The Top Things to Do and See in Catania, Italy

Cattedrale di Sant’Agata is one of the stunning architectural sights in Catania
Cattedrale di Sant’Agata is one of the stunning architectural sights in Catania | © Samir Kharrat / Unsplash

Freelance Travel and Music Writer

Explore Mount Etna from the second largest city in Sicily, then stroll through town to see the Baroque Piazza del Duomo and the vibrant La Pescheria fish market. Here are Culture Trip’s tips on what to do in Catania.

Catania may sit in the shadows of the explosive Mount Etna, but it more than holds its own. Its Roman past is shown off at its theatres, while many variants of grape are grown on Etna’s ever-changing hillside microclimates, and there are even beaches aplenty for soaking up the sun. Discover the best things to do in Catania.

1. Explore the Piazza del Duomo

Architectural Landmark

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© Marcus Ganahl / Unsplash

Catania’s central and most famous square, Piazza del Duomo, is a Unesco World Heritage Site well worth exploring. Piazza del Duomo’s centrepiece is the beautiful Baroque Cattedrale di Sant’Agata, while in its shadows the 18th-century abbey church Chiesa della Badia di Sant’Agata offers views of Mount Etna from its dome. Catania’s symbol, the elephant, sits atop a fountain in the centre of the square, and there are even Roman bathhouse ruins to explore.

2. Sunbathe at Lido Azzurro

Natural Feature

Tourists bathe in the sun on the beach of Lido Azzurro on the Southern Italian island Lampedusa, 11 August 2008. Photo: Fabrizio Villa
© dpa picture alliance archive / Alamy Stock Photo

Kick back on one of Catania’s most exclusive beach clubs, Lido Azzurro. Here, you’re sure to find a tranquil spot away from the bustle of many of Sicily’s busier stretches of sand, with this particular resort not just the largest in Catania, but on the island itself. Children will be occupied with the kids’ swimming pool and play area, while comfortable loungers and a well-stocked beach bar will keep the adult family members happy.

3. Visit the Castello Ursino

Archaeological site, Historical Landmark

Castello Ursino, Catania, Sicily, Italy
© Robert Landau / Alamy Stock Photo
Castello Ursino has been standing proud above Catania since the 13th century. Today, the castle is an art-themed visitor attraction packed with items from the city’s Roman Theatre, alongside Greek artefacts and religious paintings. Like most castles, Ursino is perched atop a hill and therefore offers excellent views across Catania’s red-hued rooftops. The courtyard is also occasionally used for concerts.

4. Delve inside the Museo del Cinema

Museum

Museo del Cinema in Le Ciminiere (former industrial aarea) in Catania, Sicily, Italy. Image shot 2011. Exact date unknown.
© Alvaro German Vilela / Alamy Stock Photo
Catania’s Museo del Cinema is a must-visit for film fanatics. This movie den provides a historical walk through the evolution of Italian cinema, housed within a former industrial site near Catania Centrale railway station. Alongside this, various themed exhibits in kitted out rooms help bring scenes from some of the world’s most famous films to life, including The Blues Brothers and The Big Lebowski. Vintage filming equipment is also on show.

5. Sip wine in the Benanti vineyard

Wine Seller, Italian

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© Alasdair Elmes / Unsplash

Nestled at the foot of Monte Serra is a vineyard with a unique twist: their grapes are grown on the hills of Europe’s most active volcano – Mount Etna. Benanti’s wines are inspired by the finer details, such as the history, inclination and even soil climate of each slope. Sure, growing grapes and producing wine next to an active volcano would be a challenge for many, but this vineyard is internationally recognised as one of the best in the world.

6. Stroll around the Modern Gallery of Arts and Motors

Museum

Ancient Ducati motorcycle.
© J. Enrique Molina / Alamy Stock Photo

The Modern Gallery of Arts and Motors (MOGAM) may be hidden out of sight, but is certainly worth the effort to get there. This is the only museum of its kind in Italy. Within its unassuming facade sit many classic cars, automobile art pieces and vintage motor memorabilia. It’s located rather unusually at the end of a private drive, flanked by fruit trees, a little way out of the city. However, the number 726 bus will safely get you there for €1 (£0.85) each way.

7. Try Cassatella di Sant'Agata

Cafe, Italian

Cassatella di St Agata, typical cake from Catania, Sicily, Italy. Italian cakes.
© Alvaro German Vilela / Alamy Stock Photo

No visit to Catania would be complete without trying this traditional treat, baked during the festival of Saint Agatha. The breast-shaped Cassatella di Sant’Agata, a sponge cake stuffed with ricotta and marzipan, honors the torturing of Saint Agatha, patron saint of Catania, whose breasts were cut off with pincers after she refused to abandon her faith in 251 CE. Each February, thousands flock to Catania for the festival and to try a “nipple cake” at Cassatelle e Caffè.

8. Go back in time at the Roman Theatre

Archaeological site, Ruins

Teatro Greco Romano Odeon
© Aubrey Martin / Culture Trip
Believed to have been built in the 2nd century CE, Catania’s Roman Theatre may look modest from the street, though inside it’s anything but. Its cobbles, columns and caves offer an atmospheric insight into Roman history – with much of it beneath street level. Over time, earthquakes and erosions have caused the lower parts to drop. As such, the orchestra area is often washed by the underground Amenano River, rendering it unusable for performances, though the amphitheatre still hosts events.

9. Peek inside La Pescheria

Market, Italian

Vegetables and fruits for sale on old fish market called La Pescheria in Catania city, east of Sicily Island, Italy
© Konrad Zelazowski / Alamy Stock Photo

Catania’s fish market, known as La Pescheria, is one of the most well-known in the world. Located a stone’s throw from Piazza del Duomo, this market is atop a set of volcanic-rock formed steps and ignites the senses as soon as you head towards it: the sights, sounds and – questionable for some – smells of a fish market are unmistakable. If you’re staying in self-catering accommodation, or you just love people-watching, this is the place to go.

10. Go for a hike in Parco dell’Etna

Natural Feature

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© Jonas Tebbe / Unsplash

After you’ve finished sampling local wines and tasting fresh fish, you’re going to want to hike it off… right? Parco dell’Etna, Sicily’s first and largest national park, provides safe access and incredible views of one of Earth’s finest natural wonders, Mount Etna. At the foot of Etna are vast woodlands, plus olive and pistachio groves; near the often snow-capped summit, there are craters to explore and even ski runs.

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