Catania is the Sicily in your pocket and one of the most inviting places you have ever seen. It is Sicily’s second largest city and UNESCO-listed wonder. A home town of composers Vincenzo Bellini and Giovanni Pacini. It’s main square Piazza del Duomo and its symbol-the elephant fountain-is just one of the things you must see when you visit. Beginnings of this lava-built city date back to ancient times, so you’ll have a great opportunity to explore this part of human and nature’s history. On that note, don’t miss Anfiteatro Romano. Most definitely you’ll be fascinated by it.
Catania is located at the foot of the highest functioning volcano in Europe - Mount Etna. You can take a guided tour and explore old lava fields and enter the lava caves to see inside the volcano. If you are more of a wine lover, you can visit one of many wine cellars on the hills surrounding Mount Etna. And last but not least, explore the coastline of Catania. With more than 15 kilometers of golden sandy beach, La Playa is preferred by the locals and tourists. Definitely a must see.
Hire a car at the Catania Fontarossa Airport and drive to all the places you wanted to discover around the island.
Basic info and car hire in Catania
Location: east coast of the island of Sicily
Official language: Italian
Currency: euro (€)
Weather: The climate is Mediterranean. Summers are long and hot, average summer temperatures range from 23-27 °C/73,6-79,3 F, with record highs over 45 °C/113F. Winters are mild and wet, temperatures in winter range from 10-15 °C/50-59 F, at nights you can expect temperatures to go under 0 °C/32F. Last relevant snowfall in Catania is dated back in 1988. Spring and summer are mostly dry; rain occurs between October till March.
Public holidays in Italy: Click here for the full list of public holidays in Catania:
Internet coverage: Numerous places in Catania offer free Wi-fi. The majority of bars, restaurants, hotels and stores will give you acces for free. For more info click here:
Road conditions: Roads are well maintained.
Driving in Catania
With a car hire in Catania, you won’t have any problems. Roads are well maintained, but Italian drivers can be very aggressive. Bear in mind that while driving max BAC level is 0,05%.
- Age limits: 18
- International Driving Permit: yes
- Additional papers: valid ID, valid driving licence
- Additional requirements: warning triangle and a reflective jacket are required.
- Children in the car: In Italy it is illegal for Children under 3 years to sit in the front or rear sits without a proper child seat. Children between 4 and 12 must use a suitable safety restraint seat or an adaptor for a seat belt. There can be exceptions; if there is no available seat, they can use the adult seat belt in the rear if accompanied by another passenger aged over 16.
- Driving side of the road: right
- Lights: You have to have dipped headlights on at all times when driving on the Autostrada.
- General speed limits: Autostrada 130 km/h, highways 110 km/h, open roads 90 km/h, in town 50 km/h
- Parking suggestions: Piazza Duca di Genova,Piazza Manganelli, Largo dell Odeon, Via Paterno Parking, Largo san Vito
What to see in Catania
Our favourite spots
Piazza del Duomo
Definitely a must see in Catania is Piazza del Duomo, gracious and spacious square and a triumph of unique Baroque style as the building material used was, believe it or not: lava. It’s a great starting point because of its location in the heart of the city. The main square of Catania also hosts the Cathedral di Sant’ Agata, town hall - the Municipal and Diocesan Museum. Don’t miss your coffee in one of many surrounding cafeterias.
One trip you should most definitely take is a trip to a National Park. Mount Etna is the biggest functioning volcano in Europe, at about 3,300 meters. You can ascend the mountain by renting a car: you can drive up to about 1900 meters to Sapienza Refuge and then take a cable car that will take you as far as 2500 meters. After that, you can hike, walk or ride special terrain vehicles to see all the wonders of nature: moonlight landscape, black lava tubes and a magnificent view of the terraced vineyards in all of its spectacularism.
Sicily stands out for its gastronomic traditions. It is the land of pistachios, almonds, aubergines and fish. When in Catania, the best place to see the local traditions is their Fish market. It is one of the biggest in Italy and a triumph of colours and smells. Surrounding the market are numerous excellent seafood restaurants. Bon apetit!
La Playa is a long golden sandy beach with a magnificent view of Mount Etna and a cool breeze. Yes, it is crowded here, in the beach clubs you can see older ladies playing cards, families eating home made food and lots of children playing and screaming their lungs out. Playa has its own special vibe that you should feel, even if you are more of an adventurer.
Hotels in Catania
Catania International airport hotel
Near Catania Fontarossa airport. Since it’s located only 1 km from the beach, you can take advantage of the free parking at the hotel and head to the beach on foot.
Katane Palace hotel
This charming hotel is only 20-minute walk from the centre of Catania. Rooms have Wi-fi, free soft drinks on the house and satellite TV. And yes, the parking is free.
From this elegant hotel, you will be able to reach any part of the city quickly. Free parking, Wi-fi and 24-hour room service are included in the price.
You can enjoy your morning swim in the hotel’s elegant outdoor pool with a romantic view of the sea. Hotel Nettuno is set just 1 km away from city centre and offers free gated parking, Wi-fi and air-conditioning.
Drive your rental car around Catania
Some other places you may want to see when in Catania:
Siracusa: On the south eastern coast lies another interesting old town Siracusa. With a car hire in Catania, it will take you only one hour to get there and see and experience this charming place. Whether or not you love ancient history, Ancient Greek ruins, catacombs and the oldest latomia are breathtaking. There is also a lot for nature lovers to immerse. Sparkling blue sea and lush vegetation of island Ortygia will indulge all of your senses. If you want to see history or travel in time visit ancient world of Siracuse, it will be an unique experience.
Taormina:If you are up for a day trip, you can drive your hired car to Taormina. It’s a very charming town – a bit expensive, but it has something to offer for everybody. Taormina is located 50 km from Catania, and it’s only a hop away you have Mount Etna. If you’re not up for exploring the volcano, you can visit the Ancient Theater of Taormina or enjoy some natural shade under the trees in Villa Comunale.
Alcantara River Park:For those more adventurous, we recommend visiting Alcantara River Park – one of the most spectacular natural sights in Sicily. With a car hire in Catania, you’ll need about 20 to get there. If you combine this with some Mount Etna’s slopes exploring, you’ll have a wonderful trip. Especially in hot weather, this is the trip to take.
Vendicari Nature Reserve: If you had enough of ancient history and tourists crowds, there is always some fresh air for you at the natural reserve Wildlife Oasis Vendicari. Take your backpacks and go hiking, snorkelling or just enjoying the clear sea. Wilderness of this place is amazing, is it’s a migration point for flamingos which you can see when you’ll beach hop in pursuit of finding the best one. Regarding the astonishing beauty of these beaches, you’ll have some troubles to pick your favourite. You can choose from rocky coastlines, lagoons or simple yet romantic sandy beaches. A car hire in Catania will take you on an hour and 15-minutes drive via E45 Autostrada. After that, take the main Noto-Pachino road and eventually park somewhere and proceed on foot. Take your bathing suits and backpacks and start exploring. You won’t regret it!
Where to eat, drink and party in Catania
Catania has a lot more to offer than just sightseeing. Their night life is special and so it is their cuisine, after all, they are Italians.
You may just head for an ‘aperitivo’ or taste some of their local wine in some cozy wine bars. If you want to dance, there are also lots of dance floors waiting just for you as well.
Do you like good food or you even consider yourself to be a gourmand? Well, Sicily won’t disappoint you here or leave you hungry. Besides their seafood, pasta and antipasti (so are called their starters – potato and cheese pie) and patisseries, you also have to taste their Sicilian soup called Maccu – and yes we are talking about food that dates back in ancient times.
Very popular joint in Catania! Take your family for some fried fish, octopus and french fries. It’s not expensive, but the food is delicious.
Trendy place, whether you want something to eat or just enjoy a cocktail. If you are one for the beer, you’ll find here a great selection of craft beers.
This family-run cafe is best if you want something sweet. Be sure to try their patisseries.
You can find this lovely and cosy restaurant close to fish market. You should try their tuna with toasted almonds. Recommended by the locals.
Major events and festivals in Catania
The Festival of Santa AgataFebruary
Catania hosts many exciting festivals, and this one is a religious 3-day festival.
If you'll be travelling in August in Catania, visit this 9-day festival dedicated to all Tango lovers.
Cantica music festivalFall
This festival takes place in fall and has a more traditional vibe.