Catania is the second-largest city on the laid-back Italian island of Sicily. With Mount Etna as a backdrop and views out to the sparkling Ionian Sea, it's a real feast for the eyes. Most of Catania was rebuilt after it was destroyed in an earthquake in 1693; today, you'll find impressive Baroque buildings from its architectural rebirth dotted all across town. Catania's other main drawcards include its golden beaches – La Playa is a local favourite – and traditional cuisine like arancini (deep-fried rice balls).
Many hostels in Catania are set in elegantly restored buildings in the heart of the historic centre. Bed down in a former 17th-century palace with ornate ceilings, or in a modern capsule dorm that dishes up a hearty free breakfast every morning. Sun-seekers can stay in a hostel located mere metres from the beach. Several Catania hostels have courtyards and roof terraces that are perfect for relaxing, while others have self-catering kitchens for whipping up your own meals.
The city’s main thoroughfare, Via Etnea, is lined with modern shops, cafes and pizzerias. In contrast, the centuries-old Via Crociferi offers a very different vibe, with historic attractions such as the Arco di San Benedetto and the Piazza Stesicoro, which houses the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre. Teeming with locals, Via Santa Filomena is the place to go for heaped platefuls of Sicilian favourites such as pasta alla Norma – a traditional pasta dish with aubergines and ricotta. At sundown, the beach lidos transform into buzzing nightlife hotspots.
When it comes to sightseeing, Piazza del Duomo is a must-visit for attractions like the Cattedrale di Sant'Agata and the Fontana dell'Elefante, carved from black lava. Giardino Bellini is Catania’s oldest urban park, and with its shaded boulevards it's a serene escape from the bustling city. At the seaside village of Aci Castello, around 9km north of Catania, you can sample world-class gelato while enjoying views over the harbour.
Catania Fontanarossa Airport is located 7km south-west of the city centre. You can get into the city with the Alibus service, which runs to and from the airport every 20 minutes from 5am until midnight. From mainland Italy, you can reach Catania by boat, or via an Intercity train that is ferried across the strait to nearby Messina. When in Catania, AMT buses ply the streets, terminating in front of Catania Centrale train station.