Onward to the Southern Italian Island of Sicily
We left the hotel in Rome at 8.30 am to catch our 10 am flight from Rome to Catania. The night before, we requested the reception at our hotel to help us book a cab, which cost us €70. We would have paid roughly the same amount if we were to take the train to the airport. We thought booking the cab was a great idea, as this saved us the effort of lugging our luggage on the uneven Roman roads we experienced the first day we arrived in Rome. The ride from our hotel in Rome to Fiumicino Airport took around 40 mins. After checking in, we headed for the lounge for breakfast before heading to our flight to Catania.
Our flight to Catania landed on time for the 1 hr ride from Rome to Catania. After collecting our luggage, we proceeded to get bus tickets to Catania. From my research, there is a bus that would bring us directly to our hotel in the centre of Catania. We exited the Catania airport terminal on the right to get the tickets and found three ticket booths. We bought our bus tickets from the booth furthest from the entrance to the Airport terminal with the sign “SAIS: Messina -Palermo-Enna”. The ticketing staff gave us directions to the bus top in front of the terminal building with the symbol “ALiBus”, where we took the airport bus. A bus ticket to Catania ticket costs €4 one way. The bus ride to Catania City centre took around 30 mins, and we were helped by the friendly bus driver who ensured that we alighted at the correct stop. After settling into our hotel rooms, we headed to the hotel’s rooftop restaurant, where we could lunch with the stunning view of the snow-capped Mt Etna.
Exploring Catania’s City Centre
We kept our itinerary light today and explored the nearby Catania City Centre, which is highly walkable. The city’s town centre is located 10 mins walk down the street from our hotel. Along the way, we stopped by the Roman Amphitheater of Catania. The Roman Amphitheater sits on a large sinkhole in the middle of the streets, or it could be the whole city is built on top of the old city like Mexico City. It is a shame that we could only see the Roman Amphitheatre from street level as the entrance was closed when we visited. The Roman Amphitheater of Catania looks similar to the one we saw in Pompeii. We can still see the semi-circular seatings facing a stage. The entrances to the Amphitheater were still visible after standing here for more than 2,000 years. As we could not get into the Amphitheater, we continued our walk to the city centre.
As we walked to Piazza del Duomo, the city centre of Catania, we saw a Christmas market being set up at Piazza Università. Stores were selling locally produced food items like jams, chocolates and candies. There weren’t many stores at the Christmas market at the point of our visit, and maybe the Catanians were still setting up the market. Nevertheless, my friends got excited about the Christmas market and went on a shopping spree for the goods on sale. Despite the market’s small scale, the locally produced food was delicious and affordable.
I brought my friends to the symbol of Catania, a statue of an Elephant with an obelisk sitting in the centre of Piazza del Duomo just a stone’s throw away from Piazza Università. The elephant is made of lava and black basalt, and the Catanians believe this elephant symbolises good luck and would protect them from the Eruptions of Mt Etna. The major landmarks in Catania are located around Piazza del Duomo. Catania’s Duomo – Cattedrale di Sant’Agata is located across from the elephant statue. The Cattedrale di Sant’Agata is the largest cathedral in Catania, and its facade is adorned with sculptures. The cathedral’s interior is simple, and the paintings look as though they have not been restored. Other than a place for worshipping, we found some tombs inside the cathedral. One of the famous people buried here is Bellini, a famous opera composer born in Catania. There is also a glass casket of one of the Popes inside the cathedral.
We went for the dome climb at Chiesa della Badia di Sant’Agata which sits right across from Cattedrale di Sant’Agata on the recommendations from vloggers for a sunset view. The climb to the rooftop costs €5 and takes 170 steps. The stairs are generally easy to scale, except the last few steps on a spiral staircase might be a tad tight for some people. The top of Chiesa della Badia di Sant’Agata is a circular path surrounding the cathedral’s dome. We got a 360° view of Catania city, Mt Etna, and the ports. The view was breathtaking and worth every penny of the €5 we paid. It is a great spot to escape the hustle and bustle of Catania City, not as if the city was busy tonight. If not for today’s overcast sky, we would have seen the sunset from the dome of Chiesa della Badia di Sant’Agata. As the sun retires from a day’s work, the lighting replaced the light from the sun; we thought it was a sign for us to get going. We ended the day with a dinner nearby and returned to our hotel early for our early bus to Agrigento tomorrow.