- The city is quite big and the circulation a bit chaotic. Best is to park the car in the center and do everything by foot.
- The main points of interests are within the historic center.
- Great view on the Etna!
We stayed at the B&B San Placido Inn in the historic center. Decent sized bedroom with private roof terrace overseing the ETNA and the sea. Lovely breakfast with fresh and delicious pastry!
🚲 Getting there
We drove about 20 minutes from the airport. Note again the traffic is a bit hazardous. We parked the car all night and day at the Parking Borsellino (5min walk) for 10euros and no issues.
We stayed two nights and one full day, but felt that is a great basecamp so probably three nights would have been better if time allows.
Historic center ⛪️
As you can imagine, the historic center is full of beautiful churches, piazza and old magnificent buildings. There’s plenty to do and visit, and probably if you like this a full day is needed. Not being huge fans of museums, after checking in at the hotel we simply took a walk around in the city street in the evening when the heat went down, joining locals for the digestive chill lovely walk.
After checking out the main areas (Castello Ursino, Via Etna and Fontana dell’Elefante), we went to grab an amazing tuna sandwich with some fried calamari at the Scirocco Sicilian Fish Lab that we cannot recommend enough!!! Just go there and grab awesome street food for a very good price! If you go there in the morning, there’s also a great fish market in front every day.
We then carried on our little evening giro, grabbed an awesome ice-cream at the famous Don Peppinu and a cold beer to go! As said before, there’s plenty to do and visit, but we were happy with simply enjoying local lifestyle!
Visit Taormina 🎭
The next day, after enjoying amazing pastries at the hotel, we drove for about one hour north toward Taormina. Lovely drive on the highway, between the Etna and the sea, where we could spot lava flows on the mountain side.
Upon arrival, we parked the car at the massive Porta Catania Parking, and made our way up to the main car-free street of the city. From there, we again strolled around, passing by the local duomo, Piazza IX Aprile, up to the fantastic Teatro Antico. We paid 10 euros each, and climbed the stairs up to the amphi-theatre, to admire the wonderful ruins overlooking the sea cost at the sunset. We 100% recommend to do that end of afternoon around 6PM when it’s not too hot!
We then walked back again in the main street, grabbed a spritz while enjoying the view in one of the thousands bars, and then went to get some local food. Careful, plenty of restaurants are over-priced (including the one we tried) so have a look at foursquare before picking your place! Taormina is definitely a super beautiful place, but also packed with Dior and Channel shops, so basically fancy but pricey!
We did not had time but we would have love to stop by FiumeFredo (Godfather reference) and also stop by the bottom beach for a quick swim, probably a good idea to leave Catania around 2PM and stop on the way.
Etna half-day tour 🌋
Following day, we woke up with calm and made our way by car to the Etna basecamp, called Rifugio Sapienza in about 1h30 from Catania center (it’s not that close). Upon arrival, we found a massive parking with plenty of shops and adventure tour trying to sell us their services.
We parked the car (for free), and made our way to the base of the telecabin, and bought two tickets (telecabin and bus pass) for 70 euros each. We then jumped in the telecabin for about 5min, and at the top took one of those Jeep-Bus to drive us closed to the cratere. We then walked around with a guide for like 30min, saw some ice recovered by ashes, lava streams from super far and the active cratere. We then jumped back in the bus and did a second stop on our way down to another cratere before arriving back to the top of the telecabin.
Some tips about this since we found a bit confusing all the informations around:
- It was not that cold, about 25 degres at the top compare to 30 at the bottom. Taking a jacket is a good idea, along with good shoes but it’s nothing crazy. We are talking about June here heh!
- You can do everything by walk and not pay a penny, but that’s not trolley travel style. Even if expensive, big time saver to take both bus and telecabin!
- It’s possible to actually go and see the lava from super close, but a specific expedition needs to be booked in advance with guide that takes the whole day. We were a bit gutted to find this out too late.
- The basecamp sounds like a super basic place but it’s actually super touristic with tons of shops, restaurants and so on. Nothing crazy but super handy!
- As you can imagine, there’s ashes everwhere and it’s super dusty.
- We arrived a 12PM and left around 2PM so it’s actually quite fast to do, however a bit tiring.
- We were there on a Friday and we didn’t queue at all.
- The road to get there is turning a lot but super easy.
- Having our own car was awesome since we did not need any tour.
Post hike and merenda, we made our way slowly to Modica, with a cheeky stop at Bar Condorelli Belpasso on the way to try the original Canolli. Please do stop at this small pasty shop, they do the canolli on demand and they are just too good to miss (also very cheap!).
- Scirocco Sicilian Fish Lab: Super cheap seafood in a ‘street-food’ style.
- Don Peppinu: Amazing ice cream shop.
- Bar Condorelli Belpasso: Delicious canolli.