Places to visit in Catania

Catania-Fontanarossa Airport is located only 4.3 km (2.6 miles) from the city of Catania, and Catania is Sicily’s second largest city. This city is considered to be a major gateway for Mount Etna, Europe’s highest volcano. Catania is situated on the shores of the Ionian Sea, and enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and mild winters. Summer temperatures can easily reach as hot as 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), but the average daytime temperatures are measured around 22 degrees Celsius (71 degrees Fahrenheit).

The city of Catania features a variety of important churches and museums. Tourists can visit the Chapel of Sant’Agatha, which was built in the 12th century, the Church of San Giuliano, which is often said to be the most beautiful church in Catania, the Church of San Nicola, built in 1687, and the Benedictine Monastery, which is one of the largest in Europe. The Benedict Monastery was one of the most important cultural centers in Sicily during the 18th century, but is now the Faculty of Literature and Philosophy for the University of Catania.

A museum that shouldn’t be missed when visiting Catania is the Museo Civico. This museum is housed in the fortress of Castello Ursino, and offers a wealth of information on the history of Catania. This building is also the only one to have survived the earthquake in 1693. Another popular and famous museum is the Emilio Greco Museum. This museum is named after one of Catania’s artists, and houses approximately 1500 of his graphic works. It was opened in 1994, and features the famous ‘Commiati’ as its most popular attraction. Other museums which were named after famous personalities born in Catania are the Giovanni Verga’s House Museum, which was the home of the writer Giovanni Verga during the last twenty years of his life, the Bellini Civic Museum, depicting the private and artistic life of Vincenzo Bellini, and the Biscari Museum, which is one of the most spectacular buildings in the city.

Other historical points of interest in Catania are the Bellini Gardens, spread over about 70,000 square meters of ground, and featuring charming bridges and fountains. The heart of Catania is the Piazza Duomo, and here one can find the city’s symbol monument, which is the fountain with the Elephant. The Elephant statue dates back to Roman times, and became the symbol of Catania due to a legend that states that pigmy elephants once lived in the area, and protected the inhabitants by chasing away harmful and fierce animals. Fans of opera and performances may enjoy a visit to the Bellini Theater, which opened in 1890.

Besides intriguing historical buildings, Catania is well-know for its variety of festival activities. Perhaps the most famous is the Festival of Sant’Agatha, which takes place during February. Across three days, the citizens of Catania celebrate their patron saint, Sant’Agatha. Offerings of candles are made on the first day. Not just ordinary candles though, some of them weigh up to 1200 kg each! A spectacular fireworks display ends the first day of celebration from the Piazza del Duomo. Another tradition is carrying the statue of Sant’Agatha in a procession that lasts throughout the festival. The Sant’Agatha statue is decorated with treasures from her Chapel. The highlight of the procession is when they pass along Via di San Giuliano, a steep road considered to be a trial of courage for the Sant’Agatha followers. Another fireworks display ends the festival with a bang.

In November or December is the Sicilian event of Ethnic music and contamination. This recent event has become popular with international guests and young Sicilian artists. This festival celebrates all forms of music, from blues to ethnic to Sicilian folk music.

Nearby Catania, and easily accessible from Catania Airport, is Caltagirone. It is a charming town which is world-famous for its pottery production expertise. Since it is only 68 km from Catania, it is well worth a visit. In the town you can visit the Regional Pottery Museum, take a walk in the Villa Comunala, a beautiful Liberty-style garden, and choose a few items of pottery to take home with you as well. Between May and June Caltagirone holds the Scala Infiorita Festival, and on the nights of July 24th and 25th, the Luminaria Festival is held in honor of San Giacomo. San Giacomo is the town’s patron saint.

Passengers arriving at Catania Airport can find out more information about the activities and sights in Catania from the Tourism Information Desk at the airport.