A Few Days in Catania

A Few Days in Catania

After spending the best part of 5 days in Cefalù, Steve and I made our way via our hire car to Catania. What a difference in location. Cefalù in its medieval magnificence with manicured gardens and clean streets was the polar opposite of the graffitied walls and grubby looking exterior of Catania. We arrived early Saturday afternoon in the blistering summer heat and were keen to get ourselves acquainted with our bed & breakfast and surrounding area.

We had a reservation at Centro Storico B & B right in the heart of Catania old town. The room was a delight. A large room with high ceilings and a bathroom en-suite. Decorated beautifully, complete with air conditioning, tea and coffee making facilities, a mini fridge and a delightful terrace. I loved our little home from home for the weekend. Rated 9.6 on Bookings.com we had found a gem of a place.

The location couldn’t have been more perfect for us too. With the cathedral, theatre and many of the sights of Catania only 650 meters away. Everything was within walking distance.

We took ourselves out exploring the local area in search of mini fridge supplies for our pre-drinks and nibbles. Local wine and beer purchased along with olives, cheese and salted snacks we headed back out of the sweltering late afternoon heat.

After showering away the day and putting our glad rags on it was time for our usual holiday ritual. Snacks and an aperitivo on our cute little balcony. Terracotta tiles, whitewashed walls and pot plants galore, complete with comfortable seating this balcony was hitting all the right holiday boxes. Enjoying our drinks whilst listening to music gives us a bit of time to research on Trip Advisor and the like for recommendations for places to eat and drink.

It was a Saturday night so we were a little concerned that we might not get in anywhere but we thought we would try our luck in an area about a 20-25 minute walk from our B & B. The area we had earmarked was adjacent to Castello Ursino. We had found a restaurant called Il Gambero Pazzo with great reviews that we were keen to try. Unfortunately when we arrived, as expected it was fully booked for that evening so we promptly booked for the following night so as not to miss out on the opportunity.

On leaving we followed the road around in the direction of the castle in search of a bar and a restaurant. We stumbled across this amazing square called Piazza Federico di Svevia complete with a read and return library and artwork hanging from the trees. With a truly bohemian vibe, we figured it was a perfect place to stop. The nearest bar was really just a kiosk (Bar Chiosco In 68) with seating but it was full of locals. Couples, friends and families all enjoying what was on offer. Granita with brioche, cocktails, snacks, wine and beers. It may have looked a little rough and ready but I instantly fell for the place. I loved the laid back simplicity. Steve ordered a beer and myself an Aperol Spritz and our bill was €4. We were completely amazed at the prices considering we were right in the hub of the city. The bar was a perfect spot for people watching and a great pre-dinner stop off.

Next door to my ‘new favourite bar’ was a restaurant called Il Borgo di Federico, a typical Italian restaurant. Again, this place was full of locals enjoying a night out. Mostly large family groups with a smattering of couples like Steve and myself. With no other English accents in earshot, we asked if they could squeeze us in. Squeeze us in they most certainly did with a small table in the corner. Not that we were bothered. We were both pleased to be seated somewhere in this cool neighbourhood late on a Saturday night. Steve ordered pizza and I ordered a salad. With a couple of large beers and a bottle of water our bill came to €27. A bargain I thought. The food was far from gourmet but it was very tasty and just what we wanted. Excuse the photos here. Phone camera in the dodgy light!)

After a good nights sleep, breakfast was served. Our Bed and Breakfast host Salvatore had provided us with a fabulous feast. Juice, coffee, toast with ham, eggs and cheese and fresh fruit. It was amazing and I couldn’t fault it one bit. Being able to sit out on our private balcony whilst enjoying a leisurely breakfast was the perfect start to the day.

Following breakfast, we had set aside some time for the red bus sightseeing tour with a company called Tourist Service. We figured it was the best way to see the main tourist sites without a car. To be honest, in the city centre most of the main touristic areas are close enough to walk but the red bus tour took you up along the coast to a couple of smaller villages that had ruins of importance and gorgeous views. The red bus tour is a hop on, hop off affair or you can choose to stay on for the whole route. We decided that we would do that so that we could enjoy the afternoon at our leisure. The tour cost €30 per person (July 2018) and in my opinion was a really good way of seeing the city and surrounding areas highlights. Taking approximately 1 and a half hours from start to finish it meant that we could still explore ourselves afterwards.

Whilst on the tour we noticed a flea market behind the Cathedral square which we earmarked for a visit later on. On returning we made our way straight over and managed to catch the end. We must have got there around 1pm. It was winding down but still enough to look at. With pure guesswork, I would say it ran from 10am – 1pm (Sunday). In a way I wish we had got there a little earlier to have a real good rummage. I do love a flea market.

We decided it was definitely gelato time after the market as it was so darn hot. We headed over to Prestipino Cafe near Piazza Duomo. I had it in my mind that I really wanted to try a gelato con brioche before leaving Sicily. Imagine a buttery brioche bun, split and filled with gelato. I chose almond, hazelnut and black currant cheesecake flavours and it was truly one of the nicest ways of eating ice cream. A gelato sandwich if you will. So darn good and you HAVE to try one when in Sicily.

With the sun being so strong and the temperatures soaring throughout the afternoon we took ourselves back to our adorable bed and breakfast to cool off in the air conditioning, have a beer and some nibbles then get ready for our final evening in Catania.

Thankfully with our booking already confirmed at Il Gamberro Pazzo we knew we didn’t have to concern ourselves with more research. It was a case of getting ready and heading off back to the Piazza Federico di Svevia for drinks at Bar Chiosco In 68. I switched up my Aperol for a Negroni and Steve ordered himself a beer. Another €4 Bar bill suited us just fine. Whilst we were enjoying our drinks we noticed a group of people setting up what looked like a stage and mixing desk. So putting two and two together we concluded there must be live music later on that evening. We decided we would return after supper to check it out.

Dinner at Il Gamberro Pazzo didn’t disappoint. We had asked for a table outside on booking so when we arrived we were ushered out on to their cute terrace. From outside you wouldn’t have guessed that they would have outside seating but that they did and enough space for about 7 or 8 tables. Soft lighting and candlelight contributed to the ambiance.

We decided on the set menu which seemed fantastic value at €25 per head. A selection of fish starters, a main course of seafood pasta or fish, sorbet, water, wine and limoncello to finish. Every dish that came out was exquisite. Razor clams, mussels, octopus, swordfish, the list goes on and on. It was a true seafood extravaganza. I opted for the seafood pasta and Steve had a large swordfish steak. Our dessert was the most refreshing blood orange sorbetto with a limoncello alongside. I really couldn’t fault the evening. The setting, the attentive staff and amazing seafood that was as fresh as fresh could be. It was absolutely wonderful and a definite Catania highlight for me.

After dinner we headed back to the cute square we had discovered previously. Just as we thought, there was a fabulous folk band wowing the crowds. This was the the best way to end our evening. We stayed and watched until nearly midnight before heading back to our B & B for our final night.

Breakfast served and enjoyed, Steve and I packed up our belongings and said farewell to our host Salvatore. We made our way over to Catania Railway station to pick up the shuttle bus to the airport.

Visiting Catania was a great shout after our time in Cefalù. Going from the seaside into the city showed us two opposing sides to the island. It was a shame we only had two days to explore. I would love to head back and experience more of the fine dining and cultural events that it has to offer. There really is something about Sicily that has captured my heart.

If you fancy reading about my visits to Cefalù click here to read “A Few Days In Cefalù” and here to read “A Few More Days In Cefalù”.

Disclaimer: I was not asked to write or paid to write this post. I just wanted to share my holiday experience with you all.

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