Sicily is a very fascinating island where there are many cities that are all different and with their own identity. Among those, there is Catania, the town of Etna. In fact, the city is on the slopes of Mount Etna, as it’s always in the background. It’s the second-largest city in Sicily after Palermo and the most important one in East Sicily.
Catania has a long history: it was founded by the Greeks in the VIII century b.C. and since then it’s always been influenced by the many cultures ruling the island.
In this article, you will find a guide on what to do in Catania on a weekend, with a piece of advice on the food to taste and some fun facts.
A walk among the historical center of Catania
As in every Italian city, the historical center of Catania is a must-see. In fact, it has also been nominated by UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites, since it is a great example of late Baroque architecture. You can walk along Via Etnea, which starts from Piazza Duomo and goes through the whole city in the direction of Mount Etna. In addition to that, the street is full of ancient palaces that belong to different eras of the city with unique beauty.
Moreover, another street you can visit is Via dei Crociferi, which is the street of Baroque architecture. In fact, along the street, there are many Baroque churches made of the lava rock of Etna. Among the most beautiful buildings, there is the Church of San Giuliano, Chiostro dei Gesuiti and Monastero dei Benedettini.
The cathedral of Sant’Agata
The Cathedral of Sant’Agata is the main place of worship in Catania since it has been dedicated to the patron saint of the city. It is located in Piazza Duomo, near Via Etnea.
It was built on the Thermal baths of Apollo, where the Saint was killed. The Church is very important in matters of its architecture because you can identify the different eras that influenced Catania’s culture. The Norman part is trackable in apses and lateral chapels, meanwhile the Swabian one is noticeable the basis of the columns that lay on the floor. Moreover, the facade of the church is in Baroque style, made of white marble of Carrara and lava rock.
More information here.
The Roman Amphitheater
Even though only one part is still present in the original structure, the Roman Amphitheater is a very important monument for the history of the city. Firstly it was built by Romans and later expanded. Secondly, it was built on a necropolis, which is nowadays included in the historical center of the city.
Giardino Bellini is one of the historical parks of Catania, and one of the biggest. It is called “Villa” by the inhabitants because it was part of a private villa in the past. You access the park from Via Etnea and you walk along a big boulevard. On the lateral streets, you can find statues, kiosks, and birdhouses. Furthermore, at the center of the villa, there is a lake where beautiful swans swim. It is the ideal place to relax in the middle of nature.
Here for information about opening hours.
The markets in Catania
One of the most typical elements in Sicily are markets, in fact, every city has at least one. The most important markets in Catania are two, as they are specialized in different products. Firstly, there is Piscaria, the fish market, in Piazza Alonzo. It’s the perfect place to buy fresh fish and get lost in the city’s folklore.
Secondly, there is ‘A fera ‘O Luni, which is another traditional market in Piazza Alberto, where you can buy fresh cuts, cheese, and other typical products. It’s calmer than the other one, but inside of it, there is also the Basilica della Madonna del Carmine, the starting point of a famous procession.
A walk in the evening
Catania, during the 60s and the 70s, used to be called the “Milan of the South”, due to its dynamic and young environment. Nowadays, some people still call it that way because there are still many restaurants and bars for the nightlife. There are many restaurants offering typical Sicilian cuisine, or some bars where you can stop and drink a cocktail. Among the most popular areas during the evening you can find Piazza Teatro Massimo and Via Etnea.
Eating in Catania
During your weekend in Catania, you don’t have to forget to eat its typical food. Among the most popular ones, you will find arancini, small balls made with rice and ragù. There is also good cheese, such as caciocavallo and tuma. Furthermore, Catania is also famous for horse meat, which is prepared in different ways.
And for dessert, you can’t miss cassatelle, cannoli and the famous brioche with ice cream.
March 17th, 2021