CataniaCopyright: Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock.com
CataniaCharismatic seaside Catania is a young, dynamic soul, inhabiting a body of narrow alleys and ornate Baroque buildings mounted on top of well-preserved remains of ancient Greek and Roman settlements. Mount Etna defines the cityscape both in terms of the striking panorama and building material - Catania is even referred to as the "grey city" for the colour of lava rocks used to construct many of its buildings.
The CityCatania is one of Sicily’s nine provinces. It is bordered by Taormina to the north, Augusta to the south, Bronte, Adrano, and Misterbianco to the west, and the Ionian Sea in the east. The provincial capital of Catania was founded at the base of the volcano Etna in 729. It was one of the first Greek colonies on the island. Like other Sicilian cities, it has been heavily influenced by its rulers – Romans, Arabs, and Normans to name a few. The largest impact came from its neighbour, the volcano Etna – when it erupted in 1669 it devastated the city and killed 12,000 inhabitants. Catania was rebuilt in the Baroque style preserved to this day, complete with large boulevards and squares. Over the last few years, tourism has become one of the biggest sources of revenue. With the sixth largest airport in Italy, Catania is a natural hub for tourists travelling to the island’s east coast. It is easy to take day trips from here to the spectacular Mount Etna, to the ceramics centre of Caltagirone, and to the picturesque mountain villages like Randozza and Linguaglossa. There is also Sicily’s most glamorous tourist town, the Roman city of Taormina with its medieval city centre, where D.H. Lawrence wrote "Lady Chatterley’s Lover."
Do & See
Catania boasts a plethora of incredible cultural sights. Pay a visit to Piazza del Duomo, marvel at the splendid Catania Cathedral, and walk down the historic Via dei Crociferi (named a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Catania's location by the warm sea makes it a perfect destination for holiday-makers, and hiking trips can be made to the (still active) Etna volcano. In the vicinity, small towns such as the beautiful Taormina or Caltagirone make for ideal day-trip destinations.
The cuisine in the Catania region is just like in the rest of Sicily – a delectable combination of Italian and Mediterranean cooking. Fish and seafood are the dominant ingredients, complemented by olive oil and wine from the mountains around Etna. One unusual ingredient that has made its way into a variety of dishes and condiments is the local pistachio (the ultimate Catanese pizza is one topped with cream cheese and grated pistachios). In the pasta department, try the local speciality Pasta alla Norma – a pasta dish cooked with aubergines, tomatoes, ricotta cheese and basil.
Italian coffee doesn't need a special introduction, and the variety of local sweets and pastries is truly mind-boggling - many an establishment in Catania serve mouthwatering Italian delights, from cream-stuffed cannoli to chocolate-filled croissants, and other alluring treats, notably granita, which is a semi-frozen dessert. In the savoury department, Sicily is known for its juicy arancini (stuffed rice balls, coated with bread crumbs and then deep-fried. They are usually filled with ragù, mozzarella, and peas).
Bars & Nightlife
Catania is a student town, and as such, boasts quite a few hip bars and clubs frequented by the local youths. A regional speciality in terms of nightlife is the so-called "lido" – beach venues well-visited by tourists and locals for sunbathing, swimming and water sports during the day, and transforming into bars and beach clubs after sundown.
Catania is sometimes referred to as the Milan of Sicily - not so much for the fashion, but for the enterprising spirit. There are countless craftsmen, artists and small business owners who sell their wares all over the city, one example being the typical 53-inch Sicilian Pupi puppets that can be bought on Via Etnea. The elaborately carved wooden candelabras on sale in the historic quarters are another speciality of the region, and so are the colourful local ceramics. One must-visit local attraction is the open-air fish market La Pescheria - a bustling, loud, smelly locale where some of the finest seafood restaurants go to stock up on dish ingredients. Brand name shopping can be had along expensive Corso Italia and around Via Pacini, Via Umberto I, and Via Etnea.