7 unique things to do in Catania

by Andrea Gambaro  |  Published August 4, 2018

Youthful and vibrant, Catania is the main city in the eastern half of Sicily. Its top attractions will keep you busy during your visit, but there will be also time for some more peculiar things to do.

Piazza Duomo, the core of Catania (Photo: Luca Aless via Wikipedia)

As Mount Etna overlooks from a distance, Catania welcomes the visitor with a mix of shabbiness and marvellous architecture. Its history goes back 2,700 years, its UNESCO-listed historical centre is pure baroque splendour, and the food culture is irresistible. All enhanced by the joys of the Mediterranean coast. But the city and its surroundings also offer lesser-known attractions and experiences. Here’s our list of seven unique things to do when you are in Catania.

Attend the biggest craft beer festival in Southern Italy

Beer Catania launched in 2015 to bring craft beer culture to the south of Italy. As visitor numbers increased from 5,000 to 20,000 in the space of two years, we can fairly assume that mission has been accomplished. It now runs twice a year, in late May and in late November. In addition to local and international breweries, the festival features food stands, culinary workshops, courses, tasting sessions and live music during the spring edition. Beer Catania is also an occasion to discover hidden locations of the city. The entrance is free.

Spring – Via Etnea 595, Catania 95125

Winter – Via Forcile, San Giuseppe La Rena (Catania) 95121

Beer Catania at Istituto Ardizzone Gioieni (Photo: Beer Catania)

Visit the Butterfly House

Walk among hundreds of butterflies at Casa delle Farfalle Monteserra. This tropical conservatory is home to species from all over the world as well as rare, native butterflies that are hardly seen anywhere else. Visitors are invited to observe them at close range and learn all about their connection to the surrounding habitat. Its blessed location in Monte Serra Natural Park, between Catania and Mount Etna, makes the Butterfly House an excellent stopover during a day trip to the volcano. It’s open from April to October for a small fee and opening times may vary, so it’s best to give them a call in advance to arrange your visit (+39 09 5789 0768 or +39 34 7041 5868).

Via Umberto I 244, Viagrande (Catania) 95029

Aurora dell’Etna, one species protected by Casa delle Farfalle Monteserra (Photo: Martin Wachsmann)

Shop at a concept store where design meets Sicilian tradition

Folk and Friends showcases homeware and accessories made of marble, ceramic, lava stone, and other materials rooted in Sicilian traditions. It is run by Magda Masano, whose family has been working in the marble industry for decades. Magda’s brand, Folk, is an original encounter between ancient handicraft and modern design, where the Sicilian way gets a young and creative twist. The collections displayed include jewellery, clothes, tableware, pottery and décor. There is also a ‘marble-à-porter’ collection, if you’re looking for something easy to carry.

Via San Michele 17/19, Catania 95131

Folk and Friends concept store (Photo: Folk)

Savour street food with the locals

Street food in Catania is a centuries-old tradition that is best explored with the locals. Catania Street Food Tour will guide you through the best places to savour classics of the local cuisine like arancini and cannoli, as well as lesser-known specialities. These include horse-meat meatballs, fried fish and cipollata (spring onions wrapped with bacon). The three-hour walking tour also offers an overview of the city’s main sights and historical landmarks. Catania Street Food is only one of the tours operated by Sicilying across the whole island.

Meeting point – Piazza Duomo 18, Catania 95124

Tasting anchovies with Catania Street Food (Photo: Sicilying)

Experience Sicilian hospitality

Donna Carmela is a boutique resort surrounded by lush Mediterranean and subtropical greenery. An ancient mansion elegantly restored, it seeks to offer Sicilian hospitality at its best, providing high-quality services, fine furniture, modern art details and precious materials. The accommodations include classic and comfortable rooms, lodges and an imperial suite. The restaurant and wine cellar are also of the highest quality, while the lava-stone courtyard, the swimming pool, the ancient well, and over 5,000 species of flowers and bushes make the setting even more unique. A 30-minute drive away from the centre of Catania, Donna Carmela will be an unforgettable stay at the foot of Mount Etna.

Contrada Grotte 5, Carruba (Catania) 95018

This is one of your options at Donna Carmela (Photo: Donna Carmela)

Sip wine next to an underground river

A natural lava grotto revealing an underground river is the perfect backdrop for a glass of wine. You’ll find it at A Putia dell’Ostello, a wine bar and restaurant located in the historical centre and part of the Agorà Hostel. The restaurant menu is also worth checking out, with the pizzas enjoying an excellent reputation. After being buried by an Etna eruption in 1669, the Amenano river can be seen only in a handful of places across Catania.

Piazza Curro 6, Catania 95121

The Amenano river has been flowing underground since 1669 (Photo: Agorà Hostel)

Indulge your sweet tooth

While excellent pastry shops are scattered all over the city, two of the most renowned are located in Via Etnea. Opened since 1897, Pasticceria Savia specialises in almond pastries and frutta martorana (fruit-shaped pastries similar to marzipan). Pasticceria Pasubio, on the other hand, is the place to go for a brioche filled with almond or mulberry granita. In both, however, you will also find many other local specialities, of which cannoli and cassate are the most representative. During the February celebrations for Saint Agatha, the city’s patron saint, don’t miss the little cassate called minnuzze di Sant’Agata (literally, “small boobs of Saint’Agatha”).

Pasticceria Savia – Via Etnea 302/304, Catania 95131

Pasticceria Pasubio – Via Etnea 2F, Catania 95129

The holy “minnuzze di Sant’Agata” (Photo: Pasticceria Savia)