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A handsome volcanic city

Overlooked by the hulking presence of Mount Etna, Catania is a handsome city, built out of silver-grey volcanic stone and dotted with ancient ruins. Catania holidays are an amazing chance to visit Mount Etna, for the unforgettable experience of peering over the volcano’s edge into its huge crater.

Back down the slopes, Catania’s cathedral piazza, like the mountain, is a Unesco World Heritage site, and the streets are full of Baroque architecture. What’s more, Catania offers excellent food, with some great restaurants and stalls selling Sicily’s famous street food. Look out for treats such as succulent deep-fried arancini balls, or ‘cartocciate’ – bread stuffed with ham, olives and tomato.

Once you’ve built up your energy, there are countless adventures to be had in the hills and towns that surround Catania itself. If you’re looking to explore gorgeous countryside and ancient sites, and to enjoy Sicilian food and streetlife to the full, Catania makes an ideal base.

Your Catania questions, answered

You can visit Mount Etna at any time of year, including winter. Experienced tour leaders can take groups up to the crater even during minor eruptions.
If you’re only staying in Catania, you won’t need a car, but if you’re heading further afield it will be useful. It’ll make visiting Mount Etna easier as well.
In the summer, you’ll find unbroken blue skies and hot sunshine. But, in the winter, concerts and events take advantage of the cooler weather. This is a lively city all year round and life isn’t dictated by the rhythms of a tourist season. Bars and restaurants are always open and full of life and laughter, and the university ensures a youthful scene whenever you visit.
Definitely. Catania is a great base for exploring the southeast of Sicily, with the magnificent ruins of Taormina a short trip away, as well as some fantastic coastline.
Given that Catania is so close to Mount Etna, much of the sand has a volcanic origin. As well as black sand, you'll find strange shapes formed from cooling lava and jutting promontories etched against the skyline. Catania’s main beach is a glorious 18 kilometres of golden sand, though. It has areas to suit everyone, from kids’ clubs to chic cocktail bars, watersports hire to sun loungers.
The historic centre, or Centro, of Catania is the easiest place to stay. Everything is within walking distance and there's a multitude of bars and restaurants. It’s only about 20 minutes by transfer bus from the airport to the central cathedral, so your holiday can start within an hour of touching down.
Italian life revolves around the family and it’s not unusual to see bars packed with multiple generations. Restaurants and bars will always welcome even the youngest visitors. In addition to the beach, you’ll find plenty of places kids will enjoy. You have a couple of castles to explore and vast gardens in the Bellini Villa, perfect for running around and kicking a football. Many of the hotels have kids’ clubs and daily entertainment, so it’s easy for parents to have a relaxing break.
Catania should perhaps be best known for its extraordinary resilience. Mount Etna has erupted regularly over the centuries, frequently nearly wiping out the whole city. Each time, Catania has regathered and rebuilt. You can now climb the volcano to peer into its crater or look back at the sweeping views across the bay. It’s known for its castles, theatres and fish markets just as much as it’s known for a beautiful cathedral and ornate fountains. There are endless restaurants and bars, many offering local specialities. Try arancini, rice balls stuffed with meat then wrapped in breadcrumbs and fried.
Italian roads are notoriously dangerous and, if you’re a nervous driver, this isn’t the place to hire a car. But having a car is a serious advantage if you want to explore – and there are plenty of places worth visiting on day trips. Outside the busy city, the roads are easy to navigate. You can use trains and buses to go to many places, but a car does make it easier. This way, you can explore remote mountain villages and tiny fishing ports, finding corners of Sicily still relatively undisturbed by tourism.