I know that many of you visit Catania only because it has a well-connected airport with Poland, and then think of how to “escape” somewhere else. After all, Catania is a great base for many other historic, often more “obviously” more beautiful cities in the eastern part of Sicily.
After 3 months of living in the shadow of Mount Etna and traveling around its closer and further corners, I decided to prepare a list of the most beautiful places for you, away from Catania by a maximum of 2-3 hours. And in a separate article, I’ll convince you that it’s worth spending a little more time on Catania, because it has surprisingly much to offer. At the end of the article, you will find some practical information.
Let’s start from the beginning – Catania, which is currently one of my greatest Sicilian love. This city is brazenly and very unfairly overlooked in most guidebooks. I’ll never understand why!
First of all – Catania isn’t ugly. It’s full of beautiful monuments, lovely streets and interesting places. It’s not only located by the sea, but also close to the highest active volcano in Europe. Thanks to this, in Catania you’ll find many delicious culinary variations on pistachios! FOOD is one of the reasons why you should seriously consider an extended stay.
Besides, this city is a never-ending mystery. I’ve been living there for over 3 months and I’m constantly discovering something new. I can assure you that you won’t be bored. You just need to get off the beaten track.
Being near to Catania and avoiding to climb Mount Etna is a serious mistake. This volcano is the quintessence of Sicily, and a trip to its top is a guarantee of amazing experiences and a range of landscapes views.
Fun fact: did you know that Coldplay filmed the Violet Hill video in Etna? You must look at this!
Taormina and its surroundings are an exceptionally beautiful area. The surrounding mountains are very characteristic and, due to their unusual shapes, they are unforgettable. Besides, the view from Ancient theatre of Taormina to Mount Etna and the sea is so amazing that it’s hard to describe in words (the photo in the title is from there!). At first, it was a pity for me to spend 10 euros to enter the facility, but if I hadn’t, I’d have made one of the biggest mistakes in my life.
I’d put the most charming, but very crowded city center only in second place. I’m irritated by large groups of people in a small space – this atmosphere doesn’t allow me to enjoy this place in 100%. Since even in December there were crowds of people, I don’t want to think what Taormina looks like in the season. I found a respite only watching the beautiful sunset over the mysterious Isola Bella located at the foot of Taormina.
And how about get away from tourists a bit? It’s not that difficult – just go to a town located just above Taormina, a graceful Castelmoli. The views of Mount Etna, the mountains and the sea at the same time touch the heart. Castelmola is considered to be one of the most beautiful towns in Sicily, and I have no choice, but to confirm it!
Syracuse and Ortygia Island
Syracuse is, above all, a piece of beautiful history – ancient Greece, the home of Archimedes and the remains of ancient times. If you are interested in antiquity, you should consider a visit to the Archaeological Park (Parco Archeologico della Neapolis), which includes, among others, Greek theater, Roman amphitheater and the famous Ear of Dionysus.
Syracuse is connected by a bridge with the charming islet of Ortygia, where you can admire the baroque cathedral in Piazza Duomo and the Diana’s Fountain in Archimedes Square. Besides, near Syracuse there are some of the most beautiful beaches in the eastern part of Sicily – so take that into consideration while planning your vacation! From the Ortygia you can admire very nice views of the turquoise, transparent surface of the sea. Ah, and how could I forget the world’s best Italian panino in Caseificio Borderi!
Ragusa, and in particular Ragusa Ibla, is one of the most beautiful towns I’ve ever seen in Sicily. Don’t make up any detailed plan – just get lost in its charming streets that lead to the Cathedral of St. George.
Also, look for the most beautiful panorama with a view of its dome. And finally, rest in Giardino Ibleo – walking on Ragusa will surely tire you a little bit. In addition, in Ragusa I ate the best Sicilian street-food in my life – scaccia ragusana. Try it!
There used to be a famous tuna fish factory in Marzamemi. It’s one of the most instagrammable places in Sicily. Honestly, I thought it was a bit overrated, but nothing like that!
This charming fishing village has a unique atmosphere. Last year I was very lucky to spend an amazing afternoon there and watch the beautiful sunset on the second day of Christmas. In the spring of 2020 I got stuck in Sicily and thanks to this, after the end of the Italian lockdown, I was able to go on a trip to the magical Marzamemi again.
Piazza Regina Margherita with all the colorful Sicilian decorations was one of the most fabulous places I have ever seen in Sicily. I promise, you’ll fall in love, there is no other option!
Noto is another beautiful baroque town located in the east-south of Sicily, the center of which has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In case of colors, it’s the opposite of Catania – bright, monumental buildings in a honey shade take us to some completely different, fairy-tale dimension. And St. Nicholas with its famous stairs is really impressive.
Besides, Noto is only 23 km from Marzamemi – best if you visit these two places at the same time.
How to travel in the eastern part of Sicily?
Catania is brilliantly connected with other towns in the area. One of the best and cheapest options is to get around the eastern part of Sicily by Interbus buses. A very profitable solution is to buy tickets “there and back” – this way you’ll save a few euros. A return ticket isn’t bought for a specific time, so you can return by any bus (if on the same day).
Besides, good connections to other parts of Sicily (e.g. to Palermo) offers SAIS bus network.
More expensive option, but also worth to consider is train, which schedule you will check here.
And what was your favorite town in eastern Sicily? Follow my profile on Instagram to get to be up to date with my culinary journeys around Italy!