Catania Sicily– What to See and Do for First-Timers

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Catania, on the island of Sicily, has a long history. The city’s history spans more than 27 centuries. Here are a few things to See and Do in Catania, Sicily. The island was shaped by many cultures, such as the Greeks, Romans, Barbarians, Byzantines, Moors, and the Normans. So, many well-preserved statues, temples, and mosaics have changed from Christian to Muslim. Consequently, I look forward to exploring as much of Catania as possible.

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Catania Sicily

Catania was originally founded as a Greek colony during the 5th century. In ancient times, it was part of numerous Empires and cultures. Incidentally, it only takes is a few hours to explore. You can walk or take a train around the city. Explore the numerous treasures left behind from the many cultures and empires that once called Sicily their home.

Driving on the Island

However, driving on the island is not easy. The main roads are in decent shape, but the side roads can be treacherous. Potholes, and not concrete, connect many small towns. Make sure you carry cash for the toll roads. And give yourself more transportation time due to confusing or missing signage.

Catania is an old city. And some of the side streets are narrow. Far too narrow for cars. However, you may not know that until its too late. Consequently, be cautious and stick to the main roads.

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The Cathedral of Catania

The cathedral is located in the center of the old town. It’s close to many of the other sights. The Cathedral of Catania is a beautiful structure. Therefore its a must-see masterpiece of Norman and Baroque architecture. It was originally constructed in 1078 over the ruins of Roman Baths, the cathedral has a long history. Ultimately, it has been restored many times due to earthquakes in the region.

The front façade features a grey stone design. A series of ornate statues depicting religious figures and a large domed basilica sits at the back of the main aisle. There are also beautiful frescos at the main altar, decorative artwork and paintings. The tomb was carved by Bellini. You can see the blending of styles in the Greek scrolling, Roman reliefs, and Baroque columns.

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Chiesa di San Nicoló l’Arena

The Chiesa di San Nicoló is connected to the Monastero dei Benedettini. Built over the historical site of a Greek Acropolis. And several of the original columns still stand at the front façade entrance.

Actually, this is actually the largest church in Sicily. It is one of the most bizarre due to the architectural elements that don’t seem to compliment one another. Adding to its peculiarity, the front façade was never actually completed. Inside, the church is beautiful. The interior includes stately columns, arches, marble flooring, and ornate decorations.

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The History of Benedictine Monastery of Catania

The Benedictine Monastery of Catania is a jewel of the late Sicilian Baroque founded in 1558. The original structure was damaged and rebuilt due to two natural calamities. The lava eruption of 1669 and the earthquake of 1693. It is now an example of the integration of different historical periods. It’s not difficult to see the medications made over the years.

Today it is the home of University of Catania’s Department of Humanities. The Monastery is a unique and living remnant of both human and historic events in the city that sits at the foot of Mt. Etna.

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Ursino Castle

Sicily has several fine castles. Subsequently, it serves as a medieval remnant from the period of conquest. And it saw the island change hands from various ruling factions. Ursino Castle is a relic from the 13th century. The castle is built as part of the Kingdom of Sicily by Emperor Frederick II. Today the castle stands in remarkable condition. And as a result, all four of its original towers and walls still stand without damage. Furthermore, remnants of the surrounding walls can also be seen in the castle grounds.

Walk around the castle for some photographic opportunities. Take a tour inside to see the fantastic Museo Civico.

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Catania Teatro

Sicily has several Roman Theatres. And most of them are in fantastic condition. Consequently, the Teatro Romano in Catania is no exception. The Teatro is located in-between the Benedictine Monastery and Catania Cathedral. As a result, the Teatro is easily accessible. And is a great site to visit while you explore the historic center. Catania’s masterpiece was created in the 2nd century BC. Still, in use, the Teatro features the main seating area and also a smaller Odeon Teatro to the left-hand side.

The theatre is actually created from lava taken from Mount Etna. Incidentally, the structure remains in fantastic condition. And as a result, the long history continues as it is still in use today.

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Porta Garibaldi

Porta Garibaldi is one of the most impressive structures in Catania. The monumental gate was created in 1768 and dedicated to King Ferdinand IV and his wife. Designed and built by Francesco Battaglia and Stefano Ittar. The arch is now named after Giuseppe Garibaldi due to his help in the unification of Italy during the 1800s.

Black & white striped stones create a dramatic contrast against the blue sky. In addition, various stone and marble statues top the arch.

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Aci Castello

Drive ten miles to the north of Catania along the coast. You will arrive at the charming village of Aci Castello. This village was originally constructed around the castle that lies on the coast. It has stood watch over the ocean since the Norman conquests of Sicily.

The castle is indeed the main site here. It sits apart from the village on a rock outcrop facing the sea. Built in 1076, the castle has stood for hundreds of years. It is an iconic landmark on this section of Sicilian coast. Today you can explore the grounds of the castle. Climb to the top battlements for fantastic views out to the sea.

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  1. Suruchi

    There is so much to see and learn In Catania. The place is full of history and marvelous architecture. I would love seeing them all in real. So bookmarking for my future reference.

  2. Christopher Mitchell

    You’ve done a nice job giving an overview here. For me, it’s all about the attention to detail, especially as it relates to the ceiling and crown moulding. There’s certainly no shortage of tourist sights here and it looks like you had a blast!

  3. Viola

    I absolutely love visiting places with beautiful architecture with rich histories. As a Classicist, I’m intrigued by the Teatro Romano and I’d love to visit!

  4. Blair villanueva

    It seems Catania will be a must-visit place that I should add in my travel bucket list. Its gorgeous and its appeal is so unique!

  5. My Travelogue by Bhushavali

    Italy is incredibly beautiful! Every city and province and village in the country in beautiful. I’ve been to 4 cities, but I haven’t been to Catania. So, thanks for this virtual tour! There is so much heritage and architecture here!

  6. Tatum Skipper

    I have literally never even heard of this place! Wow what an amazing landscape. Looks really similar to the Amalfi Coast! I love seeing cathedrals from around the world.

  7. Fiona Mai

    So beautiful architecture! I love visiting places with a rich history and culture, so Catania seems to be an ideal destination for me. Saving it now for my future trip to Sicily.

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