Do you want to visit Catania like a local? Then check out 7 things to do to live the city like a true "catanese".
9 times destroyed and 9 times rebuilt.
Catania has risen from its ashes after every devastating earthquake.
It was 1693, the year of the last earthquake that razed Catania to the ground: the Baroque style reigned in the world of art and architecture. The city was then rebuilt in this style, using the characteristic black lava stone.
A choice that has given Catania a unique aspect.
Today the city is lively, cheerful and full of things to see: a must-visit when exploring the south-east of Sicily.
For this reason we have created a list with our favorite activities and places to make you experience the city like a real catanese.
Discover the 7 things to do in Catania to enjoy the city like a local: where to find the best street food, excursions not to be missed and much more.
7. Eat with locals in Via Santa Filomena
A narrow alley full of eclectic food spots, with a vaguely chic atmosphere.
That's the lively Via Santa Filomena, in the hearth of Catania, with the restaurant tables filling the street and the waiters inviting you to take a seat and enjoy their food.
Via Santa Filomena is among the favorite meeting places for the locals, perfect for aperitifs, lunches and dinners, but also to enjoy the local nightlife.
Hidden in the city centre of Catania, a stone's throw from Villa Bellini, this alley offers a slew of original restaurants, a mix of Sicilian and international cuisine far from the classic tourist traps.
Between a chat and a glass of Sicilian wine, take a look at what the locals order: you can sample typical dishes and anchovy meatballs in the "Polpetteria", the interesting donkey burgers in the gourmet sandwich shop "FUD - Bottega Sicula", or a mouth watering fish cous cous and panelle from “Il Sale Art Cafe”.
You can end the evening in Irish style in the “Mr. Hyde ” pub, but you will also find other places in this lively gourmet street in the centre of Catania.
6. Discover the lively fish market
Loud, lively and full of life: La Pescheria is Catania's famous fish market.
La Pescheria is an important location to explore if you want to experience Catania like a local.
This market represents the quintessence of the city, with its flavours, colours and the whimsical personalities of its traders.
The marble stalls of the fish vendors overflow with fine tuna and swordfish steaks, shrimp baskets, tubs full of clams and much, much more.
A visual exhibit that turns into an olfactory and taste show.
The background sound is the vuciata (the shouts of the fish sellers inviting passers-by to purchase): it's no problem if you don't understand the local Sicilian dialect... the gestures and invitations are international.
La Pescheria is the ideal place to peek into the shopping cart of the locals and to learn about their habits. The market develops in the underground tunnel connecting two squares in the city center (Piazza Pardo and Piazza Alonzo di Benedetto).
To find the catch of the day, look for the area where fishermen sell their freshly caught fish, behind the Amenano Fountain.
If your mouth is watering after exploring La Pescheria, just follow the crowds in search of a fish restaurant in the alleys of the center. Or ask the vendors to recommend a recipe and cook the freshly bought fish at home.
Enjoy the atmosphere and remember that visiting this fish market is a must for anyone who wants to get to know Catania: it is open every day from 7 to lunchtime, except Sundays.
5. Dive into the incredible street food
Catania is a party city, cheerful and convivial.
The local street food best represents its spirit.
Locals and tourists alike love a quick, tasty meal. That's why Catania is dotted with delis, bakeries, rotisseries, butchers and trucks with take-away food.
In this eclectic cauldron you can enjoy unforgettable delights. Explore the street food joints just like Stanley Tucci did in his show "Searching for Italy".
Apart from the classic arancini you must absolutely try the cartocciate (soft panzerotti stuffed with mozzarella, aubergines and much more) and cipolline (crispy rustic puff pastry filled with fried onions, cheese and ham).
The meat shops called carnezzerie are almost a holy place for the locals - especially in Via Plebiscito. These rustic trattorias are dedicated to carnivores, following the philosophy of “Arrusti e Mangia” ("roast and eat"). You can pick many type of meat as the local chefs proudly grill juicy steaks, donkey meat, pork ribs and horse meatballs. Find some space for specialties such as the cipollata, a spring onion wrapped in slices of crispy bacon.
There are also plenty of options for fish lovers around the city: sandwiches with raw tuna and seafood arancini should be on top of your list.
Finally, if you are in Catania in winter look out for the famous crispelle, soft balls of dough stuffed with ricotta or anchovies. If you have a sweet tooth, turn to the "zeppole di riso", also called sfinci in Sicilian. These delicious fried donuts are said to have been invented by the nuns: they are flavoured with orange and covered with honey: the final result will enchants your taste buds.
4. Take a day trip on the Etna volcano
Etna is the volcano par excellence, one of the most known Sicilian symbols.
The "mountain of fire" stands a few miles away from Catania, surrounded by a large protected natural park.
A popular destination among hikers, the Etna volcano offers a myriad of contrasting landscapes: between the base and its 3000 meters, you can find barren lunar land and lush woods alternating with black sand banks and breathtaking views of the blue Sicilian sea.
You can explore Etna on foot, renting a quad or driving a car and stopping at one of the many viewpoints: each type of trip has its own charm.
The classic climb on foot begins with a section in a cable car (2500 meters), one in a 4x4 jeep (2900 meters) and finally starting the trek that leads to the summit craters for about 4 km, reaching a height of 3250 meters. To go up it is necessary to book one of the alpine guides in the area.
The climbing experience is outstanding, an adventure of about 4 hours that will take you to look inside the main crater and appreciate various volcanic phenomena.
The ascent is not too demanding, while for the descent you will feel like skiing on the ashes and volcanic stones of the steep south rim.
Etna can be climbed every day, unless there are risks due to eruptions. In the winter months, mountaineering skis are used.
If you prefer to avoid climbing on foot, book a guided quad tour and let the engine roar among lava flows and lush oak forests. There are different tours available suitable to all drivers, some easy and more scenic and others properly off-road.
The quad bike experience on Etna is really fun and it's a great way to enjoy the volcano, with off-road sections on black sands and numerous viewpoints.
3. Discover the best panoramic view
Catania at 360 degrees, from Etna to the sea: baroque churches and the red roofs all around.
This is the panorama that can be admired from the terrace on the dome of the Abbey of Sant’Agata, the best view of the city according to the locals.
If you want to enjoy a bird's eye view of Catania ... don't go any further. We are in the historic center, a stone's throw from the Cathedral of Sant’Agata and the Elephant Fountain.
The Abbey of Sant’Agata was built in 1733, in the heat of reconstruction that followed the terrible earthquake of 1963.
This baroque church hides a real gem: the walkway around the dome, a 40 meters high panoramic terrace with a breathtaking view of the city.
The perfect time to climb the dome is sunset, but if you prefer to appreciate all the details of Catania, choose a day with clear skies and enjoy the show.
The church can be visited for free and is open every day, with a break at lunchtime and closing times varying according to the seasons. The ticket to climb the dome costs only € 5 and you can get to the top using the lift.
2. Enjoy the beaches near Catania
Catania is surrounded by beaches where you can spend a nice day by the sea.
Between May and September, especially on weekends, locals move to the seaside destinations on the eastern coast of Sicily.
Take a break from urban tourism and treat yourself to a relaxing day on the beach: here are some suggestions.
The closest beach to Catania is the "Plaia", 18 km long with an infinite number of well-equipped beaches, free areas, services, restaurants and play areas: a versatile beach, close to the city and perfect for families.
Another beautiful spot loved by the locals is the Riviera dei Ciclopi, near Aci Trezza (north of Catania): here you can enjoy one of the most beautiful marine areas in all of Sicily, with dramatic rock stacks dotting the coast (the legend says that these are the boulders thrown by the Cyclops Polyphemus against Ulysses). The only beach in Aci Trezza is made of stones and dark gravel, but luckily there are wooden platforms equipped for sunbathing. The scenic views and marine biodiversity make this area perfect for snorkeling and renting a kayak.
If you don't want to go too far from Catania, try the San Giovanni Li Cuti beach, very close to the city center and reachable by bus. Not the most beautiful beach but certainly excellent for a half day break from the city heat.
There are other beautiful beaches with pristine waters, but a bit more distant from Catania (but still good for a day trip): the Fondachello beach near Giarre (excellent for families and for snorkeling) and the Mulino beach, near Acireale, just under a rocky ridge and reachable via a short steep path.
Going to the sea around Catania is not a problem: look for the beach that's right for you and enjoy the pristine Ionian Sea.
1. Fall in love with the opera at the Bellini theatre
The Massimo Bellini theatre is one of the great symbols of Catania.
Fascinating and full of stories to tell, the Bellini is the pride of the locals: this world-renowned theatre is famous for its architectural beauty and its acoustics, considered by some to be the best in the world.
Going to see the opera at the Bellini theatre is certainly one of the best things to do to appreciate Catania, and maybe fall in love with this theatrical genre.
The theatre takes its name from the Catania composer Vincenzo Bellini, who inaugurated it in 1890 with the Norma.
It is possible to visit the theatre in the mornings between Tuesday and Saturday and also in the afternoons from Wednesday to Friday, without seeing any show. You can explore its corridors and halls, up to the majestic main hall, with frescoes on the ceiling and a charming atmosphere.
If you love opera or if you are just curious to enjoy the complete experience, we recommend attending one of the evening shows. Check the program on the official website of the theatre or in the tourist offices around the city and book tickets online or on site.
The Bellini is one of the most important theatres in Italy and Europe. So many great artists performed on this stage from Maria Callas (who loved the acoustics here), Luciano Pavarotti and Riccardo Muti.