Hey there my lovelies,
Welcome back to my Blog!
Another unplanned long break from my this little haven here, but this week’s small getaway break looked like a good plan to get back here in and write all about it. I have not packed my suitcase to catch a flight since 2019 because you know Covid happened and even though people still travelled I honestly could not bring myself, besides that there were other things that took priority in my life which needed to be addressed. Since then over two years have passed but alas here we are. It may not be a fancy Instagram-worthy spot, however, it’s my and kiddo’s time and I cannot wait to pack my bags and get ready for another Sicilian adventure, a short break in Catania is a must-do.
So first things first, let’s start planning this short stay the right way.
ExplorING the city center
Catania is the second most important Sicilian city and it’s located on the east coast. One thing I was unaware of is that Catania is also known as the “Milano of southern Italy”. This is a town with many things to do and see, so do not underestimate it as you certainly won’t get bored.
1. Piazza del Duomo
The first stop should be definitely be, Piazza Duomo (the main square). Take a picture with the Liotru. Liotru is the square’s monument (an elephant made of lava rock) and it’s the symbol of Catania. Legend has it that this statue holds the power to appease Etna’s volcano anger. On this square, you can also see Catania’s Palazzo Municipio.
2. Duomo Di Catania
Behind the fountain, there is Catania Cathedral, which can be visited free of charge every day of the week. Its exterior facade is very beautiful, all in white marble and the interior is dedicated to Saint Agatha, a young virgin tortured after refusing the amorous advances of a Roman prefect. This Christian martyr became the patron saint of the city, celebrated every 5th of February during the Feast of Sant’Agata. Its relics are located inside the cathedral.
In the cathedral, you can also see the tomb of Vincenzo Bellini, the famous classical composer. Born in Catania in 1801, he is the author of numerous operas, including the “Norma”, his masterpiece.
3. La pescheria
Just behind the piazza del Duomo, go for a walk in the fish market, the Pescheria. But beware it’s a real authentic market! You will stroll among decapitated swordfish, live lobsters, sardines and anchovies. Fishes are emptied in front of your eyes and you may have to wade around a little bit in water and blood.
Adjacent to La pescheria is a more classic market, renowned for its vast choice of cheeses but also, and this is less appealing, for selling carcasses of animals and sheep’s heads, horns included! The markets are held every morning on weekdays.
4. Via Etnea
From piazza del duomo, take Via Etnea, the main street of Catania. You guessed it, this street’s name comes from the view you will have there. At the end of the road, if the weather is clear, you will be able to see the silhouette of the famous volcano that many tourists from all over the world come to admire: the Etna.
While you’re here, you can do some shopping in Via Etnea’s many shops, or drink a coffee and enjoy a pastry! Via Etnea is the most important street in Catania and its construction began in the 17th century.
5. Piazza dell’Universita
At the southern end of Via Etnea, there is the Piazza dell’Universita.
This square is surrounded by two magnificent palaces facing each other: The Palazzo dell’Universita which houses the old university and the Palazzo San Giuliano. Both palaces have beautiful facades and nice inner courtyards, don’t hesitate to enter the university to admire them A must see: The four lampposts, each symbolizing a mythical episode of Catania.
6. Villa Bellini
You should definitely go to the gardens of Villa Bellini, they are ideal to enjoy a bit of freshness, take a rest or picnic. This park, located Via Etnea, is open until 10 pm. You can stroll around the large trees and many fountains or simply sit on a bench in the shade. The place is very pleasant, with a children playground (in case you have kids!). Festivities, such as concerts, are regularly organized there.
7. Via Crociferi
Via Crociferi is the 2nd street to walk along during your visit to Catania. It could be nicknamed “the Church Street” as you can admire not less than 4 churches along the street.
Here are the churches you can visit there:
The San Francesco Church: to be seen for its giant candelabra; San Benedetto, said to have been built in one night; San Benedetto Church, dedicated to Saint Benedict; San Giuliano Church; San Nicolo all’ Arena Church: certainly not the most beautiful, as the construction was never finished. If you want to visit the churches, you should note that most of them are only open in the morning.
The must-see attraction of Via Corciferi is certainly the former Benedictine Monastery of San Nicolò l’Arena, which now houses a part of the university. It’s the 2nd largest in Europe, and you can visit it freely or with a guide.
Guided visits are only in Italian, but you can follow them thanks to the explanatory leaflet written in English. If you would like to visit a magnificent place, totally unknown by tourists, I strongly recommend you to go to the “Biblioteca Ursino Recupero“, located next to the Monastery. The visit takes around 1h
8. Catania Roman Theatre
There’s not much left of it today, but if you have time, go have a look at the Roman Theatre, next to Piazza del Duomo. You will be surprised by its architecture and vaults. Seeing it there, standing in the middle of modern buildings is quite surprising
9. Ursino Castle
Ursino Castle is an ancient Norman fortress that now houses the Municipal Museum (free visit). Originally, this castle located at the top of a hill was built on a cliff, overlooking the sea. It’s really hard to imagine, as it’s today about 1km inland! Many earthquakes and the huge volcanic eruption of Etna in 1669 completely changed the landscape of the area. Hopefully, the lava flows surrounded the castle without damaging it.
The castle museum houses an important archaeological collection consisting of ceramic vases, sculptures and numerous paintings.
If you come to Sicily for a short break in Catania, you have to go to visit Mt. Etna. It’s the highest active volcano in Europe and it’s the ideal place to visit if you want to hike or just admire the beautiful landscape from the top.
Any of you guys been to Catannia in recent months and things I missed out on something and wants to share some awesome places you visited please make sure to let me know in comments. I would love to hear about the places you have been too.
Until next time,