Located opposite to Palermo, Catania is the second biggest city in Sicily. At first its history was not too different from Palermo’s, as the settling and the influence of other populations like Phoenicians, Greeks, Latins, Arabians was relevant in Catania as well. But of course, in more recent times, the city developed in its own way so that now the two most important cities in Sicily look completely different and need a different way to be lived and visited.
Palermo is a city full of history and monuments, while Catania is a livelier city, more suitable for who likes active life and it looks modern and organized. It also offers a great number of natural attractions, perfect for who wants to discover flora, fauna, landscapes and weather in the Mediterranean area.
Let’s see what to visit in Catania.
- Monuments & co. In the Cathedral Square you will see the Cathedral of Saint Agata and the Fontana dell’Elefante: on its edge is located an elephant, symbol of Catania, called “U liotru” for the legend of the wizard Eliodoro. Via Etnea and Via Garibaldi are two beautiful Avenues full of shops, bars and restaurants that meet exactly at the Cathedral Square. Villa Bellini is an example of Italian garden in the middle of the city centre. Teatro Bellini is the main theatre of Catania, not big as Palermo’s one, but just as much suggestive. The Roman Theatre, and several other Roman buildings, like the Odeon or the Roman amphitheatre. The Benedictine Monastery is located in the University Square.
What you will notice visiting the centre of Catania in that it looks completely different from Palermo. Historical buildings in Palermo have a sand colour (due to the use of sandstone, very common in the area of the city). Instead Catania looks a little bit darker, because of the use of the lava stone of Etna Volcano. Catania is also a bit hotter, not only because of the volcano but also because of its position on the Eastern coast.
- Nature. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Etna Volcano: in winter you could sky, while in summer you could climb the volcano or have wonderful views of its activity during the night. The Eastern coast is plenty of natural reserves as well: the Laghetti di Cavagrande, the Gole dell’Alcantara, or Pantalica, and several other places in the nearby.
- Enjoy social life. When you visit the Cathedral Square, try to save some time to enjoy the environment of the Fish market and try the local food. In summertime the Playa will be full of people. In the morning they enjoy the seaside, and in the evening they spend their time in pubs or discos. Summertime is also rich of local festivals in the small villages near Catania (Buccheri, Carlentini, Caltagirone, and so on). Taormina is another famous attraction close to Catania, full of tourists who want to enjoy the seaside, Sicilian nightlife and plenty of concerts held in the ancient Greek theatre.
Also, enjoy the traditional food: the city is proud of the quality of its horse meat and its deli (try a “cipollina” with onions or an “arancino”, a different version of the arancina of Palermo). U Cudduruni is a traditional pizza, as well as the pizzolo. As a dessert, among the other sweets, try the Zizze di sant’Agata (“breasts of Saint Agata“) a small version of Sicilian cassata in the shape of breast, so called in order to remember the martyrdom of the Saint who had her breasts removed with pincers.
Catania is a mix of monuments, nature, nightlife, folklore, and amazing food, a wonderful place to visit and easy to reach thanks to its international airport. Enjoy it in summertime (the week around the 14th of August , the night of Ferragosto, is probably the most suitable) or spring (if you prefer a cooler weather), or around the 5th of February if you want to enjoy the captivating festival of Saint Agata. Whenever you go, you will love it!