Photo of Catania

About Catania

In the shadow of Mount Etna, beside the Ionian Sea lies Sicily's second largest city, Catania. In many respects, she is the antithesis of Palermo, the capital: a raw, gritty and trendy city contrasting with Palermo's pretensions of grandeur. However Catania is a city steeped in history, with her broad Baroque piazzas cast beneath looming great black and white Palazzi, she is a city as culturally rich as she is stylish and animated, and our collection of the best places to stay in Catania prize style and tradition above all else.

As Greek myth has it, Etna is the burial place of Mother Earth's giant progeny, Enkelados: the volcano's sulphurous flames and fumes are said to be the dead giant's breath while the earthquakes are his pained jolting movements. This myth is reflective of a troubled past: much of the city, old and new, is built out of the solidified lava that has flooded the area in times past, from the Roman amphitheatre to the Piazza Duomo. A strikingly heart-wrenching fresco in Catania Cathedral records the eruption of 1693, which covered the city and the lands surrounding her with flames. As if Enkelados was rubbing salt into the already porous wound, an earthquake 24 years later destroyed much of the city, and the Old Town was rebuilt in an imposing and beautiful Baroque style.

The Piazza Duomo, the main square in the historic heart of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a good place to start your exploring. There you can find the Cathedral, with its imposing Baroque style and Roman columns, taken from the amphitheatre. A short walk away you find La Pescheria Market, which is a place so brimming with fresh fish that getting lost in it seems no bad thing. The historic centre itself is strewn with churches and museums like the Museo Belliniano, dedicated to Catania's most prestigous child, Vincenzo Bellini, the world-renowned composer.

To the north you'll find the old Roman part of the city. Originally founded by Greeks from Chalcis in the 8th century BCE, it was swallowed up by the might of Rome and has three theatres, all of which, miraculously, have survived the onslaught of earthquakes and eruptions during the last two millenia, from the Teatro Romano and the Odeon to the great amphitheatre in Piazza Stesicoro.

What Not to miss

  • Catania Cathedral: dedicated to Saint Agata, the city's patron saint, the monumental building stands on the ruins of an 11th century church destroyed by the eruption of 1693. Filled with pretty, albeit mournful, frescoes recording the eruption itself, it is the burial place of three kings of Aragon and the composer, Vincenzo Bellini.
  • La Pescheria Market: a bustling fish market encapsulating the fervour and theatre of traditional street markets. Taking over the entire street behind the Piazza Duomo, it is in a league of its own, with beheaded swordfish, clams and sea urchins laid out on tables. As a bonus, there are some brilliant seafood restaurants surrounding it.
  • The Ancient City: north from the Piazza Duomo stand many of the ancient sites of the city. Amazingly, by some spark of miracle, three Roman theatres stand preserved. While the amphitheater, in Piazza Stesicoro, is not open to the public, it is enough to just see it from the outside and it is occasionally possible to book a special tour inside. Both the Teatro Romano and the Odeon, on the Via Vittoria Emanuele, are still used for perfomances, particularly concerts.
  • Belliniano: you cannot go to Catania without paying your due respect to her most famous son, Vincenzo Bellini, the composer of dark, long and melodious operas. The Museo Belliniano is worth seeing and near it lies the opera house, Teatro Massimo Bellini, which in the months between June and October is filled with regular performances.

Catania is a mysterious and wonderful city, ideal for those wishing to dance in the piazzas of history itself, while escaping the throngs of tourists that tend to flock to Palermo. Our collection of the best places to stay in Catania will transport you to a time that was, effortlessly blending with the comforts of today.

The best places to stay in Catania

For Local exploring

  • Hotel Liberty: an elegant Art Nouveau townhouse in the historic centre, offering 17 stylish rooms some with private balconies, a sumptuous buffet breakfast, and meeting rooms. A short walk from the Roman amphitheatre, it is an ideal starting place for exploring the city.

A Country escape

  • Monaci Delle Terre Nere: a chic hotel on the slopes of Mount Etna, offering romantic, rustic rooms blended with contemporary styles: think glass walls and exposed stone, parquet floors and wooden beams. There is a gourmet restaurant, tennis court and games room.

For an apartment or villa

  • If a more intimate, self-catering option is more to your tastes, our partner Booking.com has a wide range of apartments and villas in and outside of Catania.

Travel information

  • The best time to go is between April and September, where the temperatures range from 20 to 32 degrees, the hottest months being between July and September.
  • The city has its own airport, Catania International Airport.
  • If you wish to hire a car, get in touch with our partners Rentalcars.

Still not sure?

Best Hotels in Catania

  • Il Leone Blu 4 rooms from £46

    Catania (Via Castello Ursino, 38)

    Set in a renovated historic building in the gorgeous centre, this B&B boasts spacious, bright rooms with modern amenities while maintaining the original decor (including frescoes). Breakfast is served, there's restaurants on the doorstep, and it's mere steps from Urbino Castle and the Roman Theatre!

    Local exploring  -  Set in the heart of Catania's historic centre this is an ideal base from which to explore the city's many attractions
    Sights nearby  -  The “u Lioutru” elephant, Ursino Palace, Il Duomo, Colleggiata Church and the Elephants Palace are just some of the top sights
    Great walks  -  It is well worth strolling to the beautiful Bellini Garden (the main garden) and the Pacini Garden
    Hideaway  -  Tranquil and intimate.
    Check prices
  • Catania House 4 rooms from £57

    95121 Catania CT

    A stylish, great value B&B offering practical accommodation in the desirable historic centre. Expect a warm welcome from the friendly hostess who provides guests with a generous, tasty breakfast. Design is minimal and chic with muted greys and browns, kitted out with hip furniture. Gorgeous!

    Local exploring  -  Surrounded by baroque architecture in Catania's historic centre this is the ideal base to explore the historic city
    Sights nearby  -  The “u Lioutru” elephant, Ursino Palace, Il Duomo, Colleggiata Church and the Elephants Palace are just some of the top sights
    Great walks  -  It is well worth strolling to the beautiful Bellini Garden (the main garden) and the Pacini Garden
    Lively area  -  In the thick of the action.
    Check prices
  • Hotel Liberty 17 rooms from £76

    Catania

    An elegant Art Nouveau townhouse on the eastern coast of Sicily in the historic town of Catania. Sophisticated rooms and suites with all the mod cons, private balconies, and muted tones. Meeting rooms, conference facilities, lovely courtyard, and excellent buffet breakfasts. Ideal for a stop off.

    Sights nearby  -  The Roman Amphitheatre, Baroque style buildings.
    Great walks  -  Good for walkers.
    Diving  -  Good diving nearby.
    Traditional
    Recommended by  -  Great Small Hotels
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  • Il Principe 80 rooms from £78

    95124 Catania CT

    A modern, pleasant hotel set in a former aristocratic residence in Catania's historic centre. Rooms are bright and spacious with simple elegant design (the best have jacuzzi baths). Expect warm and friendly service and generous breakfasts. A smart choice in the heart of this ancient city.

    Local exploring  -  Surrounded by baroque architecture in Catania's historic centre this is a great base from which to explore the beautiful sights
    Sights nearby  -  The “u Lioutru” elephant, Ursino Palace, Il Duomo, Colleggiata Church and the Elephants Palace are just some of the top sights
    Great walks  -  It is well worth strolling to the beautiful Bellini Garden (the main garden) and the Pacini Garden
    Designer  -  Uniquely designed interiors.
    Check prices
  • Duomo Suites & Spa 12 rooms from £150

    Catania (Sicily)

    This design hotel is located in the historic centre of Catania, Sicily. Suites are individually designed based on a cinematic theme and feature original works by local artists. The best rooms have a private balcony with city views. Be sure to book in for a treatment at the spa; a unique hotel.

    Local exploring  -  Located a stone's throw from the main square in Catania, this hotel is a great base for local exploring
    City Style  -  With themed rooms and original artwork, this hotel has reams of Sicilian style
    Romantic Break  -  The lively interior design and pretty hotel terrace are a hit with couples
    Local markets  -  For a taste of local traditions visit La Pescheria, Catania's lively fish market in the centre of town
    Recommended by  -  Tablet
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