The second largest city in Sicily and located on the east coast of the island at the foot of the volcano Mount Etna, Catania is a relatively unknown yet thoroughly enchanting spot, with rich culture, fine food and fabulous nightlife.

Founded in the 8th century by the Euboean Greeks as Katane, the current settlement was the result of the Roman takeover in 263 BC. The fall of Rome ended centuries of prosperity and expansion, as Catania moved from Byzantine control in the 5th century AD to the Arabs three centuries later and the Normans in 1071. Foreign intervention continued after the destructive earthquake of 1169, with the Spanish moving in during the 15th century and remaining in control until Catania’s annexation to the new Italy in 1860.

Now a major Italian technological centre, culture is still very much a part of Catania and, coupled with great clubs and places to eat, is an underrated spot for tourists.


Although lava flows and earthquakes have buried most of the Roman city, some monuments remain and attest to Catania’s long history. These include the 2nd century theatre and amphitheatre around the Via Vittorio Emanuele and the 3rd century Odeon.

The religious buildings of Catania represent most of the city’s best architecture. Perhaps the finest is the Duomo di Catania, rebuilt in the 17th century after both the volcanic eruption of 1669 and the earthquake of 1693 with a wonderful Sicilian Baroque façade courtesy of the master architect Giovanni Battista Vaccarini. The Duomo also houses the Chapel of Sant’Agata, the city’s patron saint, while the Piazza Duomo contains the beautiful u Liotru, an elephant statue in lava stone which acts as the symbol of Catania.

Built in the 18th century, the Church of San Giuliano is another picturesque religious building designed by Vaccarini and especially notable for its marble decorated interior. Elsewhere, the city’s Benedectine Monastery is remarkable both for its appearance, being more a palace than a monastery, and for the adjacent Basilica of San Nicolò l’Arena, itself built in the 18th century.

Completed in 1240, the Castel Ursino is an exceptional monument, being the only medieval building still standing in Catania. The castle also hosts the Civic Museum. A number of other museums and galleries can be found in the city, including the Biscari Museum (in the beautiful Palazzo Biscari and containing many frescos, statues and marbles), the Bellini Civic Museum (celebrating the life of the native composer Vincenzo Bellini) and the Emilio Greco Museum (devoted to the local artist’s work).

Of the many events and festivals in Catania, the most popular and spectacular is the Festival of Sant’Agata. Held during February, you won’t want to miss out on the live music, dancing and fine food and drink available.

Catania has a surprisingly good sporting pedigree. The local football team, Calcio Catania, have been recently promoted to Serie A and play their games at the Stadio Angelo Massimino (where tickets can be bought cheaply). The city also has a successful rugby union team, Amatori Catania, who play in the Super 10 Premiership.


Playing on the surroundings and its history, lava stone crafts, painted pottery and Baroque pieces are some of the specialised local goods you can buy from Catania. The Via Reitano and the Via Etnea are particularly good places to check out.

However, if you’re looking for high-street fashion, be sure to stroll down the Corso Italia, where you’ll find a range of boutiques.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Regional Sicilian cuisine dominates restaurants in Catania, with dishes like pasta alla Norma (eggplant, basil, tomato sauce and ricotta) and scacciate (pies with local cheeses, anchovies and vegetables), all washed down with the local DOC wines. The cannoli di ricotta is a regional dessert speciality as well as the great ice cream.

Of the many places to eat in the city, the Trattoria del Cavaliere in the Via Paternò and the Osteria I Tre Bicchieri in the Via S. Giuseppe al Duomo are particularly good. You can also find international alternatives like Moroccan at the Casablanca Restaurant.

Catania is renowned across Sicily for its vibrant nightlife. Crammed with bars and pubs, the Sclainata Alessi is a common meeting point for students at the local university, before heading to the Via Crociferi and the Piazza Bellini, where you can find clubs like Nievski. However, you will find somewhere to dance everywhere in Catania, like the Quattro Venti on the Via Dusmet.

If you prefer something different though, try the wine bars around the Corso Italia or try a show at the Teatro Massimo Bellini.

Tourist Information

Catania Tourist OfficeVia, Cimarossa, 1095124CataniaTel: +39 (0)95 7306


Catania has its own Catania-Fontanarossa International Airport, some 20 minutes away from the city centre via the Alibus shuttle service.

The busiest airport in Sicily, you can find international and domestic connecting flights available to limited destinations within the continent.

British Airways (London-Gatwick) use Catania-Fontarossa Airport to and from British destinations.

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