Catania is one of Sicily’s nine provinces. It is bordered by Taormina to the north, Augusta to the south, Bronte, Adrano and Misterbianco to the west, and the Ionian Sea in the east. The provincial capital of Catania was founded at the base of the volcano Etna in 729. It was one of the first Greek colonies on the island.
Like other Sicilian cities, it has been heavily influenced by its rulers – Romans, Arabs, and Normans to name a few. The largest impact came from its neighbour, the volcano Etna - when it erupted in 1669 it devastated the city and killed 12,000 inhabitants. Catania was rebuilt in the Baroque style preserved to this day, complete with large boulevards and squares.
Over the last few years, tourism has become one of the biggest sources of revenue. With the sixth largest airport in Italy, Catania is a natural hub for tourists travelling to the island’s east coast. It is easy to take day trips from here to the spectacular Mount Etna, to the ceramics centre of Caltagirone, and to the picturesque mountain villages like Randozza and Linguaglossa. There is also Sicily’s most glamorous tourist town, the Roman city of Taormina with its medieval city centre, where D.H. Lawrence wrote "Lady Chatterley’s Lover."
Piazza del Duomo
Piazza del Duomo, encircled by impressive Baroque buildings in the heart of Catania, recently became a UNESCO world heritage site. In the middle of the square is Fontana dell’Elefante, Catania’s most famous monument – the lava stone Elephant Fountain.
Piazza del Duomo is also home to the elaborate Baroque Cattedrale di Sant’Agata (or simply the Catania Cathedral). Behind the marble walls is the final resting place of the city’s patron saint, Agata. Every February processions are held in her honour.
Agòra Hostel Bar
This is one of Catania’s most unusual bars. It lies almost 20 metres underground, beneath the Agòra Hostel. What makes the place so unique is its location inside a lava cave with water trickling across the floors, and the proximity to a hostel ensures a young and cheerful clientele.
Good to know
A rental car is the best way to explore Sicily. The road network is well maintained, especially the toll roads (autostrade). To drive in the city of Catania can be quite tricky though. A majority of the city centre is for pedestrians and parking lots are difficult to find.
An alternative to driving, is travelling by train to Messina, Syracuse, Palermo and other cities from the station at Piazza Giovanni XXIII.
A cheaper mode of transport is the bus, which depart from the depot at Via d’Amico close to the train station. To get around in the city, the company AMT serves a number of lines. Bus tickets must be validated upon entering the bus (get them punched in the orange machine on board).
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