The stunning and large city of Catania sits along the eastern coast of Italy’s island of Sicily. The city faces the crystal blue waters of the Ionian Sea and sits at the base of Mount Etna, one of the most active volcanos in Europe. This amazing city boasts its Baroque historic city center, which is a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.

Whether your Italian vacation takes you to Catania for a day or a week, the city is flourishing with lively activities and events that will make your trip a memorable one.


During the beginning of February each year, Catania locals celebrate the Festival of Sant’Agata, the city’s patron saint. The religious event is marked with a traditional procession that includes the ancient relics of Sant’Agata. The celebration, which is Catania’s most important annual event, attracts religious pilgrims, locals, and travelers alike with crowds reaching almost one million during some years.

The first day of the celebration includes the procession of the candelore, which are 11 large wooden sculptures that depict saints and religious scenes. The candelore are carried on the shoulders of local men, and, depending on the weight, one candelora may be carried by four to twelve men. The procession begins in Piazza Stesicoro and usually ends at the Cathedral of Sant’Agata, where it is followed by fireworks. The second day of the celebration begins by opening the gates of Sant’Agata’s chapel. Ancient religious relics are carried out in a procession throughout Catania before being returned to the cathedral later that evening under the light of fireworks. The third day of the celebration includes another procession up Via Etnea with more fireworks.

The week of the festival, travelers and locals enjoy the celebratory music, goods, and food sold at market. Some of the most treasured traditional foods of this event are the cassatelle di Sant’Agata smaller versions of Sicily’s cassata cake) and the olivette (green almond-based sweets that are shaped like olives).


One can hardly visit the city of Catania without noticing the impressive volcano that rises eleven thousand feet above it, Mount Etna. This volcano and UNESCO World Heritage Site is the highest point in Sicily and is considered to be one of the world’s most active volcanos. For adventurers, a trip to the top of Mount Etna via a shuttle might be the perfect way to spend a morning or afternoon. Intrepid travelers can even hike along the rim of the crater.

Piazza del Duomo is the most prominent square in Catania as it is located in in the heart of the city center and near the port. The square is a favorite gathering place for visitors and locals alike. The square is home to a number of quaint cafés and fine restaurants that typically offer some outdoor seating with stunning views of the Catania Cathedral. This is a fantastic spot to sip a hot coffee and ponder the fabulous architecture of buildings, statues, and water fountains found within Piazza del Duomo.

Grab the family and take a stroll made for sightseeing along one of the most visited historic streets of Catania, Via Crociferi. In addition to being one of the city’s main streets, it is known for the number of historical buildings, churches, and monasteries that line either side. Be sure to give yourself time to stroll at a leisurely pace and take in the magnificent architecture of neighboring structures.


Catania has long been known as a place where culture flourishes. To that end, the city is filled with a number of interesting museums.

The Museum of Contemporary Art is a wonderful museum whose exhibits usually include everything from oil and acrylic paintings to translucent glass-blown sculptures. One of the things that makes this museum so exquisite is the detail given to highlighting each piece with perfect lighting and display setup.

The Museo Civico Belliniano is actually the former home of celebrated Catania composer Vincenzo Bellini. The nineteenth century structure is in fact the musician’s childhood home and visitors are allowed to travel from room to room for a peek at what daily life must have been like for Vincenzo Bellini and his family during that time period.

A different museum of sorts is the Archaeological Complex Terme della Rotonda. This ancient rock structure estimated to be from the first or second century is thought to have been used as a Roman spa. Travelers can enter the complex to admire amazing frescoes and other art covering the antique dome. Other Ancient Roman thermal complexes include the Terme Achilliane and Terme dell’Indirizzo.

Among Catania’s churches, the Church of Saint Francis Assisi is known for its sixteenth century altar, paintings, and organ once used by Vincenzo Bellini, while the Church of San Michele Arcangelo ai Minoriti has a remarkable limestone façade, marble crucifix, and a painting entitled Annunciation by Guglielmo Borremans. Also of interest is the Bonaiuto Chapel, which dates back to the Byzantine period, though today also features medieval and Renaissance elements. Remarkably, the chapel was left mostly unharmed throughout history, even after the 1693 earthquake.

Fans of literature should be sure to visit the Giovanni Verga Museum, which is located in the realist writer’s former home. The museum features manuscripts, photographs, and a library with a collection of over 2,500 books.

History lovers can spend time at the Museo storico dello sbarco in Sicilia – 1943, which is dedicated to the 1943 landing of Allied troops in Sicily. This began the liberation of Sicily and Italy as a whole during World War II. The immersive exhibit features reconstructions of a small-town square, a bunker, air raid shelter, and the tent where the armistice was signed on September 3, 1943.


Families looking for a way to enjoy the natural beauty of the city and let the kids burn off some energy will enjoy a trip to the Parco Maestranze and Giardini Bellini. The Parco Maestranze is a lovely respite from the city and offers visitors the opportunity to wander amongst a number of forested walking trails. The Giardini Bellini is a garden area of Catania within Parco Maestranze and features a gorgeous water fountain complemented by well-manicured flower beds and stately trees. The Parco Maestranze should have something for everyone in the family to enjoy. While here, do not miss the botanical gardens located on the university grounds nearby.

Consider an evening stroll or passeggiata down Via Etnea. This central street of Catania is at a slight incline and is home to elegant shops, adorable cafés, the ruins of the Roman Amphitheater, Piazza Stesicoro and Piazza Carlo Alberto, and the Collegiata Chapel. With so much to see and do, it might be best to plan an hour or two to experience the area.


For children who love to lose themselves in fairy-tale stories of brave knights and fair princesses, a visit to Ursino Castle may be a dream come true. This thirteenth century castle was built under the rule of Emperor Frederick II. The castle is in fairly good condition, considering it is many centuries old and it survived eruptions of Mount Etna and earthquakes. Children will most likely be fascinated by the medieval towers and walls of the structure. While here, do not forget a visit to the Museo Civico, which is located inside Ursino Castle.

Not far from Catania is a Sicilian amusement park called Etnaland Park. Fittingly, the park is located at the base of Mount Etna and features amusement rides and an aquapark along with educational shows and hands-on opportunities. The park is complete with dining options, photo services, and souvenirs. About the only thing better than an amusement park is an amusement park that sits right next to a famous volcano!

Families with kids may also enjoy a visit to Antica Botteca del Puparo, a museum dedicated to Sicily’s unique Opera dei Pupi, traditional puppet performances. Dating back to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the performances recreate tales of chivalry, romantic poems, and episodes of Sicily’s long history. The museum outlines the intricate process to create the puppets by hand as well as other fascinating details of this traditional artform that is an integral part of Sicily’s folklore.


Sicily’s island location and Catania’s proximity to the Ionian Sea make seafood a large part of daily life in the city. Fisherman seek out the fish which are then served to travelers and locals in restaurants and in neighborhood markets.

One of the more famous fish markets is the Mercato della Pescheria. The market is held by the Fontana dell’Amenano, a water fountain close to Via Garibaldi that is part of the waters from the mostly subterranean Amenano River. The market takes over the area almost every morning and laces the air with the smell of fresh fish and the sounds of merchants making a deal. Many travelers who have visited the Mercato della Pescheria will tell you that it is one uniquely Italian cultural experience of Catania that you simply cannot afford to miss.

Catania is an enchanting city full of history and evocative legends. Located in the shadow of Mount Etna, the city offers plenty of sightseeing opportunities in the form of Baroque architecture and unique museums as well as cultural activities, such as a visit to the fish market. Without a doubt, a vacation to Catania offers travelers an authentic Sicilian experience.

*SPECIAL NOTE: Because the Italian city of Catania can experience earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, at times repairs may be needed in various parts of the city. Some of the monuments and landmarks described in the narrative above may be described in their pre-earthquake and volcanic eruption condition.

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