10 things to do in Catania

As many of you know I am from Catania and I love to spend my holidays in this black city. Yes it’s black because it’s all built in lava stone! During my holidays last year I decided to make a list of things I love to do when I spend some time there. This article is not about places for tourists, even though some things are on tourist guides. This is about what a common person from Catania would do when spending some time there and it’s therefore a mix between places and…food!

Come molti di voi sapranno io sono catanese e adoro passare le mie vacanze in questa città nera (sì, è nera perché è fatta di pietra lavica!). Durante le mie ferie estive ho deciso di fare questa lista di cose che mi piace fare quando vado a Catania. Questo articolo non è una guida turistica, anche se alcuni posti sono nelle guide turistiche. Questa è una lista di cose che un catanese potrebbe voler fare quando si trova a Catania ed è quindi un mix tra luoghi e…cibi!


Horse meat, cipollata, and involtini: a very authentic dinner!

10. Eat some horse meat / Mangiare la carne di cavallo

Okay probably some people might think it’s gross. Still horse meat balls rock! You can easily find horse meat in very authentic places in via Plebiscito or close to the Ursino castle. Some places don’t cook this meat in regular kitchens, but they have barbecues in the street. Of course if you don’t like horses you can find other meats such as beef and pork. If you don’t want to eat horse meat I recommend you to try the “cipollata”, bacon onion rolls, and the philadelphia involtini (they contain ground pistachio too).


Chiesa di San Nicolò la Rena – Photo by Stefania Tarantino Photography

9. Visit the Benedettini monastery and via dei Crociferi / Visitare il monastero dei Benedettini e via dei Crociferi

This is a very nice area full of baroque churches and the big Benedettini monastery. The monastery is now a university and contains a very big library (Le Biblioteche Riunite “Civica e A. Ursino Recupero”) which includes an interesting collection of ancient books. Via dei Crociferi is a small street in which you can experience a true trip in the Baroque age, it is located very close to the monastery and to via Etnea, Catania’s main street. From via dei Crociferi you can walk down the scalinata Alessi and enjoy its bars and restaurants.



Piazza Teatro Massimo

8. Spend the evening in Piazza Teatro Massimo / Passare una serata in Piazza Teatro Massimo

In Italy there are 28 traditional theaters which plays every year traditional opera and ballet. One of these theatres, called Teatro Massimo Vincenzo Bellini (learn more about Bellini here), is located in Catania city center. The theatre is surrounded by a number of bars, pubs and restaurants where people use to meet in the evening. The square has a special atmosphere during Christmas time when it’s full of lights and the temperature is chilly.


View of the sea in Aci Trezza – Photo by Stefania Tarantino Photography

7. Explore the nearby sea villages / Esplorare i paesi marittimi che si trovano nelle vicinanze

Catania is surrounded by small villages where you can find a mix of restaurants, nightlife and authentic stories. Many villages and small cities have their own fairs and events called “sagre” during the year. During these events there are many stands that serve delicious street food and sell stuff, every village has its own specialty and its own typical food, therefore every sagra is different from the others. Some are dedicated to pistachio, others to prickle pears or honey, depending on the village. Among the most charming places to visit, there are the sea villages where it is possible to eat fish and to enjoy a beautiful view. One of the most well known is probably Aci Trezza which is famous for its faraglioni (yes those big stones that the Cyclops threw on Ulysses in the Odyssey) and for Giovanni Verga‘s I Malavoglia. The place is great both day time as you can enjoy the crystalline water of the Lachea Island and during night thanks to all the pizzerias and bars.


The view from Etna – Photo taken by Stefania Tarantino Photography

6. Visit all the Etna’s mountain refuges / Visitare i rifugi sull’Etna

Of course you don’t need to know a lot of geography to be aware that Catania is very close the the Etna mountain which is the highest active vulcan in Europe. Etna is like a living things for people from Catania, we usually say that it gets angry when erupting and we love to watch the lava flowing down and to ski there when possible. Okay sometimes we get earthquakes and black sand might rain on our heads, still we love it. There are three main sites that can be visited by tourists: Sapienza Refuge, Citelli Refuge and Piana Provenzana. The refuges offer rooms to spend the night and in all the sites it is possible to shop souvenirs or wander a little. In particular from the Sapienza refuge we usually hike on the sylvester craters which are not active anymore. For those who love hiking the park (Parco dell’Etna) offers a variety of path and events. Even though almost wherever in Catania you can feel the presence of the vulcan, visiting the refuges and enjoy the view there is a must!


Arena Argentina

5. Watch a movie under the sky / Guardare un film sotto le stelle

When the sky is so clear why not enjoy the evening in a roofless cinema? These places are called arenas and usually they play a different movie every day. There are three arenas in catania: Argentina, Corsaro and Adua. My favorite one is Argentina because of its program and because it’s close to “piazza Umberto” (a square in which there are two kiosks, one I really like is this). Okay from the picture you will see that the seats are not first class, but I assure you it is part of the experience. Before the movie starts, don’t forget to buy some sunflower seeds and a gazzosa!


Me and my friends Cristina and Monica at “Le Capannine”

4. Dance at the beach / Ballare in spiaggia 

During Summer, it is quite common in Catania to spend the nights in discos and clubs placed at the beach. These clubs offer different areas with specific music and themed events. Wonder what the usual common themes are? Rock, commercial music, 90s music or even italian music! Unexpectedly you will find out that any of these genres can accompany you on a dancing evening. Just bring comfy shoes and free yourself to the music!

3. Discover all the fancy restaurants in via Santa Filomena / Scoprire i ristoranti “fighetti” di via Santa Filomena 

Catania is full of typical historical restaurants and food traditions. Yet the city is very open to new trends and people there love to mix their traditions with a fancy lifestyle. This is the case of many restaurants in via Santa Filomena, a small street right in the center of Catania. Here you will find delicious hamburger with donkey meat or meat balls, prices are a little bit more expensive than other restaurants, but it’s definitely worth to try. Recommended place: FUD

2. Shop in the colorful markets, both the fish market and the general one / Fare acquisti alla fiera e in pescheria

The market in Catania is a very lively place and it’s definitely a must for those who visit the city. Don’t be scared by the meat displayed out of the shops and the people screaming, they’re just inviting you to buy delicious fruits and vegetables at a very good price. If it’s the right season try to lay your hands on sbergie because it’s impossible to find these sweet beauties outside Sicily and of course try some gelsi and pistacchi!


1. Taste the incredible variety of food served in common cafes / Assaggiare l’incredibile varietà di tavola calda e pasticceria servita nei bar

Catania offers a big variety of sweets and salty foods, available almost everywhere. Mind that not everything will be available in other Sicilian cities, therefore try to enjoy as much as possible what you will find here. My favorites are: minne di Sant’Agata, crispelle di San Giuseppe, panzerotti al cioccolato, iris al cioccolato, bomba fritta, arancini alla norma and cipolline.



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