Catania is located on South Italy along the Ionian East coast of Sicilia, on the slopes of Mount Etna’s volcano. It is the 2nd largest city in Sicily (more than 300.000 inhabitants becoming 700.000 with its surroundings), it has very ancient history of different rulers from the ancient glorious Greek civilization that founded the first colony around 730 BC, to Roman, Byzantine, Arabian, Swabian, Norman, French, Spanish.. (Hey!! It sounds everyone wants to live here!!) So Sicily “absorbed” something good (and/or bad) from any of that submissions.
Walking in the city, one can see archaeological sites that shows the ancient cities underneath the modern city (e.g. Roman Arena and Theatre, the Benedictine Monastery and its underground), signals of the glorious past.
The area has a pleasant climate, hot in summer (good to enjoy beaches) and never too cold in winter, moreover the city centre has a vibrant nightlife.
The heart of the city is mainly Baroque architecture because almost all the city was rebuilt after the terrible earthquake on 1693, the floors are made out mainly of black stones from lava (past eruptions), this made the city centre so “dark” and suggestive (oh don’t worry, there are lights at nighttime!! ).
In order to meet locals, to know about CS meeting or any question about Catania, please don’t hesitate to look (or post) to the CATANIA CS group, the first available member will be happy to reply and hopefully to meet
About the couch, WE PREFER you ask directly to the people rather than leaving an open message in the group, we think hosting is something personal and not casual like a hotel!!
General cultural differences and advice
In order to understand Catania, you will have to think that this city is STRONGLY linked to Etna volcano, the sea, the sun, the genuine local food and the relaxed (who said lazy? LOL) lifestyle.
The history of the city is predominantly linked to Mount Etna’s volcano eruptions and/or earthquake tremors, Catanians have great admiration and respect for Mount Etna because of ‘her’ beauty and awesome power. (Yesss, the locals talk about Mount Etna as a ‘she’ probably like a charming but dangerous woman!!)
The city was destroyed 7 times by Mount Etna’s eruptions and earthquakes (but don’t worry, last time was in 1693) and was rebuilt 7 times on the same sight!!
City center in Catania is always busy with people enjoying a walk and the local specialties (see food section) and offers pleasant and relaxed nightlife. If you want to fully enjoy the nightlife, please remember that it starts at about 9.30-10pm (and even later in summer).
Locals love to go out for dinner or (even more) after dinner, mainly because we have a long warm period from May to October (the best period for visiting Sicily). July and August are extremely hot (on average 32° C but could be 40° ) and Jan/Feb/March are moderately cold and rainy, so less people around.
Sicilians are strongly linked to family, so don’t be surprised if many people still live with parents. In some case you could be hosted in a normal family context.
Tips & Tricks
- Catania is not a dangerous city to visit , but be careful of pickpockets, so it is advisable to don’t keep all your monies and travel documents in your bag, better in a secret place. Take always care of your bag.
- The traffic is really messy, rules are often not-respected, so just consider it, take care and drive quiet in case you will rent a car, you will get used to it in few hours. For the main attractions you don’t need a car, however it can be very helpful if you’ll be many days in Sicily and want to visit the many spots that are not possible to get by public transportation
- Ask for prices (or for the price’s menu) before buying something because some shops (and restaurants) could try to charge you more money (like many touristic places all around the world). You could say “quanto costa”? (How much does it cost?)
- Taxi are expensive for budget travelers (they could charge 30-40-50 euro for few km). From the airport you can take a local bus to the city centre (just 1 euro)
- In Sicily few people speak English but almost everyone is willing to help by gesture, we love it!!
- It is better to verify all the info about buses-transportation-websites etc cause the info could be out of date (last update 2010).
Events of the week and Special yearly events
One of the biggest Christian festival in the world, dedicated to Saint Agata, the Saint that protects the city, has its celebration in February, from the 3rd to the 5th, look at the this link. It is spectacular also for Atheists, believe us!!
“Events of the week”
- lapisnet (you can find the printed brochure on many pubs/bars/hotels)
- Virtual tourist
Getting to Catania, transportation and car pooling
If you come from abroad or central/north Italy , the best way to reach Catania is by plane (easy and cheap from Rome Fiumicino – FCO airport or other main Italian cities); if you come from other Sicilian cities the bus is usually much better than train.
Getting the city
National train company (Trenitalia) provides direct lines from major Italian cities: http://trenitalia.it/homepage_en.html but consider they are not fast and not cheap. Consider about 10 hours from Rome and 15 hours from Milan. Charming to cross the sea to get to Sicily by a big ferry (the train gets into the ferry).
Catania train stations provides lockers for travelers at 3,90 Euro per bag for 12 hours and 24 hours.
Catania is connected to centre and north Italy by national bus routes (usually night-buses because it takes 10-15 hours; the main company is “Sais Autolinee”).
Regional bus lines leave (and arrive) from the main terminal bus (100 mt from the railways station) and reach some tourist destinations like Taormina other than many towns in Sicily, they are often faster and more comfortable than trains. Timetables can be found in the bus company offices or at the terminal bus station. Tickets can be purchased either at the bus company offices or (often) directly from the bus-driver, but for long destinations (more than 5 hours) the advanced purchase is always recommended in order to be sure to find a seat.
Azienda Siciliana Trasporti - Tel: +39 0957230511
Interbus – Tel : +39 0935565111
Sais toll free number : +39 800211020 – CT agency Tel.: +39 095536168
National ferry companies provide services from Naples, Civitavecchia and Genova, look at Catania port.
They also offer the opportunity to embark your vehicle
Not advisable to visit the city center, a car can be however a good way to enjoy Sicily cause you can get to many nice “spots”, beaches, Etna paths that most of the times are not served by public transportation, but – be advised – to take care of Sicilian’s driving style, quite chaotic and unpredictable (probably you’ll get used to it after few hours).
Some low cost companies land in Catania Airport, the main and cheaper connections are to Rome FCO or Milan airports.
Most of the major Italian cities are connected by direct flights. Few European destinations are connected by direct flights, but not everyday flights and not so cheap. Mainly from/to Germany, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Romania, Russia, Latvia, Holland and Czech Republic
For a complete list and info, look at Catania airport website
Transportation in the city
From the airport to the city – there are urban buses (line 457) from the airport to central station, running every 20 minutes starting from 5.30 A.M to midnight and the ticket costs 1 euro. For more and updated info see the AMT website
They are not so frequent, but not mandatory because all the main attraction in the city center is walking distance. the bus ticket which is valid for 90 minutes costs €1 at the moment.
Taxis are definitely expensive for budget travelers.
We have a CS group for car pooling (mainly Sicily area)
Visiting Catania and surrounds
“Tourist Information Office”
-At the airport Phone +39 0950937023
-At the railway station (little one)
-Minoriti Palace Via Etnea, 63/65 – Phone +39 0954014070
We think you need at least 2-3 days to visit just the main attractions of Catania (and sites around), but of course more days would be better.
In case if you want to quickly visit the city center and know about the history/architecture, there are “touristic” guided tours starting from the main Duomo square, but we believe you should enjoy Catania area in a relaxed way (better with a good guidebook or a willing local CSer) because this is its local lifestyle, it has not sense to rush and you would miss the true soul of the city..
Highlights (do not miss)
- Open markets (see below for details)
- Walk in the city centre to enjoy the Baroque atmosphere and the nightlife
- Taste at least an “arancino”, a “cannolo alla ricotta” and a “gelato” (see food section for details and shops)
- Drink “mandarino al limone” or “selz al limone”, a fruit-based drinks with fresh squeezed lemon (non alcoholic) on some kiosk along the street, available also at late night.
- Visit Etna’s volcano sites (see below for details)
- Visit Taormina, an extremely charming village, 50km far from Catania (see below for details)
- Enjoy a rocky beach (the period to swim is about from middle May to early October)
If you have more time:
- Walk Etnea street during the day & night, it will look very different
- Don’t miss the opera theatre dedicated to Vincenzo Bellini (the famous composer from Catania), beautiful concert hall and usually open only for concerts and opera (get a ticket if you can),but sometimes open for visitors too (ask to the theatre’s desk)
- Enjoy a walk on Via Crociferi, an evocative Baroque street, which has many steps, usually crowded from 10pm to 2am, especially on weekends
- Visit the Benedettini monastery (better if you ask for a 1h 20m guided tour – 5 euros) , now one of University of Catania’s sites
- Let’s enjoy the view of Castello Ursino, but don’t miss its history
- On the hottest days, let’s walk on Villa Bellini, the only big green park in Catania
Details about the main attractions (Catania, Etna, Taormina, etc..)
Catania (the city)
Catania’s historical center is rather small (about 1 km radius), so a full day could be enough to visit the main attractions (look at the highlights above). However to visit all the churches, museums and spots you will need 2-3 days.
There is a nice park (good for a little walk or some jogging) inside the city called “Villa Bellini” (Bellini Park).
For a possible sightseeing’s itinerary in the city, you could refer to some
comune di catania website (only Italian)
For a detailed history/architecture of the city, refer to Catania on Wikipedia.
- The fish market next to Piazza Duomo (Elephant square), (Mon – Sat from 8am to 1pm – the earlier the better)
- The huge open market “Fiera” (Piazza Carlo Alberto), main entrance from Piazza Stesicoro (food, clothes – very nice the vegetables section) (Mon – Sat from 8am to 1pm – the earlier the better)
- A flea market (on Sunday morning in Piazza Carlo Alberto)
In the nearbies the coast along Cyclopes Riviera lays in an evocative rocky bay.
- ACI CASTELLO: is the first small village we meet. Famous for the Norman castle, built in 1076 on the pre-existing lava rock, the castle is reachable by climbing some stairs from the central square (3 euro entrance). From there you can enjoy spectacular views of the Sicilian coast. Inside a small museum and small botanical garden can be visited (Open all days except on Mondays For info, Tel.: +39 095271026). During the summer evening, enjoy a pizza in the main square, usual destination of Catanians. Prices are reasonable.
- ACI TREZZA: Continuing the journey going the north you will find Aci Trezza, a beautiful fishermen village where in the summer people likes to lay on the rocks beaches taking sun. A “Granita” (similar to an ice cream to eat with a sweet bread called brioches) or an aperitivo in one of the bar in front of the sea is a must. If you can spend more money enjoy a fish lunch in one of the local restaurants.
How to get there:
Acicastello and Acitrezza can be reached from Catania by local bus 537 next to Catania Railways station or also by AST bus company.
ACIREALE: If you’re fancy of Baroque, a bit further let’s visit Acireale. Here you’ll find some lovely examples of baroque buildings typical of Sicily like the Cathedral who has a gothic fa?ade or the Musumeci Palace. From the public garden of Villa Belvedere you can have a good view on the Riviera and Etna volcano. Acireale is famous for its carnival (February) rich of masks and funny wagons.
Acireale is also one of the few places that has the “Sicilian Pupi” representations (traditional Sicilian stories told by ballad singer and represented with typical puppets).
Sicilian Puppets Museum - Via Nazionale, 195 – Acireale – Tickets: Free admission (better you check and call before) +39 0957648035 – Mobile: +39 3478061464, Guided visits, demonstrations and historic explanations are available upon reservation.
Mount Etna volcano
There is a volcanic CS group of people particulary passionate about Etna volcano, they can have good advice for you!
Mount Etna is the largest volcano in Europe, it reaches the height of 3350 m. a.s.l. It is considered a quite active volcano due its repeated eruptions (lately almost every year). It offers varied and captivating sightseeing opportunities with its many (new and old) craters, lava flows, forests, citrus groves and vineyards.
It is easy to reach Mount Etna by car. There is only one public bus leaving each day from Catania bus terminal (in front of the train station) at 8:15 a.m., destination Rifugio Sapienza (2000 m). The same bus returns back to Catania leaving at 16:30 (usually in summer there is another bus, please ask timetable at AST buses.
Rifugio Sapienza is already a great place to enjoy, but the smoking crater on top of Etna (3300m) can be a special experience (with good wheater). From December to March is not easy (or impossible) to visit the top due to the weather and snow, but on that period is possible to skiing (alpine or nordik but consider there are few km available except you’re with people really expert of the volcano’s paths)
From middle April to November (but better in summer), a typical excursion to the top begins from Rifugio Sapienza by means of a cableway, till the altitude of 2500 mt.. The second part of the excursion continues on vehicles till the height of 3000 mt., the authorized crater confines. From there, the Mount Etna guides will show you (if you pay their service) the impressive Central and South-eastern craters (3300 mt), ancient and recent lava flows.
At Rifugio Sapienza you can reserve the ride on cableway or the total guided excursion (about € 60,00)
An alternative and cheaper excursion could be to take the cableway till 2500 mt., with the one-way ticket which costs about € 15-20. Then you could go up by foot following the jeep’s road till 3000 mt. and come back by foot climbing-down. Consider it will take not less than 5 hours. If you prefer the round-trip ticket (only cableway) costs about € 30,00. DON’T leave the path, don’t do it alone, it is easy to get lost!!
If you want to book and being picked up in Catania, there are many tourist agencies that offer different kind of excursion on the Mount Etna like: trekking, mountainbike, freeclimbing, north walking, cross-country skiing and so on, so just please compare prices and programs on internet.
You can also find a lot of free or cheap excursions on the website of Etna park (but consider that in many cases you need to reach the starting point by car).
Keep in mind that Mount Etna is a volcano, that it is not easy to get orientation because lack of sign on paths, so don’t try adventures without a good knowledge of the paths or experienced local people. Moreover in wintertime it is almost impossible to get the top because the weather, the best period is from May to October. Definitely not advisable to go alone and/or without all the information and safety knowledge!!!
Taormina, Giardini Naxos, Alcantara
Easy to get from Catania by 1 hour bus/train (or from Giardini Naxos by local bus), you cannot miss to visit Taormina, on the top of a hill. It’s an enchanting place, which with a lovely position, wonderful views both on the sea and on the volcano and wonderful small streets, with nice houses and romantic corners, but very touristic. Pay attention that it can be very expensive and much crowed in summer period. In July the Film Festival of Taormina attracts even more visitors. The pearl of Taormina is the “Greek Theatre”. It was built in the III century b.c. on a hill with a majestic view of the Ionian gulf and the Calabria. In the summer it is possible to see theater performances and concerts with a fabulous background (and fabulous prices!!).
Sleeping in Taormina is generally very expensive, therefore if you wish to stay more days in town you should consider to stay in one of the seaside resorts nearby like in Giardini Naxos (or Letojanni), which are much cheaper or get it in a day trip from Catania.
Greek Theatre in Taormina – do not miss!! About 7 € but ticket reduction for students (Summer 9am-19pm – Winter 9am-16pm).
Giardini Naxos is on seaside (easy to get by cableway from Taormina or by train from Catania). It is very touristy (with good and bad consequence), full of resorts/B&B/hotels where to stay and a vibrant nightlife in Summer. There is a long sand beach and you can find accommodations much more affordable than in Taormina (but not so cheap, you could also consider to stay in a close village).
only if you have a car, you could move in a more natural and peaceful context like “gole dell’Alcantara” with orange trees, olive trees and wild flowers, and the homonymous river running through it (follow signs for visitor centre).
It’s very nice to enjoy the beaches from mid of May to end of September. The official season starts about on 1st June and finish to early September. At this period, the beaches are cleaner and “officially” open to public.
In the city
Sandy beaches (south of the harbor) called Plaja. You can get them by a long walk from city centre (abt 3 km) or a bus ride from Piazza Alcal? (located close to Piazza Duomo). Certain beaches are free to enter and known as “spiaggia libera” [there are 3 of this kind]. The other “private” type will cost about €5 to €7 to enter and they are known as “lido”. There are many along the Plaja which provides many services such as cleaner and safe beaches, big umbrellas’, deck chairs, safe box for valuables and sports like beach-volley. Very comfortable but the sea is not “fantastic” there.
Rocky beaches (north of the harbour) called Scogliera. The rocky seaside is amazing because it is a natural development from the flow of lava during the volcanic eruptions (1693 and others) from the near Mount Etna volcano. They are not as comfortable as sandy beaches, but very nice for swimming and some snorkeling, the water looks clear and clean especially in the early mornings but during the day it can get a bit dirty.
Inside the city borders there are 3 main rocky beaches quite easy to visit and free:
- Piazza Europa (about 1.5 km north to the railway station)
- San Giovanni Li Cuti district (2km from the railway station)
- Ognina district (about 3km from railway station).
They can be reached by a long walk or a bus ride (e.g. from Piazza Alcal? or from the railway station square)
Outside the city
Riviera dei Ciclopi (5-10 km far)
Another beautiful place to enjoy rocky beaches is along the “Riviera dei Ciclopi” (or Cyclopes Riviera) which is located between Catania and Acitrezza town. Certain parts are ‘permitted’ for the public like in Acicastello and Acitrezza (old fishermans villages), but consider is not so comfortable to get into the sea because the rocks.
A good alternative it will cost about €6 to €8 for entrance (all day) to some of the private “lido” and enjoy a good facilities such as shower, shady area when it get too hot, deck chairs, bar services and an easy access to get to the sea by stairs.
How to get there
A bus ride is the best way to get to “River Ciclopi” as the bus goes all along Acicastello or Acitrezza. It leaves from railway station [bus no. 537 at €1]
North coast (more than 30 km far)
A comfortable beach is 30 km north from Catania, from Riposto to Taormina seaside (and northern until Messina). It is made of funny little stones and water is usually very clean (but not meaningful for snorkeling)
If you have a car, you can stop wherever you want along the coast, otherwise you can get a train until Letojanni station and walk less than 1km until the beach. Or stop in Taormina-Giardini and enjoy (after 2 km walk) the astonishing (but very crowded) IsolaBella area.
Food & drink
Typical and yummy snakes to enjoy on bars are:
Arancino (a mix of rice and ragu), cipollina (onion,tomato,cheese,ham), cartocciata(tomato,cheese,ham)
In summer is common (and delicious) to take a Granita (kind of light gelato in a glass) flavoured almond,coffee,pistachio,chocolate or flavoured fruit (gelsi,peach,strawberry,lemon) Please don’t mix lemon and chocolate, the barman could refuse to serve you!! LOL!! Cataneses love to accompany with a sweet bread called brioche
If you visit Sicily you cannot miss Cannolo ricotta and gelato of course!!
There are so many pubs/restaurant/trattoria, especially in Catania city center, let’s choose by yourself what you like more. Of course at dinner time you can have a good pizza (like everywhere in Italy) or food in a pub, but let’s enjoy something more typical in a local trattoria based on pasta, eggplants, olives, seafood (more expensive). If you’re fancy to try the typical dishes /ultourism websiteof horse meat (cheap), you can do it in a very traditional and popular district around Castello Ursino (city center)
Nightlife (common places for Couchsurfers)
Common spots in the historical city centre
-Piazza Teatro Massimo
-Scalinata Alessi (via Crociferi – the most gay-friendly place in the city)
-Etnea Street (around Piazza Universit?)
-Piazza Santo Spirito (Irish pubs area)
-Agor? hostel&pub – piazza Curr? 6 (next to Pescheria/Piazza Duomo)
In August the city centre tent to be empty because the hot weather and many pubs “move” along the Plaja seaside, but at the Agor? hostel/pub there will be always people around.
Just some idea for Live music
-Chakra Lounge – Via Caff n° 16
-Stag’s Head – Via Michele Rapisardi 7 (Bellini Theatre)
-Waxy O’ Connor’s Piazza Spirito Santo, 1
-La chiave (via Landolina 64)
-Barrique (Via Antonino Di Sangiuliano 242)
Dance & Disco
Vi-Bona CLUB – Via Caff 38.
MA – Via Vela, 8/9
Quattro Venti, Catania – via Dusmet 53
Acquasanta – via Raffineria n.42
Mercati generali – Km. 69, Strada Statale 417 – (reachable only by car)
Other places organize dedicated space/nights just for Tango or Latin Dance etc..
During Summer Catania’s movida is mainly on playa beach promenade. Many playa’s bathouses (lido) at night turn into nightclubs, more interesting events take place on weekend nights.
(on the beach) – Sobah / La cucaracha / Barbarabar / Le capannine and others..
(next to Acicastello) – Banacher (Via Vampolieri, 2, Aci Castello – CT)
Internet points & Free wifi
-GlobeTrotter (a cheap B&B managed by a CSer in the city centre, you can kindly ask him to use the wifi) – Vicolo della lanterna 14
-Biblioteca (library) Vincenzo Bellini – Via Sangiuliano 307
-The Internetteria caf? (they have some computers and free wifi) – Via Penninello 44
-Internet caf? bruca, Via Vittorio Emanuele – (close to Piazza Dusmet)
-Agor? hostel&pub (internet & wifi) – piazza Curr? 6
-Barrique Club (Pub) – Via S. Guliano, 242
-Caff? Libreria Tertulia (bookshop&tearoom) – next to piazza Teatro Massimo
-Mc Donald’s (definitely not a CS place, but there is free wi-fi connection) – Piazza Stesicoro
a more exhaustive list on vivicatania website.
Easy to find many cheap B&B in Catania city centre, a long list is on Wikitravel.
On the following rows, are listed all the hostels and campings we know in the city just because they are usually the target for CSers.
Agor? hostel Phone +39 0957233010 Piazza Curr? (great position next to Duomo – could be noisy because the pub downstairs).
C.C.Ly Hostel - Piazza G. Falcone 3 – Phone +39 0957462399
Ostello del Plebiscito – via Plebiscito,527 Phone +39 095457088
Not on the city center, you need a 15-30 min bus ride to get the few campings in Catania area. The bus usually don’t run at late night.
-Villaggio Turistico Europeo – (Playa sand beach (South) about 4km from city centre) viale Kennedy, 91 – phone +39 095591026
-Camping Ionio – (rocky beach (North) about 4km from city centre) via Villini a Mare,2 Ognina – Catania – phone +39 095491139
You can find few other camping and villages solutions here.
(link to pdf map)
In case of emergency and public offices
Police Station: phone 112 or 113 (nationwide emergencies)
-Info: via Etnea, 65 phone +39 0957367623
-Reports: Piazza S. Nicolella n.8 or Largo Paisiello 5 or Piazza Verga (Carabinieri)
-Immigration office – Corso delle province 218 – 0957194911
Fireman Station: phone 115 (nationwide)
Urgency: phone 118 (nationwide, ambulance!!)
First aid hospital (pronto soccorso):
-Vittorio Emanuele hospital – Via Plebiscito 628
-Garibaldi hospital – Piazza S. Maria di Ges?, 5
-Cannizzaro hospital – Via Messina 829
Duty Doctor (not for urgency) Corso Italia 234 – Phone +39 095377122 / 095382113
Main Post office – Via Etnea 215 (Mon-Fri from 8am to 6.30pm; sat 8.30-12.30)
Tourist office – www.apt.catania.it – via cimarosa 10-12
Work, apartments, rooms, Italian courses and general advertisement
Not easy to find a job in Catania especially if you don’t speak Italian, BTW, some hotel/hostel/pub look for speaking English people especially during summer season.
About apartments/rooms you can find many advertisement at the University’s notice-boards (bacheca) too.
Internet and Newspaper ads
-Il Mercatino (advertisement about everything, better to buy at the newsstand)
Short term jobs agencies (some)
-Manpower – Via Sangiorgi Mario, 49 – phone +39 095322752
-Adecco – Viale Alcide De Gasperi, 161, Catania – phone +39 0957222971
-Scuola Federico II - Via Garibaldi 9 (next to Duomo square)
General helpful links
Tourist information (not often updated)