I’ve been to Catania four times, three fleeting visits for work in 2004, 2008 and 2009, and once for six nights of holiday in 2019. I didn’t mean to stay so long in 2019 as I was hoping to either hike Etna, or Lipari and some of the other Aeolian islands, but the bad weather forecast put me off and instead I used it as a base for visiting other nearby tourist towns such as Taormina and Siracusa (see coming posts). I had a great time, the city has everything I look for in a destination; great markets, good restaurants, tasty streetfood and beautiful architecture, and below you’ll find my top tips for all those things, with links to the ten posts I’ve written about the city. Everywhere mentioned, and a lot more, can be found on my Google map (key top left).
So where to stay in Catania? I wanted to be near the markets Fera ò Luni (post here) and La Pescheria (post here) as for me they are the best things about Catania and I went to both several times at different times of day.
I also wanted to be near a good cafe for breakfast each morning and fortunately two of the most famous ones, Savia and Spinella, are next to each other on Via Etnea, a central street that passes near the market (post here) and down to Piazza Duomo, the central square of the old centre (post here).
If you look at Via Etnea on my Google map you’ll notice how long and straight it is, and that’s because it was built to help the populace leave town as quickly as possible in the event of a major erruption. So if you’re concerned about that, you might want to stay nearby!
I stayed at three AirBnBs over the six days in 2019. First Manu’s place at 228 Via Etnea was huge and modern and very good value at £30 per night. The only downside was that it was all very impersonal (keys left in a box by the door with a code) and I didn’t meet anyone except the cleaner who was waiting outside for me to leave when I checked out. On the other hand the second and third AirBnBs (£38 per night) were run by superhost Leo Castorina who was very friendly and welcoming and even took me along to eat lunch with his partner Sylvia which was lovely of them.
One place was on a gated side alley off Via Penninello (pictured above), itself a well-located side street off Via Etnea. The space reminded me of what Neapolitans call a ‘basso’; a single room (now with added bathroom) where typically a whole family once lived back in the day, so quite an intimate and charming hidey-hole. Leo’s other place was on Via Calì, so well-placed for the station for my trips out of town, and also located in a characterful old building (pictured below), but with more space (two floors) than the basso. Both were clean and cosy and Leo helped me move between the two.
On other occasions, work have put me up at NH Catania Centro (ex Jolly Bellini hotel) in Piazza Trento, which was comfortable but a bit of a way from the centre of town.
Here’s a list of my posts with my top tips in the comments…
La Paglia for nonna style seafood cuisine in the fish market (near the bottom of this post).
Mé Cumpari Turiddu for Slow Food classics given a modern treatment (post here).
Vermut is a cool little bar that does a good Negroni (post here).
Ostello has an interesting cellar and a backpacker vibe (post here).
Etnea Roof Bar‘s terrace is the place to be, Negroni in hand, to watch Etna’s minor erruptions (post here).
Savia for Gianduia (chocolate hazelnut) gelato (the best I’ve ever eaten) and Granita & Brioche (post here).
Spinella for an Arancino con Ragù rice ball (post here).
Arancineria Espresso Serafino for a wider range of great Arancine (post here).
Scirocco Sicilian Fish Lab for their Cartoccio di Mare, a traditional paper cone of deep-fried small fish and prawns (post here).
Chiosco Sicilia Seltz and kiosks in general for a Frappè alla Nutella or other refreshments at most times of day (post here).
Palazzo Biscari for a tour of a beautiful private Baroque Rococo palace (post here).
Monastero dei Benedettini di San Nicolò L’Arena for its Baroque Churrigueresque facade (post here).
Negozio Frigeri and Palazzo Mazzoni are the nicest examples of Stile Liberty architecture in the centre (post here).
A stroll around Piazza Duomo in the centre of town (post here).
A longer Stile Liberty architecture walk along Viale Regina Margherita (post here).
The streets around Castello Ursino are quite atmospheric to walk around and there are several (untried) restaurants in the picturesque castle square (post here).
I didn’t see that much street art in the centre but no doubt there is more in the outskirts. Click on the gallery to go whole screen.
And that’s all I know about Catania. A day trip to Taormina next!