Catania is a coastal city ideally located on the east side of the island of Sicily, nestled at the foot of Mount Etna, Europe’s highest active volcano. It’s the region’s second-largest Sicilian city and the capital of the province of Catania, whose topography, history, and landscape were uniquely transformed following the volcano’s ferocious eruptions over the centuries.
With its strategic location and easy bus and train connections, Catania makes an ideal base to explore numerous Sicilian highlights. While it has many features and offerings to satisfy your wanderlust, you need to go beyond the city and discover the Eastern part of Sicily. It will allow you to see other historic towns, charming fishing villages, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and a range of evocative beaches just within an hour and 30 minutes from the metropolis.
And if, for some reason, your day trips fall through or you decide to postpone your plan on your next visit, don’t despair. The best museums in Catania, monuments, galleries, shopping, and other fantastic attractions are more than enough to keep you entertained and busy throughout your stay. But whether you plan to go on a day trip or stay in the city, you don’t want to carry your suitcases, shopping purchases, or whatever is weighing you down while sightseeing. Store them in a luggage locker in Catania to travel light and hassle-free.
How to get out of Catania
Catania has a working public transport system that serves not only the historic city center but also the surrounding areas. A network of bus routes serves the city of Catania, with bus lines covering many major tourist spots. There are also some train services that will take you from Catalina to other towns outside the city.
But those who know how to get around Catania and understand the ins and outs of moving around here know that its mode of public transport isn’t always adequate and efficient. You’ll likely deal with traffic jams and heavy traffic, which can be difficult for locals and tourists.
Sure, bus and train connections between popular day trip destinations exist, but bus service can be spotty, and the train network primarily focuses on major cities. That’s why renting a car is probably the best way to go for day trips from Catania. It will give you more independence and flexibility, as you can be in control of your schedule and time.
From Catania to Piazza Armerina
Piazza Armerina is one of the most frequented tourist destinations in the heart of Sicily, about an hour and twenty minutes from Catania. Visitors flock here each year to catch a glimpse of the marvelous mosaics in the Villa Romana del Casale, a UNESCO World Heritage site built in the fourth century. It is believed to contain the world’s richest, most complex, largest, and best-preserved collection of Roman mosaics.
Other cultural attractions in Piazza Armerina include the Museo Archeologico, featuring finds from the Villa Romana del Casale, Chiesa di San Martino, one of the town’s oldest churches built in 1663, and Via Monte. The town also has a range of bars, cafes, and restaurants that provide a great stop during your day trips from Catania.
How to get to Piazza Armerina
The best way to get to Piazza Armerina from Catania is by car, allowing you to stop at various interesting places like Caltigirone or Enna. If you don’t fancy renting a car, there’s a direct bus from the city of Catania, which will take about an hour and 40 minutes to travel. You’ll also need to take another taxi or bus to the site. Always check the schedule before planning your day trips, as there are fewer buses on weekends.
From Catania to Taormina
Taormina is undoubtedly one of the best day trips from Catania you need to plan, whether you’re traveling solo or with loved ones. It is nestled on a rocky terrace above the Ionian Sea, offering spectacular views of Etna and the sea.
Its most significant tourist attraction is the ancient Greek theatre or Teatro Greco, originally built in the third century BC. It's the world's most dramatically situated ancient Greek theater and the second-largest in Sicily, with Mount Etna looming on the horizon. But besides the ancient ruins, there’s more to see and do here, from exploring the wonderful town and the historical center and strolling in the gardens and streets to marveling at the Baroque architecture and church interiors.
See the Piazza IX Aprile that lies along Corso Umberto or take the route to Castello di Taormina. This castle features a tower that stands on the site of the old Acropolis, offering spectacular views. If you’re visiting in the summer, you can swim at the glorious Isola Bella, an absolute gem along the coast of Taormina.
How to get to Taormina
Catch the train from Catania Centrale Train Station with a stop at Taormina-Giardini train station. The train ride is about 50 minutes to an hour. Then, take a bus to Porta Messina or a fixed taxi ride from the train station for $15.
From Catania to Syracuse
A day trip to Syracuse is a journey you didn’t know you needed until you witnessed its impressive buildings and natural attractions. Head to its historical center, the small baroque island of Ortigia, and you could spend hours wandering the coastal lookouts, alleyways, and historical landmarks.
Also called Siracusa, the old town is joined by three bridges and is brimming with history and culture. Here, you’ll find everything from Roman and Greek ruins to Baroque architecture, Norman buildings, and more.
An enormous earthquake damaged Eastern Sicily, including Ortigia. So in the years after the devastating earthquake, several charming buildings in ‘Sicilian Baroque’ were erected. This offers a charming combination of decrepit and crumbling buildings standing close to detailed monuments and magnificent infrastructures today.
Perhaps, a perfect example of Sicilian Baroque architecture is the expansive Piazza del Duomo. It’s an extraordinary ensemble of well-restored public buildings and churches that looks magnificent when lighted at night. Underneath the paving stones below the piazza are ancient quarries, tunnels, and cisterns under the Archbishop’s palace.
How to get to Syracuse
It takes approximately an hour and fifteen minutes to travel from Catania Centrale station to Syracuse by train. Typically, eleven trains travel from the city of Catania to Syracuse daily, and ticket prices start from around $4.
If you want to take the bus, there are regular Interbus buses between two areas, which may take an hour and 25 minutes. The bus leaves from the bus station in Catania and arrives at the town center bus station, just a couple of blocks from the Syracuse train station.
From Catania to Mount Etna
Planning a day trip from Catania to Mount Etna may seem intimidating. After all, it’s not every day that you get to explore an enormous active volcano and the biggest in the country. But the other-worldly atmosphere and fascinating landscape at the volcano’s craters and summits are something you don’t want to miss.
At about 2,000 meters above sea level from Refugio Sapienza, you can walk, jeep, or cable car to the summit at 3,000 meters. It offers spectacular views of secular lava flows, verdant vineyards, craters, woods, and citrus groves planted around the mountain. It attracts tourists and outdoor enthusiasts from around the world looking for a memorable adventure on the island of Sicily.
Mount Etna is accessible through the roads from Zafferana and Nicolosi. While you can visit the volcano without a guide, a guided tour is required if you want to see the highest craters at 3,300 meters. The cable car arrives at 2,500 meters, and the tour can be continued with independent trekking.
How to get to Mount Etna
Driving a car is the easiest and most convenient way to get to Mt. Etna from Catania. But if you’re determined to take the bus, the AST bus will depart from the small lot close to the stands outside the train station at 8:15 AM. It will take you to Refugio Sapienza, the closest you can get on a bus. Then it will return at 4:40 PM, driving back to Catania for up to two hours.
From Catania to Caltagirone
Known as the city of ceramics in Sicily, the gorgeous hilltop city of Caltagirone is located in the province of Catania, an hour’s drive from the Metropolitan city. It isn’t a very popular day trip from Catania, but it’s a place you’ll fall in love with once you visit.
As you walk through the town, you’ll find ceramics everywhere, on signs, railings, in the shops, and embedded into walls. There are also hundreds of ceramics shops here, so you could spend half a day browsing the selection until you find a perfect gift item or souvenir to take home.
You can’t leave without setting foot at the grand staircase of Santa Maria del Monte, a breathtaking staircase connecting the lower and higher part of the city. It was built in 1606, featuring 142 lava steps, exceeding a total of fifty meters in altitude and eight meters in height.
Then, take the opportunity to stroll or bike at the Riserva Naturale Bosco di Santo Pietro. It’s a protected natural area between Mazzarrone and Caltagirone with numerous trails, more than 300 plant species, and gorgeous landscapes.
How to get to Caltagirone
Etna Transporti has bus routes that will take you from Catania to Caltagirone. The travel distance is approximately 69 kilometers, and the fastest bus has a travel time of one hour and twelve minutes. The latest departure is at 5:33 PM, with a ticket range that starts from about $6.
From Catania to Savoca
A small hilltop village in the province of Messina, Savoca is an easy day trip from Catania, just about an hour’s drive from the city. It’s a hidden gem often overlooked by travelers but is now gaining attention due to its interesting cultural sights and beautiful old churches.
The Church of Santa Maria in Cielo Assunta is one of the village’s important monuments. It is Savoca’s main church, built in 1130, featuring a gabled façade with a unique Renaissance central portal.
But perhaps, its main appeal lies in its general setting and relaxing atmosphere, giving a perfect respite from the city’s hustle and bustle. Its off-the-beaten-path location and limited major attractions and sights are a part of its charm, saving the village from being overrun by flocks of tourists.
However, it doesn’t mean that Savoca doesn’t have anything to offer its visitors. Apart from the ruins and ancient buildings, it boasts amazing rural views, encompassing mountains, distant hill towns, cultivated terraces, steep green valleys, and far-off Mt. Etna. It also has a little square, which was used as a filming location for The Godfather. There’s also a village museum exhibiting photographs and mementos related to the movie's filming.
How to get to Savoca
Access to the village can be challenging if you don’t have a car, so renting one can be your best bet. While there are buses you can catch from the Santa Teresa di Riva below, they may be unreliable. You also have the option to catch a taxi, but it can be a bit costly.
The best Catania day trip
Catania is a wonderful place with its rooftop bars and fabulous treats to try. And whether you’re based in Catania and looking for a change in environment or a tourist seeking further adventures, day trips in Catania will give you unparalleled Sicilian experiences. The city itself is full of charms and has a wide variety of activities to cater to your style and interest. But a trip to its neighboring cities, towns, and villages allows you to see the other sides of the region, its color, landscape, culture, and history.
If you have additional days, consider spending a night at one of the places there. Take a walking tour during the day, see more of the sites, enjoy their food, and revisit your favorite places. Wander around, enjoy your freedom, and immerse yourself in their culture. Don’t be afraid to get lost in the many streets and walkways.