Looking for things to do in Catania, Italy? I took a trip to the east coast of Sicily to visit the sunny city of Catania. It’s a friendly place with creamy pistachio-flavored sauces, delicious gelato, and a looming active volcano at its doorstep.
Things To Do in Catania
I did like Catania. Although, there’s not a ton to do when compared to the other cities in Italy. Even so, it’s a good starting point for exploring Sicily. Plus, given that this is Italy, even if there was nothing to do at all, the Italian culture is always a treat in and of itself. Between food, ancient ruins, and beautiful cathedrals, you could simply walk around, eat, and feel satisfied.
But Catania does have a particularly famous attraction that is unique to the area and makes the trip fully worthwhile. Given the vast plethora of amazing cities to visit in Italy, this is essential. We all only have so much time and money.
So peruse our picks of the top 5 things to do in Catania to get the most out of the city. Our favorite and the most famous is pick #1.
1. Mount Etna – Catania Volcano Excursion
The best part about Catania by far is the looming active volcano that hangs out by the horizon – Mt.Etna. Facing the Ionian Sea, Catania has seen many volcanic eruptions in its time due to this feisty mountain. Its violent outbursts have so often destroyed major parts of the city throughout the years, with a particularly bad one in 1693.
I mention that one because if you look around the streets as you walk, you’ll see how the Sicilians incorporated the lava flow into the Baroque buildings by using lava stones as part of its structure. Pretty crafty. We can also thank the volcano’s ashes for producing fertile soil that is good for vines a.k.a plants for wine!
2. Go to the Beach
The beaches in Catania are rocky and not sandy. Still, the view is pretty.
To be fair I wouldn’t recommend going to the Catania beaches with the expectation to suntan and swim. They’re better suited for walking and taking in the nice scenery.
There are other beach options with clear blue water if you want to take a drive to the nearby towns of Taormina or Letojanni.
3. Visit the Baroque Cathedrals
During the Renaissance, Catania was an important city for art, politics, and science, which is why you’ll see that the city was laid out in 18th century Baroque style. The city’s focal point is at the Piazza Duomo which is a grandiose square. One of my favorite buildings was the Basilica Cattedrale Sant’Agata.
Look for the façade of the Catterale di Sant’Agata and the Fontana dell’ELefante. This fountain is great because it’s a smiling elephant sitting on top of an Egyptian obelisk.
4. Explore the Ancient Ruins
Some other sights that you should look out for are the ancient Roman monuments (or what’s left of them) and some pretty cool statues. Find the best of these in the historic center.
Unfortunately, most of Catania’s ancient past has been destroyed by volcanic eruptions, but there are some resolute ruins still lingering about the city.
5. Eat! Eat! Eat! – Catania Signature Dish
I’m a big believer in trying the signature dish of whatever city you’re in. There’s a lot of specific Sicilian food, but I wanted something native to Catania. The signature dish of Catania is the Pasta alla Norma.
Food is cheap here, which is great. And you absolutely must not leave any Italian city without eating the gelato. It’s just what you do.
Where to Stay in Catania, Italy
You have three main choices of where to stay when visiting Catania. If you want to be as close to Mount Etna as possible, you’re actually better off staying in Taormina.
The second is to stay in the city center. We chose the third. This was to live like a real Sicilian for the weekend and stay at a quaint B&B (pictured above).
Brief History of Catania
Catania was originally a Greek colony. The ancient legend of the youths, Amphinomus and Anapias, took place here. In the story, Mt. Etna erupted and the two youths carried their aging parents on their shoulders. The lava parted around them so as not to cause them harm.
The city of Catania was also known for being one of the vanguards of the Sicilian autonomy movement, having to deal with WWII bombings by the Allies. Ever since the latter, the social and economic development has been a struggle to catch up with the north. But it is catching up and you’ll enjoy staying here.
What do you want to do when you’re in Catania, Sicily?