Catania is the capital of the province of the same name and the second largest city in Sicily. The city, which has more than 300 thousand inhabitants, is located on the east coast of the island and has been destroyed by earthquakes or volcanic eruptions several times throughout its history. Most sights are located in or near the Piazza del Duomo.
Catania travel guide
Tourist information: Catania’s tourist office is located in Via Vittorio Emanuele II, 172 (tel. +39 095 7425573). It is open Monday to Saturday from 08:00 to 19:00 and on Sunday from 08:30 to 13:30. There is a second office at the airport in the arrivals hall on the ground floor. The opening hours are the same.
Town hall: Palazzo Duomo – Catania. Phone: +39 095 742 1111.
Railway station: Catania has multiple railway stations. The main one i called Catania Centrale.
Nearest airport: Catania has its own Vincenzo Bellini Airport. It is Sicily’s main airport. Perhaps unexpectedly, the flight between Rome and Catania is the busiest line in the whole of Italy.
The Piazza del Duomo has been pedestrian-only for several years. Three streets open onto this square, including the Via Garibaldi, considered the city’s main street. The other two are Via Vittorio Emanuele II and Via Etnea, the main street of the old part of the city. The most notable building in the square is the Sant’Agata Cathedral. The Fountain of the Elephant in this square is considered the symbol of Catania. The second fountain is the Fontana dell’Amenano.
The main attractions at Piazza Giovanni Verga are the Palazzo di Giustizia and the Fontana dei Malavoglia. The square is crossed by the Corso Italia. Before the square got its current name, it was called Piazza d’Armi.
Piazza San Francesco d’Assisi is located at the beginning of Via dei Crociferi, from which it is separated by the Arco di San Benedetto. The main attraction in the square itself is the San Francesco d’Assisi all’Immacolata Church. Directly opposite the church is the Palazzo Gravina Cruyllas, where the composer Vincenzo Bellini used to live. The statue in the square depicts Cardinal Giuseppe Benedetto Dusmet.
The rectangular Piazza Stesicoro is divided into two laves by the Via Etnea. The main buildings on the square are the Palazzo Beneventano and the Palazzo del Toscano. The central statue on the eastern side of the square is a monument in honor of Bellini.
Piazza I Viceré is named after a novel by Federico de Roberto. It is next to the castle on Via Leucatia, a hundred metres from a spring that supplied the city’s Roman aqueduct in the 3rd century. Next door is also a large park.
Via Etnea crosses the historic centre from north to south and is about 3 kilometres long. It starts at Piazza Duomo and ends at the Tondo Gioieni. The street was constructed towards the end of the 17th century, after the 1693 earthquake. The current paving, with volcanic stone from Etna, is of fairly recent vintage. The part between Piazza Duomo and the Quattro Canti is only accessible to pedestrians.
Via dei Crociferi is framed by several Baroque palaces, churches and monasteries.
Via Vittorio Emanuele II runs from the seafront through Piazza dei Martiri to Piazza Risorgimento, right through the historic centre. Formerly called Strada Reale (“Royal Road”), the street is home to several monuments from the city’s history.
One of the city’s biggest attractions is the San Nicolò l’Arena Monastery, which is the second largest in Europe.
The Quattro Canti are located at the corners of the intersection of Via Etnea and Via di San Giuliano. These four corner houses face the central point of the square with their façades. In this way, the square has acquired an octagonal shape. From the ceiling of one of these houses, Garibaldi uttered the words “O Roma o morte!” in 1860. (“Either Rome or death!”).
Catania’s two main museums are the City Museum and the Episcopal Museum. The first of these two is housed in the Ursino Castle. There are also some museums dedicated to local artists, including the writer Giovanni Verga and the sculptor Emilio Greco. For those travelling with children, there is also a fun toy museum.
Catania’s most important ancient monument is the Roman Theatre, part of a complex that also includes the Odeon and the Terme della Rotonda.
The market in Piazza Carlo Alberto is fairly well known. The name of this market is Fiera del Lunedì, as it was originally held only on Mondays. A flea market is held every Sunday in this same square.
A brief history of Catania
Catania is thought to have been founded in 729 BC by settlers from the Greek city of Chalkida on the island of Evia. In the coming centuries, the colony was contested by the Syracusans, the Carthaginians and the Greeks. Finally, in 263 BC, the Romans conquered the settelement.
This led to a period wealth, which ended when the Barbarians started invading. In 535, when Belisarius regained much of what had been lost of the Mediterranean part of the Western Roman Empire, Catania became part of the Byzantine Empire of Justinian I.
Later, the Arabs came and conquered. Still later, the Normans did the same.
Under the House of Aragon, the city was returned to its splendor. This lasted until 1693, when an earthquake struck and razed the city to the ground.
After the fall of the Spanish Empire, it was the turn of first the House of Savoy, then the Austrians. The last foreigner power to rule Catania was the House of Bourbon.
How to get to Catania by car
Catania is situated along the coastal highway E45. The A19 goes all the way across the island and ends close to Palermo.