Bang in the middle of the Ionian coast, Catania is Sicily’s second-largest city, a major transport hub, a thriving commercial centre, and a lively, energetic place with a more international outlook than Palermo. Defined by Etna – even the city’s main street is named after the volcano – and the ubiquitous black-grey volcanic stone in pavements and buildings, there’s more openness and space than in Palermo, but far less to see, as the ancient and medieval city was engulfed by lava in 1669, and then devastated by an earthquake in 1693. Spearheaded by architect Giovanni Vaccarini, Catania was rebuilt swiftly and on a grand scale, making full use of the lava that had been the old city’s nemesis.
Catania, being a fairly large city for Southern Italian standards, has plenty to do in the form of culture and leisure. Once you have explored Catania, there are also several activities just outside and around the city.
The impressive Basilica Cattedrale Sant'Agata, made up of both Norman and Baroque architecture, can be found at the Piazza Del Duomo in the centre of the old town. Here, not only is the cathedral impressive but also other historical buildings and structures such as the Fontana Dell'Elefante, Palazzo delgi Elefanto and the Fontana Dell'Amenano.
Mount Etna is impossible to miss when in Catania, the huge volcano dominates the town and if you are brave, tour operators give you the opportunity to get up close and personal. Hikes to the crater are spectacular, as with riding ATVs and Jeeps up the volcano.
The weather in Catania is always pleasant due to it's prime Mediterranean location. During the winter, temperatures reach a low of only 11 degrees, and in the summer highs sit between 26 - 30 degrees. For when temperatures are higher, the beach is a great place to relax and enjoy the sunshine. Lido Azzurro is a stretch of beach that sits 15 minutes to the south of Catania, close to the port and harbour.
Weather-wise, the best time to visit Catania is during late Spring (May - June) or early Autumn (September - October) when temperatures range between 25 - 30 degrees. In the Summer months, the temperature can become very hot - some Italians even take vacations in the North during these months to escape the heat.
Twice a year, Catania holds the biggest craft beer festival in Southern Italy. Music, tasting sessions, food stalls and workshops all take place at the festival, making a great day out for beer-lovers and non-drinkers alike. The festival takes place in late May and late November.
Featured Image, Catania © Napa / Shutterstock