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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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