The second largest city on the island of Sicily, Catania is centrally located along the eastern coastline. The city is one of few Italian destinations to offer profoundly unique topographic disparity concentrated in such a small area. To the west, snow-capped Mount Etna (a UNESCO World Heritage site and nature reserve) towers 3,326 meters (nearly 11,000 feet) above the city, while on the eastern edge, La Playa, a 12 km long beach of golden sand, beckons visitors as it absorbs the cool waters of the Ionian Sea.
Discover Catania – Ancient History
Catania was founded in 729 BC by Chalcidians of Greece. With a history spanning thousands of years, and countless empirical rulers, the region is replete with an eclectic mix of artistic, architectural and cultural heritage, including an awe-inspiring collection of Greek, Roman, Arab, and Byzantine architecture. Several ancient sites remain from the Roman Empire: the imposing Amphitheatre, Teatro Romano and Odeon, as well as some thermae (public baths). Magnificently flamboyant Sicilian Baroque architecture found throughout the city centre has also been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Sicily’s first university was founded in Catania in 1434, and the city gained prestige throughout the Italian Renaissance as a hub for politics, education, arts and cultural revitalization. Catania was also home to several artisans including composers Vincenzo Bellini (namesake for Catania’s airport) and Giovanni Pacini, as well as authors Luigi Capuanna, Federico de Roberto, and Nino Martoglio.
By the 19th century Catania had transformed into an industrial city, renowned for its progressive approach to sulphur processing and railway development, and as the 20th century unfolded, strada and passaggi connecting the city were extended, allowing metropolitan suburbs to gain economic importance.
City of Rebirth
‘Melior de cinere surgo’ – ‘From the ruins, I emerge stronger’
Celebrated for its rich history, culture, gastronomy and unique architecture, Catania’s location at the foot of Mount Etna has been a source of curses as well as blessings. Volcanic eruptions, and catastrophic earthquakes decimated large regions of the city on numerous occasions. Yet that same volcanic ash which caused such devastation, combined with the region’s Mediterranean climate, has produced abundantly fertile soil for cultivating vines.
Massive destruction caused by a volcanic eruption in 1669 and a subsequent earthquake in 1693 presented an opportunity to rebuild the city in a new urban structure by introducing the theatrical and highly sculpted concepts of Baroque-style architecture. In view of these blessings and curses, Catania has long been considered synonymous with rebirth. This is a place of singular contrasts – of lights and shadows. Where white limestone co-exists with black basalt lava. Where the opulence of Palazzo Biscari gives way to monastic serenity at nearby Monastero dei Benedettini.
U Liotru – Civic Pride
With an urban population of about 315,000 residents and a combined metropolitan populace of nearly 1,108,000, this region is considered the most populated in Sicily. While Palermo is the capital, Catania remains the island’s primary industrial, logistical and commercial center, and is home to one of the busiest ports in Italy.
The civic symbol of Catania is the Elephant (U Liotru), and homage is paid in the form of a massive fountain occupying the center of the majestic Piazza del Duomo. The city’s coat of arms also features the elephant with an “A” above it in honor of Saint Agatha who was killed during the persecution of Emperor Decius in 251AD, and is one of the most highly exaulted female martyrs in Catholicism.
Discover Catania – Cultural Allure
Italy is globally synonymous with gastronomy; however, each region is renowned for it’s own distinct flavors and dishes. Local vineyards, fresh
frutti di mare from Mediterranean waters, and a bounty of agricultural produce cultivated from the region’s rich volcanic soil are the mainstay for sumptuous farm-to-table cuisine and wines. The region showcases it’s culinary influences at local festivals and celebrations as well as several iconic restaurants featuring traditional and contemporary adaptations of Greek, Arabic, Spanish, and Italian cuisine.
Cultural celebrations are also an essential part of Sicilian lifestyle. From the festive celebration of the city’s patron Saint Agatha on February 5 to the famed “confetti fight” at Acireale Carnival during late February and early March to the Festival Internazionale di Tango della Sicilia each August and several religious holidays, the people of Catania celebrate their culture, spirituality, and heritage with traditional authenticity and jubilant fanfare!
Catania is easily reached by land, sea, and via Catania-Fontanarossa, Sicily’s busiest airport. Tourism and commercial transfers under Mount Etna have continually increased due to maritime trade and cruise activities. Nearly 15 million tourists arrive on the shores of Sicily annually, and those numbers are expected to rise. A recent article in Forbes magazine, named Sicily as #2 on it’s list of “The 20 Best Places to Visit in 2020”, and Catania is ready for its moment.
Historic Attractions and Museums
- Piazza del Duomo
- Basilica Cattedrale Sant’Agata
- San Nicoló Monastero dei Benedettini
- Aci Castello
- Museo Civico Ursino Castle
- Museo Civico Belliniano
- Teatro Massimo Vincenzo Bellini
- Palazzo Biscari
- Teatro Romano & Odeon
- Mount Etna
- Via San Giovanni Li Cuti
- La Playa
- Lido Azzurro Beach Resort
- Giardino Bellini
- Parco Maestranze
With 100’s of wineries in close proximity to Catania, we can’t possibly list them all here. Keep in mind that most require an appointment and a small tasting fee. Mattie Bamman authored a “Guide to Wine Tasting on Mt. Etna in Sicily” for Europe Up Close, including several considerations for optimizing your wine tasting experience.
- Gambino Winery
- Benanti Winery
- Azienda Vinicola Barone di Villagrande e Cantine
- Donnafugata Cantina Randazzo Etna
- Cantine Don Saro
Discover Catania! TBEX Events and host destination sponsors, the City of Catania, are bringing TBEX Europe 2020 to the shores of Sicily March 10 – 13, 2020. Join hundreds of travel media – including travel bloggers, influencers, content creators and tourism industry professionals for three full days of regional tours, breakout sessions featuring content, platform, and marketing strategies, and speed networking.