Sicily’s second-largest city often gets overlooked compared to vibrant Palermo when planning a trip to the Mediterranean’s largest island. However, planning to spend 1, 2 or 3 days in Catania is never a bad idea and planning a Catania itinerary is not a difficult task at all when you consider all there is to do in this lively city.
As a hub for countless budget airlines connecting Sicily to countless destinations across Europe, Catania often serves as the first entry point to the island but is often quickly left for the hills of Taormina or the beaches of Cefalu. However, Catania has a lot to offer in and of itself and it is so worth planning to spend a bit of time exploring this energetic and vibrant city.
So whether you have 1 day in Catania, 2 or even 3, this itinerary will help you get the most out of this Sicilian city and even explore some of the surrounding area.
How Many Days in Catania?
After asking yourself is Catania worth visiting or if you should visit Catania or Palermo, another question many will arrive at is how many days to spend in Catania.
This can be tricky, because it can seem, on the surface, that Catania doesn’t really have a lot to offer. This, however, is very much not the case and you can easily fill a few days in this city (and surrounding area) and not get bored.
If you only have one day in Catania, this is a good amount of time to get a feel for the city. Fortunately, most of the main sites lie within easy reach of each other and you can easily cover a lot of ground within the span of a few hours.
However, if you really want to get the most out of the city, then planning to spend 2 days in Catania is probably ideal. You will be able to explore at a more leisurely pace (in line with how a lot of the locals move about the city) and have more time to experience different sides of this dynamic metropolis.
If you’re fortunate enough to have 3 days in Catania, then you will also have time to go on a day trip from the city. The popular tourist town of Taormina is within easy reach, as is the beautiful city of Siracusa. If you’re dealing more active and adventurous, you could also opt for a visit to Mt Etna.
Getting To & Around Catania
Once you’ve figured out how many days to plan for your Catania itinerary, it’s also a great idea to consider how to get to and around the city whilst you’re there. If you’re coming to Sicily from elsewhere, it’s highly likely that you will be flying into Catania as it has quite a high-traffic international airport that connects many major cities to the island.
Catania airport is located quite close to the city centre and you can grab a bus (call Ali Bus) that will take you to the central train station – though it may make sense to get off earlier depending on where your accommodation is. The bus is €4 per person and you can purchase tickets directly from the driver.
If you’re not arriving in Catania via plane, the city is also very well connected via train and bus to many other nearby towns and cities (and not just on the island of Sicily). You can view schedules here.
Once you’re in Catania, you will find that it is quite easy to get around on foot – the vast majority of the main sites are all within easy walking distance of each other. If you plan to do a day trip, you’ll find that many places are easy to reach either by bus or train, as well.
Though having a car for a longer Sicily itinerary is definitely advantageous, you definitely don’t need a car in order to get around Catania. If you plan on renting a car, you can browse Rentalcars.com for options as it compares many providers.
1, 2 or 3 Days in Catania Itinerary
Whether you only have one day, 2 days in Catania or can spend 3 or more, this itinerary will help you get the most out of the city.
The first day takes you around the main highlights, the second day allows you to dig a bit deeper and the third day allows you to explore a bit of the area surrounding the city.
Day 1 – City Centre Highlights
Coffee & Cornetto
Begin day one of your Catania itinerary as the locals do – with a coffee and a pastry from a local bar!
There are lots of bars and pasticcerias where you can get a traditional Italian breakfast (or colazione) scattered around Catania, but we recommend heading to Bar de Curtis where you can get a coffee and a pastry for about €2.50 per person. It’s a place popular with locals but is located only a stone’s throw away from the Piazza Duomo.
The traditional Italian breakfast is usually a cornetto – an Italian-style croissant filled with things like nutella, pistachio cream or vanilla custard. If you want to go a bit more Sicilian, you also would be wrong in ordering a granita with a fresh brioche roll on the side.
After you’ve been sufficiently fed and caffeinated, then make your way over to Catania’s main square – the Piazza Duomo. Home to, unsurprisingly, the Catania Duomo (cathedral), this is the main meeting place in the city and is always bustling and full of people.
You can see the cathedral, admire the beautiful fountain and even see the elephant monument in the centre of the square. This is really the centre of Catania so it’s worth taking in all of the sites and activity in the main square before moving on.
Just past the main square, behind a beautiful fountain lies one of the top attractions (in my opinion) in Catania – its central fish market. Even if you’re not a seafood fan, this is a great stop on any Catania itinerary because it is such a cultural insight.
The market is loud and lively and you will be able to see what kind of fish is fresh (so you know what to order when it comes time to eat!) and also what is local to the waters surrounding the city. Vendors actively yell and butcher swordfish and tuna and hawk everything from cuttlefish to mussels to clams to anchovies.
There are a few different arteries to the market that sell more than fish where you can pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables, some marinated Castelvetrano olives or even some spices, pestos or oils.
There are also a few places to eat around the market. One of our favourites was the Scirocco Sicilian Fish Lab, which serves up fresh fish dishes (take-away style) and very affordable prices. Note that it can be really hectic to eat here at lunchtime, but it quiets down in the evening when the market is no longer open.
If you want to learn more about the food scene in Catania, heading out on a food tour of the city is a great option. This will help you get a deeper knowledge of the street food available in the city and its origins.
Chiesa Badia di Sant’Agata
Moving away from the hustle and bustle of the market, make your way to the Chiesa Badia di Sant’Agata. This church, located across from the Catania Duomo, is well-known for its impressive dome that provides excellent views over the entire city and, on a clear day you can get the best view of Etna from Catania.
Entry to the dome is €5 per person and note that there is no elevator, so you do need to climb the stairs. The staircase is wider and in good nick compared to many other church towers we’ve climbed before so it makes the ascent much easier.
Once at the top, you will be rewarded with beautiful panoramic views of the entire city, the Mediterranean and Mount Etna in the distance.
Climb down from your viewpoint and head to the University Square, a lively square adjacent to the Piazza Duomo. There are a few benches in this square where you can take a load off and people watch a bit and it is also the entry point to Via Etnea, the main shopping street in Catania.
After a busy morning of sightseeing, it’s time to head to lunch – which is an activity in and of itself in Catania!
There are so many delicious dishes to enjoy here that it’s worth heading to a traditional trattoria to sample as much as you can handle. From arancini to caponata to pasta alla norma and more, there is so much great food to try in this city that you’re sure to be in heaven.
For your first day, we suggest heading to Ristorante da Antonio which is located close to the Castello Ursino and has a lot of great, local dishes on offer at affordable prices.
After you’ve had your lunch, it’s time to head to another great Catania attraction, the Greek-Roman Theatre. Located only about five minutes walk from the main square, this ancient amphitheatre is really worth exploring when in Catania.
Believed to have been constructed in the 2nd Century CE, the theatre was only fully excavated in the 19th Century. You can visit the theatre and climb over a good portion of the seats and it’s a great thing to do even if you only have one day in Catania.
Entry into the theatre is €6 per person and allows you access to most of the structure.
You can see a lot of the sites above and more if you choose to go on a walking tour of Catania. This will allow you to have a bit more insight and knowledge of the history and culture of the city with a qualified guide.
After a long day of sightseeing, end your day like a local and grab a drink and a couple of snacks at one of the many cafes or bars that line the streets of Catania. The culture of aperitivo is pervasive in the majority of Italy and it’s the same in Sicily.
And while you likely won’t get a large plate of food with a drink order here, many bars do have good drink deals and the opportunity to purchase quite affordable snacks if you’re a little bit hungry.
If you’re looking for a great option, then we recommend heading to Vermut – a vermouth bar that also offers lots of snacks and platters along with plenty of great drink deals (not just vermouth!).
Day 2 – Dig Deeper in Catania
If you have 2 days in Catania, make the first stop of your sightseeing for the be the beautiful Teatro Bellini. Catania is home to noteworthy composer Vincenzo Bellini and this theatre is his namesake. You will see homages to this famed composer everywhere in Catania.
The theatre was inaugurated in 1890 with a performance of Bellini’s opera Norma (the namesake of the famed Catanese dish pasta alla norma). Today, the theatre overlooks a tranquil piazza that is very much worth relaxing in – especially in contrast to the hustle and bustle of the rest of the city.
Coffee or Granita
Today is a more relaxed day of your Catania itinerary but it still includes cultural stops that are internal to Catanese life – and that includes grabbing a coffee or a granita at a local cafe!
Granita is one of the best things about a visit to Sicily and, I have to admit, I was sceptical about it before visiting this Mediterranean island. Could shaved ice really be a good replacement for creamy, rich gelato? It turned out it definitely can — so much so that we didn’t have a single gelato during our time in Sicily and indulged in a granita nearly every day.
Granita in Sicily is different than what you will get elsewhere – it’s not a slushy that you sip through a straw but rather delicate ice crystals that you eat with a spoon – similar to ice cream.
It also is very good at cutting through the intense Sicilian heat. You can find granita in many different flavours, but it is most common to find lemon, mulberry and strawberry and nut flavours like hazelnut, almond and pistachio.
For those looking for some of the best granita we sampled in Sicily, then head to Comis Ice Cafe, which is located Piazza Bellini right next to the theatre. For those who simply want a caffeine pick-me-up (or a late breakfast), then head to the adjacent Caffe Opera for a coffee.
Mercato di Piazza Carlo Alberto
From the Piazza Bellini, it’s time to wander down Via Etnea (the main shopping thoroughfare in Catania) and head in the direction of Piazza Carlo Alberto.
On the way, you will pass the Roman Amphitheatre, which isn’t open to the public right now, however, you can peek through and see some of the ruins. I will stress that it isn’t nearly as impressive as the Greek-Roman Theatre.
Once you reach the Piazza Carlo Alberto, you will be greeted with one of Catania’s most vibrant and hectic street markets. This market is a lot busier (and bigger) than the fish market and its offshoots and it’s a very good place to wander through to get a good feel for the food, culture and cuisine of the area.
There is also a bit of a flea market surrounding the food market where you can find all kinds of things and it can be interesting to browse. Keep in mind that this market is very busy and loud, so it can get overwhelming.
After wandering through the hectic market, head over to the nearby Villa Bellini. These gardens are a tranquil escape from the chaos of Catania and include plenty of benches, manicured hedges, a gazebo and also some great views of Mt Etna.
Entry into the gardens is free and it is an excellent place to find a shady place to sit down, relax and watch the world go by.
Monastero dei Benedettini di San Nicolò l’Arena
It’s a little bit of a walk from the Villa Bellini to our next stop of the Monastero dei Benedettini di San Nicolò l’Arena, but it is worth the fifteen to twenty minutes it will take to get here.
This former Benedictine Monastery is situated in an absolutely beautiful building that is wonderful to take in.
The monastery itself is free to enter and wander around, however, you can also opt to take a guided tour to gain more understanding of the place – they run every hour during opening hours. If it interests you, you can also opt to climb the bell tower of the abbey for great views of the city – this is €3 per person.
It’s likely you’ve worked up quite an appetite after exploring so much during your 2 days in Catania. Obviously, there are countless great places to eat in the city, however, if you are after a truly local experience, we highly recommend heading to A Putia Do Calabrisi.
This down-home restaurant doesn’t have a written menu and you simply choose from a meat or a fish option and they cook what is fresh. For €10 per person, you can enjoy 3 courses of proper Sicilian fare and some of their delightful homemade wine. Keep in mind that this place is cash only!
Make your final stop on your 2-day Catania itinerary the Castello Ursino. This castle was built in the 13th Century as a royal caste of the Kingdom of Sicily. Today, however, it is home to an archaeological museum for of various fascinating antiquities and history from the region.
For those who are interested in the ancient history of Catania and Sicily (and the history spans centuries), this is a great stop.
After visiting the museum, end your day in Catania by simply wandering around the city as it comes alive in the evening and popping into a bar or cafe to enjoy an aperitivo. A great way to end this day is on this Spritz and Sunset Sail Tour on the beautiful Ionian Sea.
Day 3 – Day Trip to Taormina, Siracusa or Mt Etna
If you have 3 days in Catania, use your final day to go on a day trip to some nearby areas. The coastal cities of Taormina and Siracusa (Syracuse) are great options, as is a visit to Mt Etna.
Planning a Taormina day trip is probably the most popular option when it comes to places to visit in all of Sicily. This hilltop town overlooking the Ionian sea is well-known for its Greek-Roman theatre and the beautiful coastline that lies outside of the town.
You can easily reach Taormina by either bus or train from Catania in about an hour. However, if you don’t want to go independently, there are a few tours that you could opt to go on, as well.
This small-group tour includes a morning stop at Mt Etna before taking you to enjoy the afternoon in Taormina. Alternatively, this full-day tour also includes stops in both Mt Etna along with a lovely afternoon in Taormina.
Another incredibly popular day trip from Catania is to the imposing Mt Etna. This active volcano looms over the city and it is a fascinating place to visit, whether you choose to hike on the volcano itself or visit the world-class wineries that lie in the foothills.
You can visit Etna independently via bus to Refugio Sapienza and, from there, you can take a cable car to the top.
For those who would rather have a guide, then this small-group tour will take you first to the volcano for a guided walk and then wine tasting in one of the region’s vineyards.
If you’re looking to be more active, this guided trekking tour of Etna could be a great option. And if you’re simply searching for the best views you can find, this sunset jeep tour is a fantastic choice.
Another of the most popular day trips to Catania is to the lovely town of Siracusa. Located south of Catania, this is a great option for those looking for beautiful scenery and more Roman and Greek ruins. You can easily reach Siracusa from Catania via either bus or train, or you can opt to visit via an organised tour.
For instance, this small-group tour from Catania guides you around Siracusa proper before taking you onward to explore the towns of Noto and Ortigia.
Where to Stay in Catania
Hotel Centrum – This mid-range hotel has an excellent location just behind the Teatro Bellini, meaning it’s close to everything Catania has to offer. They have a range of comfortable rooms on offer, they have breakfast available each morning and even offer an airport shuttle service among other amenities. Click here to check their availability
Liberty Hotel – If you’re looking for luxury while visiting Catania, then this 4-star hotel is a great option. They have a number of beautiful rooms on offer, plenty of great amenities (including a buffet breakfast, room service and an airport shuttle) and a location perfect for exploring the city. Click here to check their availability
La Dimora del Barbiere – For those who would like their own space in Catania, these apartments are a great choice. There are a range of flats to choose from (varying in size) and an excellent location for exploring Sicily’s second-largest city. Click here to check their availability
The Yard Hostel – If you’re travelling solo or on a tight budget, then this hostel is a fantastic choice. Centrally located in Catania, they have both dorm beds and private rooms on offer. They also have great common areas that make it easy to meet other travellers. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Catania!
Spending a few days in Catania is an excellent way to enjoy one of Sicily’s most energetic and dynamic cities. Whether you only have one day here or more, you’re sure to fall in love with the vibrant streets of this incredible metropolis.
Looking for travel insurance before visiting Catania? World Nomads offers flexible and simple travel insurance policies with coverage for more than 150 activities that you can buy or extend while on the road.
Are you planning a trip to Catania? Have any questions about visiting? Let us know in the comments!