Where Old Meets New: Discovering Catania, Sicily

Boasting killer views of smoking hot Mount Etna, the ornate city of Catania is a gem nestled upon Sicily’s golden landscapes, and there’s a whole lot of treasure to be found within. Housing the country’s foodies, art lovers, and everything in between, Catania is the perfect place in which to settle down for a week or two and enjoy some of the better parts of life. Looking for a holiday in which old and new collide? This is the place for you. Home to both ancient and contemporary builds, Catania is a veritable culture clash, bringing both sides of the coin together in beautiful symmetry. Get ready to fall in love; Catania is about to blow you away.

Where To Find The Catch Of The Day

If you want to really get yourself acquainted with Catania, it pays to take a look deep into its soul. A port town through and through, Catania’s beating heart is its fish market, and if you want to know anything about local culture, this is the best place in which to start. The locals love to eat seafood and the market vendors love to sell it; the fish market is a daily hive of activity, with shoppers jostling for the best catch. Vats of local fish and seafood gleam on the market stalls. The produce here is also as fresh as you like. A small but well-stocked selection of vegetable stands make up the fringes of the market, giving you a chance to expand your foodie horizons. Grab yourself an armful of fresh produce and get cooking.

Where To Indulge Your Foodie Cravings

Of course, with produce as fresh as Catania’s, there’s bound to be a good restaurant or two, and a couple of the very best stand within mere meters of the market itself. La Paglia is one of the oldest of the bunch and bustles with activity, and the service is a genuine wonder to behold. If you’re in line for something a little less hectic, however, Osteria Antica Sicilia is a lovely little trattoria, made for clear, balmy evenings. Set back in its own private courtyard, the restaurant feels like a world unto itself, and with strings of local foodie favorites on the menu, it’s not likely to disappoint.

Where To Venture Beyond The City Limits

While staying in the city is all well and good, it pays to take the winding road towards Mount Etna and observe this beast up close. The village of Zafferana Etnea makes for a perfect pitstop along the road, giving you time to refuel before tackling the volcano later in the day. Try heading to the town’s cooled lava trail, hardened to stone after trickling down during the 1991 eruption. Set in the volcanic wake, the trail remains a daily reminder to locals of the close proximity they hold to mighty Etna. When you leave the village, the mountain roads can feel toiling and slow, but hang in there. The eerie atmosphere at the upper summit is more than worth seeing, and once you’ve seen Etna in close proximity, you’re not likely to forget her.

Where To Enjoy The View

Away from the smudgy black of Etna’s residue, you might well want to feast your eyes on a sweeping landscape, and in Catania, there are two main spaces from which to choose. The first, and perhaps best, is Giardino Bellini, a calming urban park that offers stunning views of the surrounding areas. If you’re craving a sunset spot, however, there’s no better place than the Una Hotel Palace’s rooftop bar. The volcano is undoubtedly the star event of the terrace view, and as you sip on your first aperitivo of the night, the sweeping view might just give you fodder for reflection.

Where To See Architecture

Catania is famous for its architecture, and no matter where you look in the city, you’re bound to find something upon which to feast your eyes. First and foremost is the Via Etnea, Catania’s main shopping stretch. Constructed in direct view of the looming volcano, the Via Etnea was constructed as an easy way out of Etna’s destructive path, its wide boulevard-esque structure giving locals a clear path to safety. Elsewhere in the city, the Duomo is also doing fine things for the architectural status of the place. With a facade dating back to the Baroque period, the Duomo is as intricate as they come and deserves close inspection. Take a respite in the cool cathedral before heading out and feasting your eyes on the square outside. An architect’s delight, the Duomo is just one of Catania’s crowning glories.

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.