I think, by now, you probably know we have a slight obsession with Italy — just look at all these Italy posts and videos we’ve made! With so many regions, so many islands, and so much good food, it’s just an incredible country. We want to visit every region, eventually, but for now we’ll stick to this one…Sicily.
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Sicily is an italian island just south of the mainland. There are two major airports: one in Palermo and one in Catania. We were able to get a direct flight to Catania and with the help of our Marco Polo Sicily guidebook, discovered the best things to do in Catania, Sicily — even if you’re only there for a couple of days.
Sometimes I get the feeling that people are confused when I, or any blogger, talks about guidebooks. Aren’t paperback travel guides dead? No! Not at all. I love getting inspiration from fellow bloggers who are like me in age, interests, and budget, but I like to have the general information as well. And many travel guides, these days, are either written by, or have contributions by locals, which makes them invaluable!
What are the top things to do and see in Catania?
There’s more to Sicily than Catania, and there’s more to Catania than this post. That said, I love having a place to start…some inspiration to see what’s there and expand from that. So, this is your must-do list for Catania and your teaser for Sicily!
If there’s a castle around, you just have to go see it, am I right? I feel like that’s the American in me and maybe Europeans are more like, “Castle? Yeah, there’s been one in every town I’ve lived in”. But hey, I think castles are cool and hopefully you do, too! It’s also the first thing listed in the Catania section of the Marco Polo guidebook, so I feel like that gives it some extra clout.
Castello Ursino seems extra cool because it’s made from blocks of LAVA!!! How fitting and I love it. It has a very traditional look to it with four corner tours and you can go inside! It’s €6 to enter but you are greeted with a museum full of history. You’ll also see views of Mt. Etna alongside collections of centuries gone by.
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It is almost impossible to go to Catania and not go to Piazza Duomo! It’s in the center of the shopping areas and near a ton of restaurants including those surrounding the fish market. Luckily for you, it’s also where our favorite cannolo (cannoli is plural) is found. Head to Prestipino for a cannolo you won’t soon forget.
This square is stunning and, in my humble opinion, the perfect size. It feels grand with plenty of room, but still small enough to know you’re in a small city. Maybe that doesn’t make any sense at all to you, but when you go, think about it and let me know what you think!
Oh, and there’s an elephant statue in the middle made from lava rock. That might just make it the coolest Piazza in Italy.
This fish market is right past the Piazza Duomo and is a treat for all the senses! You’ll find it open each morning during the week until 2pm, but it’s open all day on Saturday. It’s not super smelly, but you’ll know when you are near the market. There are stalls everywhere with fishmongers shouting to get your attention. If you have a kitchen where you are staying, definitely get yourself some fish to take back to your place for dinner.
When we all travel, I think we tend to seek out the local vibe of a place. This is exactly that. Even the opening times of the market are determined by ancient traditions. Just know that it’s a bit loud, a bit wet, and can be a bit crowded. Enjoy the show! If you want to eat fish, check below because we have our recommendations and one’s next to the market overlooking the organized chaos.
It took a lot to get this opera house completed. In fact, from conception to completion Teatro Bellini took almost 200 years. That was due to funding issues, replacement theatres, space, and so on. Eventually, this specific building took 7 years to fully build and it opened in all its glory in 1890.
The front of the building is beautiful and very impressive, but it’s the inside that leaves visitors speechless. I rather like the location. It feels local, not like it’s a major site for visitors, nor does it feel like such a grand opera house would be located there. That’s the charm.
We stayed very close to this garden and it was so charming to walk through. There’s even a daily “clock” where the date is done in plants. YES! So cute! When you walk up, you’re greeted with a fountain and manicured garden while you pass the retaining wall with plenty of seats for little picnics. It’s where we filmed part of our foods to try in Catania video.
There are many lovely little paths and places to sit in Giardino Bellini. Lots of little critters call it home, too, so it was fun to look for who was making little noises in the bushes. If you’re into fitness, there’s a whole area just for you — and outdoor gym! This is a great place to just stroll and enjoy the outdoors on a sunny day.
At the very least, you’ll want to find a good view point to see Mt. Etna and hopefully you can make arrangements to head up Europe’s tallest and most active volcano. Our apartment in Catania had a fabulous view and I loved waking up to it each morning. I didn’t realize it had such a view until we arrived!! You can check out the place we booked to see if it’s a good place for you, too.
But to get closer to Mt. Etna, you can take a cable car, minibuses, and/or use a guide. I think the best way to really experience this volcano is through a guide if you want to go trekking. You can’t get too far on your own. But no matter how you experience the volcano, it’s pretty magical. When we left, we were emotional because we didn’t want to leave, and the pilot made a loop around the volcano. I have no idea if it was necessary or not, but it was the best view ever!
Where are some top spots to eat and drink in Catania?
Now that we’ve covered the must-visit, must-see spots in Catania, let’s move onto another important topic–food and drinks!
Osteria Antica Marina
Earlier, I mentioned that we went to a restaurant by the fish market, this is it! Osteria Antica Marina was recommended in the Marco Polo Sicily guidebook and it was recommended by our host as well. It’s so fun when you ask someone for recommendations, the book has already told you the same thing.
Meaning, we were able to watch the people work during lunch. If it’s a bit chilly, you can eat inside, but out on the patio is really the perfect spot to feel like you’re really in the market.
We ate all seafood, because, how can you not? It was local and delicious. They are best known for letting you go in and pick the fish you want to eat. But, I’m not sure you can go wrong here. There are also set chef’s menus for a very reasonable price. I’d recommend doing that, we didn’t only because I was craving certain foods. My tip to you is to get the local wine. They can help recommend one.
Trattoria del Cavaliere
Opened in 1922, Trattoria del Cavaliere has stood the test of time by using high quality ingredients and serving traditional Sicilian dishes. Locals were all over this place, all the time. That’s the mark of a good, local restaurant.
It’s a pretty big place, so you’ll likely get a seat pretty easily except maybe on a Saturday night or Sunday for lunch. Like I said, it’s popular! They make their own desserts and are especially known for their “torta Fedora”. You’ll just have to go to see what all of the fuss is about 🙂
Etnea Roof Bar & Restaurant
Inside one of the nicest hotels is a rooftop bar and restaurant. And yes, it faces Mt. Etna! Cocktail prices are a bit higher than you might see in the rest of the city, but the service is excellent, it feels swanky (fancy), and has an excellent view. The cocktail menu is what we went for, so I can’t speak to the food, but wow, the bartender knows his stuff!
Bohéme Mixology Bar
If a small, intimate cocktail bar is more your speed (it is ours’!), then Bohéme is where you need to go. It’s small but not too small and feels like you walked into your best friend’s house. On a nice night, you can also sit outside to enjoy the fresh Sicilian air.
There’s no menu, but you’ll be asked a few questions and they will whip something amazing up for you. The cocktail we had may be the best we’ve ever had. Like, ever. They are so perfectly balanced, creative, and delicious. We tested many…you know…for the blog. 😉 And when I just didn’t want anymore alcohol (it happens…occasionally), they made me a wonderful virgin drink and I just could not get over how talented these people are. Cocktail-lovers, this is your place.
If you are visiting Catania, you’ll probably be running around to the other impressive cities in Sicily. The Marco Polo book is so helpful with planning and narrowing down the many awesome things to do and places to see in Sicily. We plan on going back to explore more of the east coast, then renting a car and exploring the full island. The guidebook is going to get quite a workout!!
Wishing you joy and travels!