Let’s discover together enchanting places in Eastern Sicily. Here are our tips for a one day trip from Catania.
Catania is a beautiful and charming city located on the east coast of Sicily. Picturesque and elegant, it stands on the slopes of the Etna volano and is surrounded by seaside villages, Baroque towns and natural wonders, all within easy reach in one day trip.
So, let’s discover these wonders that can be reached on a one day trip starting and returning to Catania.
5. One day trip from Catania to Etna
Departing from Catania, you cannot miss a one-day trip to Mount Etna, Europe's highest active volcano at more than 3,000 meters. It is undoubtedly an evocative excursion to be made at least once in a lifetime. "A muntagna," as the people of Catania call it, is one of the most striking attractions in eastern Sicily and an emblem of the entire island. With its height, it has nothing to envy the most majestic peaks of the Alps, yet here the landscape is completely different, it looks rather like being on the moon. The terrain is black and stark with a strong contrast between dark stones and the glowing lava, barren areas from which lava has unmistakably passed, and those where vegetation endures, despite everything.
If you want to visit Mount Etna in a one-day trip starting from Catania, there are several possibilities. You can do it on your own or with special tour operators at local agencies. To reach the more touristy and easily accessible southern slope takes about an hour by car. You will arrive at Rifugio Sapienza, at an altitude of 1,800 meters where you can take the cable car to reach 2,500 meters. Here you can stop to admire the breathtaking views and discover this incredible moonscape. Those who want to continue further can do it on foot or by 4x4 jeep to get up to an altitude of 2,900. To continue up to 3,250 meters, it is mandatory to join an organized tour and be accompanied by mountain guides and volcanologists, who know the routes well and can understand the volcano and its activities that can change abruptly. Then you can arrive, by a climb that can be quite strenuous (for experts) of about 2 hours, at the crater rim.
The recommended clothing for visiting Etna varies, of course, depending on the season, but don’t forget that this is a 3000 meters high mountain, where it snows in winter and has in fact also ski facilities. So, even during the summer, the temperature can reach 0° C. Don’t forget closed shoes, long pants and jacket. Alternatively, jackets and hiking shoes can be rented locally.
4. Alcantara Gorges from Catania
A one-hour drive from Catania takes you to the Alcantara Gorges Botanical and Geological Park for a trip to one of Sicily's natural jewels. North of Catania, in the province of Messina, lies Sicily's only river park, a canyon created by the waters of the Alcantara and the eruptions of nearby volcano Etna due to the sudden external cooling of lava in contact with water. The gorge is 400 meters long and is formed by walls of lava basalt sculpted into various shapes, up to 50 meters high and as narrow as a few meters. The majestic appearance of the walls and the basalt prisms make this canyon a true spectacle of nature.
Once you arrive, you can do what you like: simply relaxing in the sun on the pebble beach or traverse the canyon on your own, swimming, body rafting or with a guided hike.
Entering as early as the first section you can see ancient lava flows, small waterfalls and lush river vegetation. Be warned: water temperature is very low, hovering between 8 and 11 degrees, and in summer the outside temperature makes it seem even colder. Don't let that scare you, it will definitely be a refreshing swim!
3. Trip to Taormina: the pearl of the Mediterranean
Departing from Catania, you can’t miss a one-day trip to Taormina, a true jewel of the Mediterranean thanks to its enchanting seaside location, vast historical, cultural and archaeological heritage and beautiful landscape. Taormina has enchanted poets and writers and continues to enchant tourists and visitors from all over the world.
From Catania, driving up towards Messina, you can reach Taormina in less than an hour. We recommend starting the day at the beach. Mazzarò beach is a small bay nestled between two headlands, with sand and pebbles and a clear sea with a shallow seabed. It is an ideal destination for a relaxing morning in the sun with bathing establishments and restaurants. Another charming beach is Isola Bella, located just at the foot of the town. From the beach of pebbles and gravel at low tide emerges a thin tongue of sand that connects the islet in front to the mainland.
After a nice swim and a relaxing morning, you can take the car back to visit the center of Taormina with its main street, Corso Umberto I, where craft stores, souvenir and fashion stores, cafes and nice places follow one another. Then continue with a visit to the Greek Theater, the second largest in Sicily, built by the Greeks and later transformed by the Romans into a breathtaking vantage point with views of Mount Etna, the sea and as far as the coast of Calabria. The theater hosts concerts, theater, dance and film performances and various cultural events in the summer. If you are lucky perhaps, you may even catch an evening performance! Finally, among the things to see in Taormina we would like to point out the Villa Comunale, which was originally the park of Lady Florence Trevelyan's home, made as a typical English garden filled with a wide variety of flowers and plants from all over the world.
2. Syracuse and Ortigia from Catania
Let’s now head south for a one-day trip from Catania to Syracuse. The city is always located on the east coast of Sicily and is partly on the mainland and partly on the beautiful and picturesque Ortigia Island.
We arrive in Syracuse from Catania always in about an hour and start by visiting the Neapolis Archaeological Park where we ca find the Greek and Roman remains of the ancient city that gave birth to Archimedes. The Archaeological Park includes several Greek and Roman remains:
- a Roman amphitheater almost entirely carved into the rock, which once housed wild animals and gladiator fights.
- a huge Greek theater that could seat up to 20,000 people and is still used for performances of classical Greek comedies and tragedies.
- the altar of Hieron II, a monumental altar dedicated to Zeus and used for human sacrifices.
- the ear of Dionysus, an ancient limestone quarry of more than 20 meters in the likeness of a giant ear, from where it is said that the tyrant of Syracuse Dionysus listened to conversations between prisoners thanks to the impressive echo.
Once you have visited the Archaeological Park, you can spend the afternoon in the center of Syracuse, the island of Ortigia, the beating heart of the city, which can be reached via one of the bridges that join it to the mainland. The island is full of striking and ancient architectural elements, churches, squares and palaces, such as the Apollo temple right at the entrance or the Arethusa Spring, a spring of water that forms a small lake where the only wild papyrus in Europe grows. Stop for a break at the Duomo, one of the finest examples of Sicilian Baroque, which stands where the temple dedicated to Athena once stood. Then stroll along the waterfront to Maniace Castle, where you will admire a panoramic view of the coast. Finally, enjoy a sunset aperitif on the waterfront.
1. One day trip from Catania: Vendicari Nature Reserve and Marzamemi
For a day at the beach from Catania, you can reach in about an hour and a half the Vendicari Nature Reserve, located between Noto and Marzamemi. Within the nature reserve we can find various natural environments, freshwater areas, salt marshes, dunes and kilometers of beaches. The wildlife oasis includes 1,500 hectares of land among junipers, mastic trees and salt marsh, flamingos, herons and cormorants, waders and storks are also easily found.
In its 7 kilometers of coastline there are some of the most beautiful beaches in Sicily, with pristine and crystal-clear sea. The most famous is probably the beach of Calamosche, isolated and quiet, a small natural paradise reachable on foot in about 20 minutes' walk. Vendicari Beach, the most popular, is a long, shallow water tongue of sand bordered by the remains of an ancient tuna fishery, from where we can see the island of Vendicari. San Lorenzo Beach is located immediately after it and is very popular with its very white sand and crystal-clear sea.
After a nice day at sea, before returning to Catania, move on to Marzamemi, not far from the reserve, a delightful little sailor's village that seems straight out of an old tale whose history is closely linked to fishing. The village is characterized by low yellow stone houses arranged around two natural harbors and the “tonnara”, dating back to Arab times. Walk through the streets of the village to admire its most beautiful and evocative views. Stop for dinner or an aperitif in the main square, filled with outdoor tables to admire the colors at sunset time.