Catania Car Hire
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Catania is Sicily’s second-largest city after Palermo and it’s located on the island’s east coast, facing the Ionian sea. The city’s urban area has a population of 311,000 but its wider metropolitan area is home to over 1.1 million people, making it the seventh-largest metropolis in Italy. Set against the dramatic backdrop of volcanic Mount Etna, in the 17th Century Catania was engulfed by lava and suffered a devastating earthquake in quick succession but rose like a phoenix form the flames to evolve into a vibrant, youthful, outward-looking city. If you enjoy cool bars, captivating culture and an inclusive, down to earth spirit, you’ll love Catania’s awesome ambience.
You can bag bargains if you shop around when eating out and buying gifts in Catania and the same principle applies to online car hire here. For instance, a mini-sized car like a Fiat Panda presently costs just £110 for four days, a Vauxhall Corsa (economy) is only £112 for four days and even a luxury/intermediate car like a BMW 1 Series ̶ ideal for touring the island in comfort ̶ is just £189 for the same duration. Hire a car with Enjoy and you can explore Catania and beyond, but here’s the lowdown on this legendary city before you hit the road.
- About Catania: the abundance of late-Baroque architecture in the city’s old town earned it the accolade of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site and when you stroll around Piazza Del Duomo you’ll understand why ̶ it’s home to the majestic Basilica Cattedrale Sant’Agatha, the stunning Palazzo Delgi Elefanto and much more. The climate is typically a balmy 25-30 degrees from May right through to October, there are beaches a stone’s throw from the city where you can cool off, and the cultural calendar includes the biggest craft beer festival in Italy, held twice a year in May and November, while a range of chic cafes, bars and restaurants satisfy all year round. Throw Mount Etna’s pulsating presence into this heady mix and it’s no wonder that Catania charms everyone who spends time here.
- Airports and access: Catania-Fontanarossa Airport (CTA) is international hub situated 4.3 km southwest of Catania. It’s Sicily’s largest airport, processing 9.9 million passengers annually, which also ranks it as Italy’s fifth busiest. CTA partners with carriers like easyJet, Ryanair, KLM, Lufthansa and Alitalia, flying to destinations like Rome, Berlin, Amsterdam, Munich and many more.
- Driving around Catania: there’s plenty of dynamic driving around Catania ̶ here are a few road trips to get your motor running.
- Famous Catania: a number of Italy’s most revered creatives have either come from Catania or lived here at the peak of their powers, including writers Nino Martoglio, Federico De Roberto, Luigi Capuana and Giovanni Verda, as well as composers Giovanni Pacini and Vincenzo Bellini. In more recent times, TV star Stefania Spampinato, singer Lorenzo fregola, fencer Rossella Fiamingo and movie actress Laura Torrisi.
Founded in 729 BC by Chalcidian Greeks (hailing from Chalcis on the Greek island of Euboea), Catania first came to prominence in the 5th Century BC when it was conquered and renamed Aetna after the volcano by Hieron I of Syrcause. In 263 BC it fell to the Romans, then over subsequent centuries power passed to the Byzantines, Arabs and Normans. The 16th and 17th Centuries were tumultuous times, with Catania suffering epidemics, famines, pirate attacks, a major eruption of Etna in 1669 and a large earthquake in 1693. It subsequently came under control of the Bourbon Kingdom of Naples, united with other cities on the island to claim Sicilian self-rule in 1848 (a move which was severely suppressed), became part of Italy in 1861 and in 1946 was finally granted autonomy after Italy became a republic, a status it retains to this day.
You can’t leave Catania without driving up to Mount Etna, which is an hour’s journey north via the SP120 and SP92. This is Europe’s largest volcano and it has been continuously erupting for a mind-blowing 500,000 years. As well as hiking, driving or riding up the peak, in winter you can even ski at the Etna Nord resort!
If you’re a history buff, you’ll love Syracusa, around a 50-minute drive south via the E45. This 2700 yar old city is steeped in Greek and Roman history and its archaeological park is a treasure-trove of ancient architecture. The nearby island of Ortigia is a must see and legend has it that this is the birthplace of the twin Greek gods Artemis and Apollo ̶ access is via one of its two bridges and you’ll be rewarded with the Temple of Apollo, the Duomo di Syracusa (a stunning cathedral and UNESCO World Heritage Site) and a colourful farmer’s market where you can pick up fabulous fresh local produce.
Continue southwest from Syracusa via the E45 and in under an hour you’ll reach Modica, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site with some seriously impressive Baroque architecture. But that’s not all ̶ this is also one of the best places in the world to sample an amazing array of chocolate. With everything from varieties that the Spanish borrowed from the Aztecs aeons ago to sumptuous contemporary blends, this is heaven for chocoholics!
Guide to Catania
Now that you know how to drive to Mount Etna from Catania, some information on how to make the most of your pilgrimage should prove useful and there are several options to suit different levels of fitness and budget. From Etna Sud you can see the terrific twin craters of the Silvestri Crateri and access a lovely hiking trail to Val del Bove where you’re rewarded by stunning views over a magnificent landscape that resembles Mars more than Earth. However, you can also scale the peak via quad bike or donkey, or hop on the funicular from Etna Sud a little higher up and then hitch a rugged jeep ride right to the top if you don’t mind splashing out around €50-60 per person. But however you get there, walking on a live volcano that’s been dispensing lava from the depths of the Earth for half a million years is certainly an experience you’ll never forget!
Piazza Duomo is Catania’s main square and it’s surrounded on all sides by eye-popping architecture. Cattedrale di Sant’Agata is a beautiful Baroque structure that also contains Roman columns appropriated from the amphitheatre and an intricate interior with a clutch of ornate chapels and the burial sites of celebrated composer Vincenzo Bellini and Aragonese monarchs Frederick II, Louis and Frederick III. Across the square stands the impressive town hall (Municipio) completed in 1741, but the centrepiece is the iconic lava elephant fountain which has become the city’s talismanic symbol. Southwest of Piazza Duomo lies Piazza Federico di Svevia and the ancient fortress of Castello Ursino, built by Frederick II in the 13th Century on a rocky cliff looking over the sea. Don’t miss the Teatro Romano in Via Vittorio Emanuele ̶ built from lava stone in the 2nd Century AD on the site of a Greek theatre, most of the original decorative features are now missing but its amazing amphitheatre seating area provide an impressive reminder of its former glory.
If you’re a social butterfly, Catania’s packed cultural calendar means there’s always something exciting to do whenever you visit. If you’re a fan of ballroom dancing, the Festival Internazionale di Tango della Sicilia is held annually in the middle of August and as well as watching the professionals compete against each other at Romano Palace Hotel, you can try it yourself at public sessions on Lido Azzuro Beach. Alternatively, the Acireale Carnival is held at the end of February/start of March ̶ locals use colourful flowers to create humorous statues, there’s a mass confetti fight, dance, music and theatre performances, games and contests. Additionally, if you’re in town on February 5th you’ll see the lively and emotional celebration of St Agatha, Catania’s patron saint, and at Easter, Christmas and New Year, the city skies are electrified with fabulous fireworks and the whole area is decked out at its finest.
What to do in Catania?
Brilliant Bars and Clubs
If you like lively nights, you’ll be in your element in Catania, where the action hots up as the sun goes down. Start your evening at laid-back wine bars like Razmataz or Enoteco Sud Est, or sample a perfectly poured pint or three at traditional pub The Stag’s Head, then head to the Enola Jazz Club to soak up the ambience in concerts featuring Italian and international jazz acts. To top off your night, visit Red Light to bust moves to blast from the past hits, or head 20 minutes out of town to Mercati Generali, a stunning, palm-fringed open-air club with three separate performance spaces ̶ you’ll hear everything from R&B and Hip-Hop to Drum & Bass and famous DJs like Manu Chao and Gilles Peterson have graced the wheels of steel here.
Apart from the wide range of local food and crafts available in Catania’s buzzing markets, there are many other opportunities to shop ‘til you drop in the city. The gigantic Etnapolis mall boasts 120 shops, 10 restaurants and a 12 screen Warner Village cinema. You’ll find coveted brands like North Sails, Guess, Kiko Makeup Milano, Conforama, Miriade and many more. Alternatively, the rival I Portali mall hosts over 100 big brands including Kappa, Bugatti Station, Guess, Sandro Ferrone, Cisalfa, and AW LAB, as well as 10-pin bowling and a drive-in cinema. Meanwhile, if you want to pick up some fine Sicilian wines and other local artisan foodstuffs, Nelson Sicily in Catania’s historic city centre is definitely your bag.
Sports and pastimes
Feeling adventurous? You can explore Mazzaro Bay on an organised boat trip that takes you through s series of spectacular lava caves, including the Blue Grotto Cave and Ice Cave. Alternatively, head across to Vulcano Island, where you can stroll along black sand beaches, enjoy a cathartic hot mud bath or hike to the peak to take in panoramic views. Football fans can also feed their passions here by heading along to Stadio Angelo Massimino to see Calcio Catania play the beautiful game with Sicilian flair and passion. This is the 12th most popular club in Italy, with an estimated 600,000 fans.
Eating out in Catania
Catania’s rich volcanic soil has been fertile ground for producing fresh produce for generations and as well as formal dining, as you wander around you can pick up delicious sweet and savoury street food like arancini (deep-fried balls of rice in breadcrumbs with various fillings), cartocciata (pastry rolls packed with olives, cooked ham and mozzarella), spicy peperino pepato cheese and sweet granita prepared with almonds and topped with a shot of espresso. Here are a few gastronomical highlights:
Street food while you stroll
An excellent way to sample all of the aforementioned treats and more is by booking a Catania street food walking tour online with Streaty. This comprehensive three-hour tour takes you through the main piazza, Beneditti and Via dei Crociferi areas, pausing at stalls and bakeries along the way to sample the city’s finest tantalising tastes. Your expert guide will provide a fascinating history lesson while you stroll along stuffing yourself and you’ll take away a customised ‘food passport’ as a reminder of every delicacy you’ve scoffed.
Affordable fine dining
For a sit-down meal where you can enjoy excellent cuisine for around €30-€50 per person, head to Sagré restaurant at Corso delle Province. The slow cooked beef shank is sublime, seafood fans will be completely satisfied with the tuna belly or seabass, there’s a range of vegetarian and vegan options and the wine list is deep and diverse. The food is lovingly prepared, beautifully presented and served with a smile ̶ everything you could ask for in an authentic Sicilian dining experience.
Catania has several first-class specialist pastry shops and bakeries to choose from. But for our money, Pasticceria Ficarra Luigi is probably the finest ̶ located on Via Umberto, here you’ll find inspirational ice cream, freshly baked cannoli, fabulous freshly-ground coffee and an endless selection of cakes and tarts. Forget about the calories for a day and treat yourself to desserts to die for!
Catania is served by Catania-Fontanarossa Airport (CTA), which is just 4.3km from the city centre. Enjoy works with a range of tried and trsted car hire operators at CTA, including Enterprise, Alamo, Ecovia and Goldcar.
Buses and metro
Public transport in Catania is covered by a bus network and small underground metro service. AMT buses cover the city centre and suburbs and you can ride all day for a small fee, while services from bus companies ETNA and SAIS can take you elsewhere on the island. The Metro service takes you from the train station to the Misterbianco area and has several stops on the way.
You should always drive on the right-hand side of the road in Catania, Sicily and throughout Italy. The speed limits are 130 km/h (80 mph) for motorways, 110 km/h (68 mph) on minor highways outside urban areas, 90 km/h (56 mph) for local roads and 50 km/h (31 mph) for urban areas.
The drink driving limit is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml blood, wearing seatbelts is mandatory for the driver and all passengers and using mobile phones isn’t allowed unless they’re hands-free.
When you’re hitting the road for the day, always carry your driver’s license, passport and insurance documentation with you.
Parking is known as ‘Parcheggio’ and blue signs signify pay and display parking areas.
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