!

      Please, feel free to contact me. Let me know something more about your itinerary so that I can give you some advice based on your personality type. I also visited Malta, I could write more about your destinations!

      Big hug,
      Maria

      Reply
  4. Louise says:

    Fab article! Me and my boyfriend are visiting Cantania from 9th-12th Nov 2016 it’s a birthday treat for us both. Can you recommend any unique places to eat? We both love to travel but love to see the real parts of a city we’re both great lovers of food so look forward to eating with the locals.

    Also, we don’t really enjoy museums or art but if you can recommend any must sees we will make a visit!

    We too fancy seeing Mt Etna but with so little time would you suggest a tour company opposed to taking the bus?

    Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Maria Orlando says:

      Hi Louise!

      Glad you liked my article 🙂

      Catania is amazing to taste good food. One of my favourite places to eat a fab pizza (but also fabulous meat) is “Al Vicolo Pizza&Vino” which is near Piazza Stesicoro. The only negative thing is that it is full of people going there at every day of the week, it would be better to reserve a table, otherwise try to go early in the night and in the middle of the week. Another place where you can eat an amazing pizza is at “Sazi e Sani”, where you can also taste pasta or meat (surf on the web to find the exact position of these places). Everything is good here, it all depends on you!

      If you want to taste a fab hamburger go to “FUD” which is at Vico Santa Filomena.

      All of these places are in the center of Catania, so you can save time.

      Regarding Mount Etna, you can easily get there by a bus, you will spend half a day to have a walk there. You can visit Silvestri craters by yourself, they are close to Sapienza refuge and you can walk on the craters edge with all the other tourist that reach the craters. You can also walk through “Schiena dell’asino” pathway (it is about 5,5 Km and you you will admire the Bove Valley, but do it only if you are trained and if you are equipped). If you want to get more inside Mount Etna (trekking in other parts of the mount) there are many excursions such as Etna Excursion

      If you are in Taormina and you decide to have lunch there check out my favourite restaurants to taste Sicilian cuisine I don’t know your budget but I also wrote an article about the most romantic restaurants to have lunch/dinner in Taormina, they are a bit expensive.

      I’m always here, if you need other advice before you come here or while you are here feel free to contact me! 🙂

      Stay tuned, let me know if you found my tips helpful and Happy early Birthday!!!

      Maria xxx

      Reply
  5. Sydney says:

    Hi Maria,

    I love that your blog is aimed at the girl who “doesn’t like to sightsee. She prefers taking photos, enjoying a good pizza and traditional granita and buying souvenirs on a budget.” I love to get a local feel for a city when I am travelling so this blog post is perfect for me.

    I am visiting Catania at the end of the month with a friend. Where in Catania should we stay (what area/neighborhood)?

    Thanks,
    Sydney

    Reply
    • Maria Orlando says:

      Hi Sydney! Thank you so much for your kind words 🙂 My blog is for who want to travel according to his/her own personality type. This article in particular was requested by a girl which “doesn’t like to sightsee. She prefers taking photos, enjoying a good pizza and traditional granita and buying souvenirs on a budget.” BUT my blog is for everyone!

      Travellector, which I defin a travel guide, focuses on the fact that we are all different and we travel differently. Not all people like to sightsee (and not all of them want to visit each museum of a city) and I also want to help them to live their journey to the fullest. This is why my articles are about different aspects of the journey!

      Well, about your request, choose a B&B in the centre of the city where you can enjoy “movida catanese”, near V. Etnea, Piazza Stesicoro, Piazza Duomo or V. Umberto. Catania is full of B&B, the choice depends on you. One of my favourite B&B is “Habitat”, here are other ideas: “Acanthus”, “B&B Gem De Luxe”. You can reach other places easily by bus or on foot.

      Hope it helps!

      Enjoy your trip 🙂

      Maria xxx

      Reply
  6. Meg Zweiback says:

    What a wonderful guide!
    We will be in Sicily next May and I will follow your suggestions.
    I found your site when I was searching for Catania. I had been in a restaurant in Dublin where the Italian owner had a beautiful collection of plates from Carania. I loved the geometric designs. Can you tell me anything about where to find these plates in Catania?

    Reply
    • Maria Orlando says:

      Thank you Meg! You are very kind 🙂 I will write more about my beautiful Sicily so stay tuned!

      I think you are talking about Caltagirone’s ceramics (have you got any pics of those ceramics you liked in Dublin’s restaurant?). Caltagirone is the capital of ceramics and it is approximately 1 hour and a half from Catania. You can get to it by bus, check out this company for departures > http://www.etnatrasporti.it/ but remember to always call to have your confirmation!

      When in Caltagirone you can buy them at “Ceramiche Artistiche Sammartino e Delfino Caltagirone” in Via Roma, 32. You should find ceramics at the airport too (I’m not sure about it, check it out) but they will cost more!

      Hope it helps and if you need other advice please, feel free to contact me!

      Best wishes,
      Maria xxx

      Reply
  7. Manfre says:

    Hi dear Maria
    thank you so much for your report. I and my girl friend will come to Catania this Saturday and stay a weeh there and some cities arouund.
    we would like also to enjoy swimming and takiing some sun bath as well . I am wondering if you ca give us some tips and informations about areas with good water and beach for swimming and sun bath.
    Thank you so much und grazie mille.
    Manfred

    Reply
    • Maria Orlando says:

      Hi Manfred!

      If you want to stay in Catania and you love rock beaches you can go to Acicastello or Acitrezza, very nice places!

      Or you can go to Playa of Catania which has a lot of beach clubs like “Le Capannine” or “Le Piramidi” (I don’t like to swim here because of the kind water which is not transparent like I love and and the crowd, I’m honest, but it is a good solution if you don’t want to explore other places).

      You cannot miss Taormina and Isola Bella nature reserve to swim and take sun bath (no more than 30 minutes) and this is a paradise! Check out this article > http://www.travellector.com/isola-bella-charming-nature-reserve-in-taormina/

      Then, if you can, rent a car and go to San Lorenzo beach and Calamosche (Sicilians know very well these beaches, they are amazing!). They are both near Marzamemi, a fishing village you will love > http://www.travellector.com/marzamemi-sicily-fishing-village/. These beaches are approximately 1 hour from Catania. I will be in San Lorenzo beach this weekend 🙂

      Have a fab week in Sicily! Let me know if you need other advice!

      Maria xxx

      Reply
  8. geraldine says:

    Many thanks Maria… We are coming next week end from Friday to Sunday! I am sure we will have great fun! Any events or festivals plan for the upcoming weekend?

    Reply
  9. johnvrskovy says:

    Hi Maria
    Excellent report. Very helpful. My wife and i will be in Catania in 10 days or so.We hope to spend a week or so in Sicily. We know it isn’t enough time to see it all but what else would you recommend? We are leaving by ferry from Palermo. We are both in our 60s but we are both very fit and enjoy walking and hiking and cycling. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you/
    John

    Reply
    • Maria Orlando says:

      Hi John!

      Thanks 🙂 I’m glad you are going to visit my lovely Sicily. Here are my suggestions!

      Visit Catania and don’t miss:

      – Mount Etna, I wrote about it and you can find useful tips here: http://www.travellector.com/mount-etna-best-things-to-do/
      Then, if you are in Catania on the 25th of October, this is the last Sunday of Ottobrata, which is a Sicilian taste festival in Zafferana Etnea, a village near Mount Etna. Check out my article: http://www.travellector.com/ottobrata-sicilian-taste-festival/

      -Taormina, have a look here http://www.travellector.com/spend-relaxing-day-in-taormina/ and Castelmola, a village you can reach on foot and the view is really breathtaking. Very nice for sporty travelers 😉

      Then, if you love Baroque art you will enjoy this mini tour (3-4 days):
      – Syracuse with its historical center Ortigia, which is so charming especially at night. Check out my blog post: http://www.travellector.com/ortigia-island-syracuse-sicily/ + Noto, which is the capital of Baroque. Here are my tips: http://www.travellector.com/things-to-do-in-noto-sicily/
      (NOTE: there is a charming village close to Noto called Marzamemi, you can visit it in 1 hour and it is very nice, if you love old villages: http://www.travellector.com/marzamemi-sicily-fishing-village/) Near Syracuse there is the Necropolis of Pantalica, which is a large necropolis with over 3,000 tombs, immersed in the nature. It is a lovely spot for hiking but go there only if it sunny. If you decide to visit the Necropolis you won’t have time to get to Ragusa. Just choose according to your interests!

      – Ragusa Ibla + Modica (both in 1 day). They are really beautiful!

      Feel free to contact me when you want John. I will be happy to help you 🙂

      P.S No doubt you are super fit. When I go to Mount Etna I always met travelers who are 85-90 years old and they are fitter than me!!! That’s incredible lol

      Reply
      • JOHN says:

        Maria,
        So much to see in so little time. Thank you again for your suggestions and information.It was much appreciated.
        John

        Reply
        • Maria Orlando says:

          You’re very welcome John! You can do it in one week with no problems 😉
          Consider you can visit the best of catania in half a day (getting around the center), and Taormina and Castelmola in half a day. Half a day to enjoy Mount Etna. Just choose what your priorities are and I’m always here to help you enjoy the most of your journey!

          Reply
          • geraldine says:

            hi maria,

            we are organising a bachelorette party for my sister (27years old) in catania for june 18th. we are not sure where to go or what to do. do you have any idea? party beach and so on…
            many thanks

            geraldine

          • Maria Orlando says:

            Hi Geraldine!

            There are so many places to choose. Some of the best places to dance by (and also at) the beach are “Afrobar” at Lido Cucaracha and “Le Piramidi”. Both of them are in PLaya Catania (where there are many lido beach clubs). It is approximately 15-20 mins away from Catania.

            Other lovely places where you can dance and drink some cocktails are “Bellatrix”, “Marè” or “Mamasea”. They are all in Acicastello and they have a nice sea view.

            Another place is “Cutì – Moucharabia Beach Club” in Ognina zone. This is one of my favourite place. Great location, check out some photos here Last year, the best day of the week to go to Cutì was Wednesday (we go to these places on a special day of the week to find great music and amazing people, but we only know when to go when summer season starts. By the way they are all nice, whenever you go!)

            Hope it helps you! If you need other advice feel free to ask 😉

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