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Catania for one day: the top sights itinerary according to a local

I wrote my ideal itinerary for visiting Catania in just one day for those of you whoare planning their first visit or maybe are already in town and want to quickly find out the best itinerary to discover this amazing city. The tour focuses a lot on the city centre because it surely represents the heart of this town.

However, if you are staying for more than one day, check out my personal itineraries for 2, 3, 4 days in Catania! Also you can get in contact with me for more suggestions or to help you tailor a personal tour that perfectly suits with your needs and taste!

Elephant statue in Piazza Duomo

So here I am, a personal travel designer from Catania, ready to share with you my personal advice to get the best of this city in less than 24h.

Walking in the city centre streets

ONE DAY IN CATANIA: THE OLD TOWN WALKING TOUR (HALF DAY: 6H)

If you only have a few hours to visit Catania, my advice is to limit your visit to the historic center, not very scattered and full of important monuments and attractions! You can follow this tour either in the morning or in the afternoon regardless of when you arrive in Catania.

However, as some places might be open only at specific hours of the day (or seasons), I adapted the tour for a morning and an afternoon version, slightly changing the order of the stops!

MORNING WALKING TOUR: THE FISH MARKET AND PIAZZA DUOMO

Wake up your senses and immerse yourself in the old fish market of Catania, called ‘A Pischeria. It is a good idea to make this as your first stop because this market is literally behind Catania’s main square Piazza Duomo, which you will then reach as your second stop.  Walk among the stalls, hear the shouts of the men selling fresh fish from Mediterrean sea and reveiling you the best way to cook it according to their mothers and wifes recipes.Observe the local products that are sold in the market and breathe the smell of an authentic market where many people from Catania still go for their daily shopping.

Options: visit the fish market at lunch time or in the evening and discover another face of it: many colourful restaurants where you can seat and taste typical sicilian fish meals at literally no distance from their suppliers! Book the best restaurants here.

Fish Market in Catania

You are now in Piazza Duomo, the beating heart of Catania! The square itself is already an amazing painting which definitely deserves more than a moment to fully enjoy its wonders. The black lava stone is the predominant trait of the square, where sacred and profane perfectly live close to each other. As a matter of fact, Catania’s Cathedral and the town hall – Palazzo degli Elefanti – are located in two sides of the square, whereas Palazzo dei Chierici (former ecclesiastical seminary, today hosting the municipal offices) is connected with the Cathedral via a beautiful gate called Porta Uzeda. The attractions in this square are almost endless, in fact in its centre you find the symbol of Catania for its people, the Elefant statue (called Liotru) holding the Egypzian obelisque.

Another iconic corner of Piazza Duomo is represented by Fontana dell’Amenano (Amenano’s Fountaine) also called by locals as “acqua ‘o linzolu” – literally water as a sheet – because of the “waterfall effect” of the fountaine which remindes the shape of a sheet but also because women in the past used to go there to wash their clothes.

Amenano’s Fountaine, Piazza Duomo

Before leaving this square you might consider to visit the underground Terme Achilliane, an old roman bath complex which extends under the square and dates approximately the third century A.D. (Entrance on the left side of the Cathedral).

WALK ALONG VIA ETNEA AND TASTE ARANCINO STREET FOOD

From Piazza Duomo, you have several options, however my advice is to continue along Via Etnea, the main high street of Catania. Its name refers to its “direction” towards Mount Etna (highly visible on clear days). As a matter of fact, the street is a symbolic connection between the sea and the Vulcano (the highest of Europe!).

Via Etnea

A nice walk among the historic buildings of the city, shops, bars and typical restaurants crossing some of the most famous squares such as Piazza Università and Piazza Stesicoro.

Via Etnea is a very dinamic street 24h 7 days a week. Walking along the street will allow you to get the authentic buz of this town, which sometimes can be overwhelming, especially on Saturday evenings! Workers, students, couples, tourists and shopping addicted turn this street into a very lively and colourful place.

Take your time to enjoy the atmophere, take a picture of the many beautiful churches, such as La Collegiata, Church of Minorites or Church of St. Biagio and peculiar monuments, like the statue in honor of Vincenzo Bellini (the composer of La Norma Opera, who was born in Catania) and the mysterious Roman Amphitheatre, just underneath Piazza Stesicoro.

Roman Amphiteatre, Piazza Stesicoro

If you are desperately looking for the last souvenirs or you want to indulge yourself into some shopping experience, Via Etnea is the perfect place to be: many popular brands, book shops, malls and jewelries give you plenty of choice for any budget (have a look at my personal shopping list in Catania).

Book shop in Catania centre

I am pretty sure that if you have managed to follow this itinerary until here, you must be quite hungry by now and maybe you could not help to see the delicious street food specialities that each cafè of Via Etnea (better said of the whole city) can offer… Try to resist for another few metres because I want to suggest you the best place for locals, that is why you should try the best arancino in Catania at Bar Savia!

Arancino is one of the most popular sicilian speciality: a fried rice ball filled with bolognese sauce and cheese (you can find it also with different filling such us spinach, butter, pistacho etc), have a look at the recipe of my personal homemade arancino to make your mouth water!

Arancino al sugo

Take a relaxing moment in the shadow of Villa Bellini Public Gardens, which is just in front of Bar Savia; by the way, did you know that in the 60s, Villa Bellini used to host a small zoo with different animals, including monkeys and an elephant?!

THE STUNNING VIA CROCIFERI AND THE ITS BAROQUE CHURCHES

Now it’s time to discover another side of Catania, you will still be in the city centre but you will get off the the main crowd and wonder in the closeby narrow streets, rich in history and architecture.

Walk back along the Via Etnea until you reach Piazza Stesicoro and take the narrow street on the right southbound called Via Manzoni. Walking along this street you will notice many shops selling sewing goods, cloths and fancy dresses.

At the bottom of the street, you arrive in Via di San Giuliano: on the left is the crossroad with Via Etnea – I Quattro Canti – on the right is a steep hill, which people from Catania call Salita di San Giuliano. Climb it (just for a few metres!) and then turn left at the first crossroad: you are now in Via Crociferi, one of the most spectacular streets of the old town. Get marvelled by the Baroque style Churches located in this street (yes, in roughly 200mts you will admire four churches, a religious boarding school and three monasteries!)

Via Crociferi, Catania

VISIT CASTLE URSINO AND SIP A FRESH DRINK AT THE KIOSK OF THE SQUARE

Continue downhill along Via Crociferi, pass by Piazza St. Francesco D’Assisi hosting the statue of Cardinal Dusmet, cross Via Vittorio Emanuele II and keep walking straight for 300mt, passing by Piazza Mazzini. At the end of the street called Via Auteri, there is a tiny alley which will lead you to one of the most famous square of Catania:Piazza Federico di Svevia and the amazing Ursino Castle (Castello Ursino). This massive castle was constructed between 1239 and 1250 and was originally by the sea! Today it hosts the Museo Civico, with a permanent gallery and interesting periodic art exhibitions.

If I was you, I would now grab a refreshing drink at the Kiosk in the square! ‘U Cioscu (the kiosk) is a very popular tradition on the streets of Catania, there are plenty of these small stands around the city where locals just love staying around and grabbing a coffee on the go, refreshing themselves with fruity drinks, like “seltz sale e limone” (lemon, seltzer and salt) or “mandarinetto” (tangerine drink) or, one of my favorite, Nutella Frappè (milkshake)!

After a refreshing break, you can now head back towards Via Vittorio Emanuele II (take Via Castello and then continue on Via S. Anna where you find the House-museum titled to the sicilian writer Giovanni Verga and visit the Greek Roman Amphitheatre (Teatro Greco Romano) – entrance fee and timetable here.

EXPLORE THE ANCIENT BENEDICTINE MONASTERY AND DESCENT VIA DI S.GIULIANO

Once you exit the amphitheatre, walk the street northbound for 200mt then climb up on one of the cross streets on the right – Via Quartarone – and you are now in Piazza Dante, a wide square hosting the ancient Benedictine Monastery, now home to the University of Catania (Department of Humanities) a massive example of the Barock style sicilian buildings. The entrance is free to admire the internal patio and its beautiful facades; whereas if you want to know more about the history of this building, you can join a guided visit with Officine Culturali!

In the same square, it is located the biggest church of Catania, San Nicolò L’Arena Church (Chiesa di San Nicolò L’Arena) that truly deserves a visit inside (and to its rooftop, with a breathtaking view over the city!)

From Piazza Dante, I suggest you to walk all the way down along Via di S. Giuliano passing the crossroad with Via Etnea and continue straight ahead. Via di San Giuliano has various notable building in it, such us Palazzo Manganelli and Teatro S.Giorgio. My advice is to take a small detour to the right to reach Piazza Teatro Massimo and take some pictures of the splendid Teatro Massimo Bellini, a jewel of architecture and a reference point for Catania’s Opera and ballet.

Teatro Massimo Bellini

The one day tour of Catania ends here, with much more still missing but hopefully giving you a complete and real taste of what the city can offer!

Whether you are just passing through Catania or visiting for a weekend, since the city has many fascinating sides to unveil, there will be a reason to come back and enjoy Catania’s lifestyle and people!

If you have visited Catania and think this post is lucking some unmissable tip, please feel free to let me know in the comments below and I will be happy to update my tour!

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Antonella

Ciao! My name is Antonella and I am a Sicilian Travel Designer based in Catania, Sicily. My mission here is to share my knowledge and love for this amazing island of Southern Italy and to help you tailor your dream trip to Sicily.

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14 Responses

  1. Last November I went to Palermo for a week end and now I am ready to visit Catania: it seems amazing!

  2. I’ve been in Catania just once, not even for a day but for a few hours and I tried to see as much as possible. However, I’d love to go back and explore it properly, slowly and try a few street foods even tho are pretty similar to my side of Sicily.

  3. Visit the fish market early in the morning is one of my dreams. I’ve never been to Catania even if I love Sicily and I know the rest of the island. I hope to be bale to plan a week- end next spring

    1. Catania is a great city with many interesting things going on in terms of events and things to see and do. I hope you will be able to come to Catania soon!

  4. I was in Catania only once, at the end of a trip to the Aeolian islands in 2019 and we had our flight back home departing from Catania, so we spent our last day there (actually just an afternoon/evening) and we really loved it! I’d love to visit it again, hopefully spending much more time there, and of course eating as much arancini as possible! 😀

    1. Yes Catania for sure deserves more than an afternoon visit, however if you only have half a day at disposal you could easily visit the historic centre following this walking itinerary!

  5. My father comes from the Province of Catania and knows it well! I haven’t seen it yet but I know that it is a splendid city, full of charm and interesting monuments.

  6. The wonder of a city like Catania is incredible, I would really like to visit it, perhaps with a guide who can tell me all the curiosities!

  7. There are so many things that I’m sure I’d love in Catania: the markets, the architecture, the food and also shopping! I definetely have to go there because I’ve been just one, briefly, and didn’t really have time to see all the sights.

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