Catania, Sicily: City That Lives And Breathes Under An Active Volcano

Catania is situated at the foot of Mount Etna, the mighty volcano of Sicily, facing the Ionian Sea. It is a renowned port city and the second largest city in Sicily. It is very hot with its temperature soaring up to 40 degrees (104 F) in the summer. The great volcano looms over the city, and though it has an imposing appearance and destructive potential, many call it the “good volcano”.

In spite of being rebuilt seven times due to the damages caused by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, Catania is rich in its history, folklore and beauty.

 A Little Bit of History

According to historian Plutarch, the city got its name from the word Katane, which means “grated”. The word refers to the uneven surface of the land surrounding Mount Etna, upon which the city of Catania stands.

Piazza Duomo (Cathedral Square) in Catania, Sicily, Italy - This is a main sqaure where the Cathedral dedicated to Saint Agatha is situated and where the elephant statue proudly stands. It is a great place to explore wonderful architecture and soak up the atmosphere of the city.Piazza Duomo (Cathedral Square), Catania, Sicily

This city was a Greek colony during the 8th century B.C., and later came under the Roman rule.

The Byzantines, Arabs and Normans were the next successive rulers, who contributed a lot to the culture and character of the city.

 It was constantly invaded and occupied along with the rest of Sicily, but it has the reputation for being resilient and tough on unwanted invaders.

Ursino Castle, a model of military architecture, was built by Frederic II as a coastal fortress to protect the city from the invaders.

Cathedral of Catania, Sicily, Italy - It is a beautiful cathedral dedicated to Saint Agatha situated in the centre of the town (Piazza Square) and it is one of the main landmarks of the city. The cathedral is a great place for architecture and photography lovers and a must-see attraction.Cathedral of Catania, Sicily

The symbol of the city is an elephant, and it is believed that in ancient times the pigmy elephants of the city chased away the enemies of its inhabitants.

The Volcano and the City

The lava from the volcano has predominantly damaged places and not the people. As the lava thankfully flows very slowly, the inhabitants have the time to flee its fury.

A large portion of Castle Ursino was buried beneath the lava.

Mount Etna has been the main cause of the city’s destruction, but the black volcanic rock from the mount has been used in the construction of the beautiful Baroque architectural buildings.

The city was rebuilt for the last time in 1700 and the town has been remodeled in the Roman style.

The straight parallel streets form a grid and bear little reminiscence of the Medieval, Byzantine or Arab architectural styles.

Etna Volcano in the Evening, Catania, Sicily, Italy - Visiting Mount Etna and the active volcano is a must-see experience for any traveler to Sicily. There are charming villages on the mountainside and wineries which is a great opportunity to enjoy delicious wines and food.Etna Volcano in the evening

Giovanni Battista Vaccarini was the architect who designed and reconstructed the most prestigious buildings.

This port city was home to great artists like composer Vincenzo Bellini and writer Giovanni Verga.

A celebration to honor the patron saint, Saint Agatha, takes place in the beginning of February, when a huge procession passes through the city’s historical center. Thousands of visitors come from Sicily and beyond.

Puppets are famous in Sicily and they represent figures from the crusade, all decked out in armor and carrying swords.

Where is Catania?

  • 34.1 miles/ 55 km from Taormina, Sicily, Italy
  • 61.5 miles/ 99 km from Messina, Sicily, Italy
  • 73.9 miles/ 119 km from Modica, Sicily, Italy
  • 130.4 miles/ 210 km from Palermo, Sicily, Italy
  • 197.5 miles/ 318 km fro Trapani, Sicily, Italy
  • 6.8 miles/ 11 km from Catania International Airport, Sicily, Italy
  • 150.3 miles/ 242 km from Palermo Airport, Sicily, Italy
  • 400.7 miles/ 645 km from Cagliari Elmas Airport, Sardinia, Italy

Things to See

  • Duomo Square
  • St. Agatha’s Cathedral
  • Ursino Castle
  • Roman Theater
  • Bellini Park
  • Museo Belliniano
  • Museo Emilio Greco
  • Via Alessi


  • Playa
  • The Lidi beach
  • Foce Benate


  • Mt. Etna
  • Walk to Castelmola from Taormina

Even though this city was damaged constantly by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, it has risen from the ashes like a headstrong city and continues to thrive until today.

In addition to being a historic city, it is a monument to survival.

We wish you a fantastic Mediterranean cruise!