While touring Sicily, one of the unmissable stops is Catania and its surroundings. You’ll probably need four days to visit this area. During your first day, you can visit the villages along the coast, such as Acireale, Aci Trezza, and Aci Castello. Devote your second day to one of the most renowned places in the world—Taormina, and to Savoca. On your third day, you can visit the volcano of Mt. Etna. In the end, you can use your fourth and final day in this area to visit Catania.
If you manage to arrive in the morning, you’ll be able to enjoy most of your first day. The best solution for your first day is remaining near the hotel. A short trip to Acireale and Aci Castello is precisely what it takes.
Acireale is a pretty small town with thousand-year-old history. It’s built on a promontory overlooking the sea. The most interesting part is Piazza del Duomo, where there’s the most important building—the Cathedral of Maria Santissima Annunziata. After visiting the cathedral, you can proceed with your exploration with the Town Hall and the Basilica Collegiata dei Santi Pietro e Paolo, two beautiful baroque buildings.
If you are lucky, your tour around the town centre will be accompanied by the flight of hundreds of swallows.
After leaving Acireale, reach Aci Trezza. This place is known because it’s the setting of the novel I Malavoglia by Giovanni Verga. Its most fascinating attraction is the Riviera dei Ciclopi (Shore of the Cyclops). According to the legend, its formation dates back to Polyphemus attempt to prevent Ulysses escape.
While you go back to the hotel, you can devote an hour or so to Aci Castello. This small town owes its name to the Castle built on an igneous rock overlooking the sea. The Arabic-like architecture is the result of over a century of Byzantine occupation. This period had a great stylistic influence visible on many building in the area.
Before expressing your opinion on the castle, you need to wait for the evening, when the lights reflect and shimmer on the sea, creating an extraordinary and suggestive effect.
For dinner, you can stay in the area, for instance in the village of Tremestieri Etneo, where you can find the excellent restaurant the Cortile Siciliano, the perfect place to taste typical dishes.
Finally, it’s the big day, the day when you visit Taormina. It’s one of the most famous towns in the world. However, reaching this Sicilian gem isn’t exactly easy. Your best option is going by car and park in the nearby village of Mazzarò. From there you can take the funicular railway going directly to Taormina.
The brightest star among Taormina’s attraction is the Ancient Theatre. It has the typical traits of the Roman era, and it’s dated back to the III century before Christ. This theatre is particularly fascinating for two main reasons. The first is the gallery location, which lays on the natural slope of the hill. The second is the landscape behind the stage. It isn’t artificial, it’s a natural wonder—the sea.
After visiting the theatre, you can go on exploring Taormina. Choosing the most important attraction is hard. The best solution is walking around the town and dive into the elegant atmosphere this Sicilian jewel has to offer. You should probably start from Porta Messina (north) and head toward Porta Catania (south). You can’t miss Palazzo Corvaja, with its Arabic-like decorations, and the Duomo, recently restored. Before going back to the coast, I strongly recommend a stop at the Gardens of the Villa Comunale, elegant and extremely tidy.
If you need some rest, you are in the right place. All you have to do is reaching the beautiful shore at Taormina’s feet.
When you are ready, you can leave Taormina and head toward Savoca, a small hamlet at the top of a mountain overlooking the sea. The historic town centre is small, easy to visit and has plenty of points of interest, such as the Chiesa Madre and the Chiesa di San Michele. The real gem of this small town, however, is the Convent of the Capuchins, an imposing complex which contains thirty-seven mummified corpse.
You can use most of your third day to climb the volcano on the Mt. Etna, one of the most fascinating UNESCO World Heritage.
In this case, you need to have a flexible schedule. If the weather forecast isn’t favourable, you’ll probably need to switch today’s visit with another day’s program.
Before living this adventure, carefully consider the costs (64 euros per person). If you want to save some money, you can take the cable car which costs only 30 euros. But this is not the best way to experience what Mt. Etna has to offer.
Many companies offer tours and excursions on Mt. Etna for any need and pricing. The basic trip to the two craters starts from Rifugio Sapienza, on the southern side. From Rifugio Sapienza, you can take the cable car that will bring you 2500 meters above sea level.
Once reached your destination, you can take an off-road vehicle that will bring you to the Rifugio Torre del Filosofo, the highest point you can reach by car.
From this point, you need to go ahead on foot. Tours are guided only. The excursion on foot isn’t tricky, but some training doesn’t hurt. Anyway, remember to wear trekking shoes, windbreaker and water. You can buy bottled water on the spot, but it tends to be very expensive.
If you have some time left, you can spend the remaining part of the day exploring Catania.
For dinner, I recommend the restaurant Gambero Pazzo, an excellent restaurant specialised in seafood. Remember to make a reservation in advance. Given the excellent price performance, it’s usually crowded.
After exploring all the surrounding area, it’s time to conclude your four-days tour visiting Catania. A perfect way to visit the town without wasting time and energies is using the bus service Katanelive that tours the main points of interest in the city. The price is reasonable (5 euros per person) and makes this solution particularly appealing. Each stop is about five minutes long, but if you want to stay longer, you can wait for the next bus.
The first stop is Piazza Duomo, where you can see the Elephant Fountain, the town’s symbol, the Fontana dell’Amenano, and the Cathedral of St. Agata with its imposing baroque facade.
Near the Fontana dell’Amenano, you can find the Fish Market, the ideal place to get to know and appreciate the atmosphere and the local folklore.
The tour bus leaves from Piazza del Duomo. The first part of the tour is along the shoreline, going through the Black Sand Beaches, a section of the coast with black rocks. Then the tour reaches Ognina and its waterfront in igneous rock.
After the tour of the cost, the bus enters the city, going through Piazza Verga with its Fontana dei Malavoglia. Then it goes through the botanical garden, beautiful in spring, and reaches Villa Bernini, a vast park rich of subtropical plants.
After taking a stroll around the park, don’t wait for the next bus. Head by foot towards the next stop—the Roman Amphitheater. You can reach it walking along via Etnea, one of the best places for shopping in Catania.
The Roman Amphitheatre is the second biggest Roman building after the Coliseum in Rome, and it’s built in igneous rock.
Taking the bus, you’ll reach the Bellini Theatre, characterised by a very well kept baroque facade. After that, you can visit the Ursino Castle. Built in 1250, it was the symbol of Frederick II Holy Roman Emperor’s power. Now it contains the Civic Museum, which collects several Roman artefacts.
At this point, you can go back to the end of the bus line in Piazza Duomo. From here, walk along Via Vittorio Emanuele II and head towards the Church and Monastery of St. Nicolò l’Arena, both UNESCO World Heritage. The entire complex is considered one of the best example of baroque in Italy, and it’s the second biggest Benedictine Monastery in Europe.
All that remains to be said is a big thank you to Valentina for the pictures that allowed me to show you this beautiful itinerary. I hope you enjoyed it.
See you soon for another incredible tour.