Exploring Catania between chivalry and charming decay

If there was one way to describe Catania, it wouldn’t be too far from sensory overloaded. Coming from Agrigento, I considered myself already well into the Sicilian mode to soon found out that our next stop was just in for new surprises and revelations.

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The beautiful decorations of Sant’Agata church in Catania

Noisy, smelly and proudly displaying a seductive state of decay, Catania, even though dotted with spectacular churches, UNESCO-listed sites, and a famous coastline, never gave up on its village-like vibe, genuine and chivalric code included. It doesn’t matter how many tourists hit Catania all year long, especially in the summer season, locals are as enthusiastic as if every time they get asked for information it’s the very first.

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Statue in Sant’Agata church

Many are the things to do in Catania, one of the best destinations for a honeymoon in Italy. In all its charm, this Sicilian city has something for everyone, be it a nature lover, a history buff or a foodie expert.

The majestic and infamous Etna volcano looms over the city, ebullient from within and always ready to show off and offer some fireworks extravaganza for the joy of locals and visitors.

Dominated by such view, while wandering around Catania you are literally chased by the haunting smell of arancine, deep-fried rice balls stuffed with anything from ragù sauce, to pistachio nuts to spinach, fresh fish on sale in the local open markets and pizza by the slice on the go, and the ever-tempting sight of local granite, smashed ice flavored with fruit juices, best if made with local produce of almond and mulberry, the only thing that can help you face the humid unforgiving heat defining the local summer.

Thankfully, it’s not hard to get them, as Sicilian pride conspires to make all the local delicacies easily available everywhere.

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Moments of prayer in Catania’s churches

For as tempting as the food fragrances and sights are and as stunning as the churches’ architectural styles and decorations, what’s more alluring and utterly beguiling in Catania is its old crumbling buildings. Belonging to different historical periods, the palaces show off the unfading exuberance of Sicilians reproduced through the lovely collaboration of loud patterns of Baroque churches and the more austere features of the Norman mansions.

What captured my attention, however, was not the imposing cathedrals or the historical manors, but instead the everyday beauty of those old palazzi that bear the most precious past of the city, that of ordinary people carrying on with their ordinary lives.

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The blood-stained Christ displayed in Catania’s Sant’Agata church

Like Agrigento, or maybe even more, the thick spirituality permeates the air everywhere you go in Catania, with churches, symbols, madonnas and passers-by who, almost absent-mindedly, make the sign of the Cross in front of their church or saint or protector of any sort. Adding to the devotion, a cloister and an unfinished cathedral complete the Sicilian otherworldly scene.

I stayed in Catania only two days, enough to take in plenty of churches and wander around its city center dotted with sculptures, Roman ruins and mysterious sites such as a restaurant with an underground river flowing across its lower floor. It didn’t matter how long, or short, I managed to stay though, as every attraction was duly followed by one of the many delicacies the regional cuisine has to offer.

With so much left to see, I know I will be back to Catania.

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Where to stay in Catania

UNA Hotel Palace

Located in Via Etnea, UNA Hotel Palace is the perfect choice for the traveler who wants to enjoy the historic center, its Baroque architecture, and the great local restaurants.

The rooms, decorated with elegant furniture and pastel hues, feature air-conditioning, minibar, WiFi connection, and pillow menu.

Breakfast is served in the hotel’s restaurant and is not included in the price.
Click here for more details and current prices.

Grand Hotel Baia Verde

Located on the road between Catania and Acicastello, Grand Hotel Baia Verde is a luxury resort looking over a natural bay. A 4-star accommodation, this hotel features an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center complimentary for the guests, and a wellness center with thalassotherapy treatments, hammam, whirlpool bathtub, and sensory shower.

The rooms are decorated with elegant Italian furniture and feature LCD flat-screen TV with satellite and Sky channels, a minibar, air-conditioning, and private bathroom with complimentary toiletries and hairdryer.

This hotel is a great choice if yours is a beach holiday in Catania.
Click here for more details and current prices.

Etna Suite Group

In a fantastic location in Via Etnea, Etna Suite Group is recommended if you want to explore Catania and its historic districts.

The spacious soundproof rooms are equipped with all the modern comforts and feature air-conditioning, writing desk, flat-screen TV, tea-making facilities, a minibar, and a comfortable private bathroom with hairdryer and free toiletries. Some rooms have a balcony, some a view of the garden, the Suite Deluxe features a hydro-massage bathtub, some rooms come with a living room.

A delicious daily breakfast is served in the hotel, with the possibility to request it served in the room.
Click here for more details and current prices.

Asmundo di Gisira

Located some 200 meters from Piazza Duomo, Asmundo di Gisira offers free WiFi, a bar, a view of the city and a solarium terrace. This hotel is set in a historical building decorated with fine artwork and equipped with state-of-the-art amenities. The location is perfect for exploring the city center.

The rooms feature a flat-screen TV and private bathroom with slippers and complimentary courtesy kit. Some rooms have a balcony or a terrace, Superior rooms include a hydro-massage bathtub.
Click here for more details and current prices.

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The entrance to an old courtyard
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Facade of the unfinished church of San Nicolò started in 1702 by the Benedictine monks and never finished in Catania city center
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Pretty much the only thing that was finished in the unfinished church
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Catania
Meanwhile, while walking around, some picturesque sights decorate the streets of Catania
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