The pandemic put a lot of plans on hold for many people, myself included. Travelling seemed like a dream that I would escape to anytime I was feeling isolated and boxed in by life. This year though – I finally took my first vacation after three long years! I made the decision in early May when I realized that I was hitting burn out and my anxiety was at an all time high. I booked two weeks off in September and gave myself something to look forward to. I had no idea where I was going to go or what I was going to do but I knew that I needed to feed my travel loving soul. I gave it a bit of thought over the following few weeks and finally settled on Sicily. It wouldn’t be my first time in Italy but it would be my first time visiting south of Amalfi and I was looking forward to exploring, learning and challenging myself in a new environment. After doing a bit of research and speaking with a colleague who had recently visited Sicily I settled on visiting four cities during my vacation – Palermo, Cefalu, Catania and Ortigia Island. I have now been back a week from my travels and I can honestly say that I had my best vacation yet. Sicily is not the easiest place to visit and I definitely had my fair share of challenges but the culture, the food, the people and the environment are all incredible and worth planning a vacation there to experience for yourself. Over the next few weeks I will be posting travel guides for each of the Sicilian gems that I had the pleasure of visiting. First up – Catania.
Located in the east of Sicily at the foot of Mount Etna, Catania is one of the major cities that you can fly into when visiting Sicily. It is underrated when compared to its rival Palermo but I loved Catania. The markets are incredible, the architecture breathtaking and the views of Mount Etna are incredible. It is also the perfect destination for wine lovers as there are incredible vineyards on Mount Etna that are definitely worth a visit.
Where to stay: The UNA Esperienze Palace Hotel Catania, this hotel is located on the main shopping street in Catania. The roof top restaurant features gorgeous views of Mount Etna and it’s within walking distance of the markets, great restaurants and cafes and sights such as the duomo. The rooms are beautifully decorated and the hotel breakfast in the morning is quite good. I had a few minor issues during my stay that I didn’t say anything about until my last night when I got annoyed and sent an email to customer service – I really didn’t expect them to read it until after I had left, and my motivation was just to give some constructive feedback. The response was the most impressive customer service that I received in Sicily. The management of this hotel is clearly motivated to deliver a positive and quality experience to all guests. I will be booking to stay here again on any future visits to Catania and will be suggesting it to anyone that I know that is planning a visit to Catania.
What to do: Visit the markets! During my visit my plans fell thru one day and I ended up with extra time on my hands to just wander around the city. I found myself at the market walking around and admiring the different stalls and vast array of foods that were being offered. As I walked past one place there was a woman offering samples of cheese that called out to me. She had on her sample plate what had quickly become my favourite cheese in Sicily – Formaggio Picante (aka cheese with chilli peppers in it). It was by far the best one that I had eaten so far on my trip (and truthfully the best cheese that I had my entire trip). Seeing how much I enjoyed the sample and being the savvy business woman that she was, she suggested that I sit down to enjoy a drink and a cheese plate (that cheese was a great hook!). I told her that I wanted to finish wandering around the market but I would be back and 15 minutes later I found myself settling into a chair at her stall and ordering a cheese plate with a spritz (hey, when in Italy). I had such a great time people watching while enjoying the wonderful food and drink. If you are at the Catania market stop by Salumeria Patti to experience it for yourself.
Book a wine tour. The tour that I had booked before leaving for my vacation fell thru at the last minute but thanks to a tour guide in Catania I was able to find a new one thru Etna Experiences. My tour included pick up and drop off, a honey tasting, visiting two incredible vineyard sampling different wines, snacks and lunch. If was probably one of the best wine tours that I have experienced. If was well organized, the tour guide was very knowledgeable and personable and the wines were delicious! If you are looking to book a wine tour in Catania I suggest that you visit Etna Experiences website to see the various tours that they offer.
Where to eat: Aside from enjoying the market fare in Catania and visiting Salumeria Patti for incredible cheese and people watching, another great spot for people watching and to rest from the Sicilian sun is Zi Caffe. Located next to the duomo, this cafe has a large terrace with umbrellas and I had one of the best chocolate donuts that I had ever had here. It is definitely worth a stop.
Il Sale Art Cafe – I randomly found this restaurant while eating dinner nearby. It was busy and looked like a great spot to check out so I made a dinner reservation for the following evening. It turned out to be a wise decision on my part as I ended up having one of the best pizzas of my life here. I love spicy food and they had a Calabrian chilli stuffed crust pizza that filled my chilli loving dreams. Even if spicy food is not your thing, their menu is filled with options for everyone and everything that I tried there was delicious (I even ended up going back one other night – it was that good).
Catania is a great city to just wander around and absorb the energy of the city. I found people welcoming and kind and I enjoyed my time in this city very much. It has all of the Sicilian charm of the other cities that I visited but with its own identity and I can see myself visiting Catania again and again. This is not a city to miss if you are visiting Sicily!
Have you ever been to Catania? Let me know your experience in the comments!
I hope that you have a wonderful day! XXS