I went to Catania, Sicily (Italy) at the beginning of March 2018 with my partner and my baby sister (she’s over 20, but you know, forever baby sister). Why Catania? It was cheap. The plane tickets were around 50 euro, and the accommodation – an apartment that could fit up to 6 people was also a bargain.
Catania is situated on the east coast of the island of Sicily, Italy, close to Mount Etna, and it is, as I perceived it, a quiet city with a great fish market and nice weather. We were only there for a few days and we were planning to visit Etna and take a day trip to Taormina, a small quaint town further north.
The trip to Etna was not possible as it was the beginning of March and a bit too cold for our city spring attire, so we decided to skip it. However, we did go to Taormina and loved it.
But, let’s start with Catania. After getting off the plane, we took a bus to the city center and then walked a bit to the accommodation that was perhaps 10 minutes away. Once settled, we started exploring and went straight to the main square – Piazza del Duomo, where you can find the Elephant Fountain and the Cathedral of Saint Agatha.
From there, we walked on Via Etnea through the city center with its stores and restaurants and stopped for dinner – pizza at a tiny pizzeria, where we could see how the pizza was made. The owner/chef was cooking right next to us, on the open stove, moving with speed and accuracy. And the smell was amazing!
After pizza, we visited Ursino Castle, which although is a bit further away from the centre, it’s still in an area bustling with restaurants.
One day trip to Taormina
We started our second day in Sicily with a cappuccino in Piazza del Duomo, followed by a walk to the train station, where we got on the train to Taormina. We got to Taormina-Giardini (the train station) in less than one hour. From there, we were supposed to take the bus up the mountain to get to the town that is literally at the top of the mountain. However, the next bus was arriving in one hour and my forever-impatient partner decided we should go by foot “it’s only 2.5 km – a nice walk!” Well, yeah…except the walk was uphill, in the blazing sun, on the side of the road, with (on some parts) no sidewalk. By the middle of the way up, both my sister and I were wheezing and the altitude and pressure differences gave us both a nice headache (probably my boyfriend had the same issues, but of course he’d never admit it). Despite this steep climb, the view was indeed spectacular and we enjoyed every moment.
Finally reaching the top, the town of Taormina opened in front of us, with its stone-paved streets and stone buildings. At the very top of Taormina, so even higher than we were situated, is Castello di Mola, another castle, which this time we did not visit as there was no way we would start climbing again. So, we stuck to the town instead and we were not sorry. If you’ve seen the movie Aquaman, the fight between him and the Black Manta takes place in Taormina. There are churches almost at every street corner, places where you can see a beautiful panorama, many tiny jewelry stores, and of course, plenty of restaurants. After getting our fill of Taormina, and having some arancini (deep-fried rice balls with diverse stuffing such as mozzarella or ragu or ham) for lunch, we headed back to the train station…you guessed it – on foot. Of course, this time, we truly enjoyed our walk. Plus, as we still had a bit of time to waste before our train ride back, we relaxed on a small beach near Naxos.
On the train ride, we got a good view of Mount Etna from afar. And it’s good that we did, as the following day when we thought we might give it a try, after all, it had rained overnight, it was colder and we could see from Catania the top of the volcano fully wrapped in clouds.
Some secret treasures of Catania
Instead, we explored more of Catania and to our surprise, we stumbled upon a really cool place – the University of Catania – The Department of Human Sciences. Now, thinking back, I gather people thought we were crazy wondering around their University like that, but no one kicked us out. The building had an interior garden, surrounded by the building’s wings, a place where students gathered for some peace and quiet, a chat, or a smoke. It was beautiful. The building also holds the Monastery of Benedettini di San Nicolò l’Arena.
Right next to the Monastery is the Church of San Nicolò l’Arena, which we also visited. Besides seeing the inside of the church, we also went up to the tower and got a nice panoramic view of the city. That is, after a confusing talk with the gentlemen at the entrance that ended up giving my 20 yo sister a ticket for kids as they understood she was 12. Oh, well…
After this, we visited the Roman Theatre, where we had fun going “backstage”, under the seating area and on the sitting area. We topped it all off with some gelato and cakes at a nice hipster-ish cafe. In the evening, we had a delicious dinner at one of the restaurants at the fish market, called “mm! Trattoria”.
This concludes my trip to Catania, Sicily. Despite perhaps not being the most popular place, you can definitely find some treasures here and you can always take a day trip to Taormina or Mount Etna.