Don’t miss out on some of the best day trips from Catania, taking you to some of the top places Sicily has to offer!!
Sat on the eastern coast of Sicily, Catania is the island’s second-largest city. With Mount Etna sat smouldering in its background, Catania is a fascinating city to explore with plenty for you to see and do to keep you busy for a week!
With an airport located just outside the city perimeters, and easy train and bus connections, Catania is the perfect base to explore the eastern and southern areas of Sicily. But with UNESCO world heritage sites, charming towns, and natural places of beauty all located within 1 hour 30 minutes distance from the city, it would be a shame to visit and not experience any of the places that you can easily visit as a day trip from Catania.
We have visited Sicily every summer for the past 10 years (benefit of having a Sicilian family!) so we’ve listed some of our favorite day trips from Catania that we have tried and tested ourselves, so take a look and start planning your trip!
Mount Etna is probably the most popular day trip from Catania! Located just one hour by car to Etna Sud (Etna South), Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
There are multiple options for visiting the volcano, although most people opt for the easy and free option, driving to Rifugio Sapienza and walking around the two large craters, the Silvestri Crateri. Seeing these two craters will provide you with shorter hiking experience and the chance to admire the mountain from high up, but without the massive effort of hiking for hours or the expense of going up to the top.
You can also take a cable car up to the mountain station and join a guided jeep tour up to the summit, or even take a short half-day trek around some of the craters with a guide.
How to Get There From Catania: Drive for 30 minutes or take Bus #607 to Rifugio Sapienza
If you want to take an organised tour check out this half day guided tour to Mount Etna from Catania.
Taormina is without a doubt a must-visit day trip from Catania and one of the best-known spots in Sicily. The historic and picturesque hilltop town is just under 1 hour’s drive north from the city, and if planned correctly, it can be visited after a trip to Mount Etna. Although if you have time (and the money) an overnight stay in Taormina would allow you to fully enjoy the evening scene where Taormina comes to life!
While the streets of Taormina, its fancy shops and picturesque staircases are a delight to explore, its ancient Greek theatre located at the far end of the town is a must-visit. Sit in awe of its grand stage that perfectly frames Mount Etna in its background and take in the views over the bay of Naxos that sits below. And don’t forget to spend some time hanging out in the town’s Piazza IX Aprile, with its checker board terrace. Enjoy the quintessential image of Sicily and sit and soak in the ambience with a gelato late afternoon as the tune of the Godfather is played in the background by the local pianist! It is so Sicilian you’ll have a grin from ear to ear!
How to Get There From Catania: Drive 50 minutes or 1 hour by train from Catania Centrale Train Station.
The small inland town of Enna is often referred to as belvedere and the ombelico of Sicily. At 931 m (3,054 ft) above sea level, Enna is Italy’s highest provincial capital, standing proudly above the hills and valleys of central Sicily.
Enna is a wonderful town to wander around, soak up the atmosphere and take in the breathtaking views. While there is little to warrant an overnight stay, it is a great day trip from Catania for those seeking to escape mass tourism and find a typical Sicilian town untouched by time.
Enna’s Duomo is the most impressive of the town’s historic buildings. Built over 200 years after the original Gothic cathedral burnt down in 1446, the current cathedral features a magnificent interior with a splendid wooden coffered roof and Baroque stuccoes.
How to Get There From Catania: Drive 1h15m by car is the easiest and less time-consuming option.
With a thousand years of history, Siracusa was once one of the most powerful cities of the ancient Greek world. Famed for its Baroque architecture and Archaeological sights, it is another very popular day trip from Catania, located just under 1 hour’s drive south from the city.
For me, it is a city that most encapsulates everything good about Sicily and one of the island’s most diverse places to visit. A mixture of ancient sights, great fresh seafood restaurants, beaches, and architecture are all rolled into one fabulous day trip.
Modern-day Siracusa houses a number of restaurants, bars, and high street shopping opportunities as well the Sanctuary of The Madonna of Tears, a giant spaceship looking monstrosity built to supposedly look like a tear. Just a stones throw away from there you’ll find the Catacombs of San Giovanni, a large underground complex that once housed the remains of thousands hidden tombs of Christians from the 4th-century.
The city’s main drawing card is its top sight – the large Neapolis Archaeological Park, home to some vast Greek remains that will give you a hint of the power the city once had at its peak back in the 5th-century BC.
How to Get There From Catania: Drive 1h by car or 1h30m by train from Catania (9x daily)
A visit to Ortigia (Ortygia) often goes hand in hand while visiting Siracusa, however, I would argue that Ortigia deserves its own spot as you can easily spend an entire day wandering around it side streets and exploring its boutique shops, churches, and ancient sights.
As soon as you cross the bridge from the mainland, you’ll find the remains of the Greek Temple of Apollo. Right next to it is the farmer’s market, a must-visit for foodies and a taste of true Sicilian local life. The heart of the island life revolves around the grand Piazza Duomo where you’ll find the best examples of Baroque architecture, the city hall and of course Siracusa Cathedral which stands testament to the city’s 2500 years of cultural influences from the Greeks, to the Arabs who turned it into a mosque to the Normans who conquered Sicily and turned it into the Christian church that stands today. Stroll down the left side and you’ll find remnants of the ancient Greek temple of Athena that once stood here.
Don’t forget to stop by the Fountain of Arethusa and at the far end of the island, the Maniace Castle, built for Emperor Frederick II.
How to Get There From Catania: Drive 1h by car or 1h30m by train from Catania to Siracusa and then a local bus or taxi to the island.
Note: Finding parking on the island of Ortigia is extremely difficult during high season, therefore we suggest finding parking on the mainland and taking one of the electric buses to the island or getting there early and try to find a space in the paid parking lot near the harbor.
Agrigento – Valley of the Temples
Located 2 hours drive west of Catania, Agrigento is the furthest day trip option I have listed. It is heralded as one of the best places to visit in Sicily, known for its ancient Archaeological site, the Valley of the Temples. Its string of Greek temples is some of the best-preserved outside of Greece, dating back to the fifth century BC when Agrigento was the third-largest city in the ancient Greek world.
Its high concentration of ruins makes this the top archaeological sight in Sicily, and you can easily spend a whole day visiting its numerous temples.
Due to the lack of shade and desert-like temperatures during the summer, we highly recommend arriving mid-afternoon, exploring the museum first and then walking the slope down the valley when the temperatures have dipped slightly late afternoon. While we have done this crazy day trip ourselves, those who decide to do this must be prepared for a 2-hour drive and while doable as a day trip, an overnight stay in Agrigento is our personal preference.
How to Get There From Catania: Drive 2h by car
If you’re looking for the ultimate Sicilian souvenir then head to Caltagirone on a day trip from Catania, a charming little town located 70 kilometers southwest of the city. Vibrantly painted ceramics are produced here, a tradition that dates back over 1000 years. Under the Arab rule, the town was nicknamed “Qal ‘at al Gharùn” meaning “Fortress of Jars” with reference to the processing of clay.
Everywhere you look you’ll see finely painted pottery pieces, and in certain shops you can watch local artisans at work, painting anything from small kitchen jars to large outdoor tables. The town’s top sight is without a doubt the Scala di Santa Maria del Monte, a huge 142 step staircase in which every step is decorated in hand-painted tiles.
If you happen to visit towards the end of May, the steps are covered by a gigantic floral display to celebrate the festival known as “Infiorita”. At the end of July (24th and 25th), the steps are again adorned with flowers to celebrate the town’s patron saint, San Giacomo, and in the middle of August, the steps are transformed for the “Illuminata” festival that sees the steps covered in thousands of candles.
How to Get There From Catania: Drive 1h by car
This hilltop, unspoiled little town is a true Sicilian gem and one of the most beautiful in all of Sicily. Rich in beautiful ancient churches and rolling hills, Savoca boasts stunning views over citrus and olive groves, local vineyards and the Gulf of Taormina.
Movie fans will recognise locations from The Godfather, with scenes set in Corleone involving the young Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, filmed in this small medieval town.
The Bar Vitelli, where the scene of the meeting between Michael Corleone and the father of his future wife was shot is still in business. You can sit in the very spot where Al Pacino sat, and enjoy a fresh lemon granita before taking a steady walk up the hill to the Church of San Nicolò is where the wedding between Michael and Apollonia was officiated.
While there isn’t much to do in Savoca, it makes a great little off the beaten path day trip from Catania and it can easily be paired with a visit to nearby Taormina, Acireale or Alcantara Gorge.
How to Get There From Catania: 1 hour north by car
Suggested Tour: Sicily: The Godfather Filming Locations Tour
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in Sicily’s natural beauty and cool off in the scorching summer heat, Alcantara Gorge makes for an excellent day trip from Catania and a great alternative to the beach.
This natural gem was formed over 8 millennia ago when lava flows from Mount Etna met with the cold waters of the Alcantara River. The lava formed large columns that over time have formed large caverns, creating a natural aqua world where locals come to enjoy body surfing, swimming, paddling, hiking and bathing in the cool (no freezing) waters and shade of the large columns.
Similar to Cava Grande near Avola (also a possible day trip option from Catania and Siracusa), Alcantara Gorge is truly an unique experience. We highly recommend taking water shoes to protect your feet from sharp edges of rock and lava and those traveling with children should be extra precarious as fast-flowing areas of the river can easily sweep you away.
How to get there from Catania – 50 minutes by car
Piazza Armerina – Villa Romana Del Casale
Located in central Sicily, Piazza Armerina is one of the island’s most frequented tourist spots and an easy day trip from Catania. But it isn’t the town people flock here to see. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, Villa Romana del Casala is one of the world’s finest remnants of the Roman Empire, known for its rich, vibrant and high quality mosaics that decorate the floor of every room of a historic Roman Villa estate.
While the exact owner of the villa is unknown, it is said the owner must have had great wealth, and some speculate that it could have been a country retreat for a Roman experor (possibly Diocletian). Its richness and quality of the remains have been compared to that of those found at Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli, however, it is the extent of the mosaics at the villa that makes them so unique. Produced by North African artisans, many of the mosaics depict scenes of daily Roman life, mythical scenes as well as multiple representations of women during the Roman period. The “Bikini Girls” playing with a colored ball is a popular mosaic as is the half-naked lovers (see above) with an overweight woman and her naked lover.
How to get there from Catania: 1h15m by car or a bus from Catania (Etna Transporti) to Piazza Armerina and then a local “Villabus” to the vila.
Opening Hours: Daily from 9 am – 7 pm. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays during July and August it is open until 11:30 PM and during the winter months Nov – Mar until 5:00 PM
Villa Romana Del Casale Admission Cost: €10 per person
While you might never have heard of the Sicilian town of Modica, it should definitely be one to place on your radar. Situated 1 hour 40 minutes from Catania, it is one of the least popular day trip options, as it is relatively unknown to the typical tourist visitors to the island.
The city, like the other towns in the Val di Noto, was badly damaged in the 1693 earthquake and largely rebuilt in Sicilian Baroque style. It boasts ancient Greek and Roman roots and is known for its sweets and in particular for chocolate that has been flavoured in different ways from Cinnamon to Chili and from red wine “Nero d’Avola” to pistachios.
Modica is also called the “City of Hundred Bells and Hundred Churches”, and indeed you won’t be hard-pressed to hear the chiming of bells while you’re there. We highly suggest visiting the Baroque church of San Giorgio with its spectacular 18th-century facade and a very rich interior with gilding’s and stuccoes. You can reach it by walking up a monumental stairway of 250 steps, which is flanked by gardens, boasting stunning views over the town.
How to get there from Catania: 1h40m from Catania by car or 25 minutes from Ragusa
Located on a hilltop, Ragusa is another of Sicily’s baroque gems. Listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, (along with the other towns in the Noto Valley) it remains relatively untouched and unaffected by mass tourism which makes visiting this unique historical town a pure delight.
Ragusa is divided in to two towns, Ragusa Ibla (lower old town) and Ragusa Superiore (upper town). While the upper town is worth exploring, its Ragusa Ibla that draws in the crowds. Its plethora of higgledy-piggledy houses, narrow lanes, beautiful churches, gardens and incredible restaurants is really something to see.
Ragusa is also home to some of the island’s most beautiful Baroque architecture, much like neighbouring town Noto. Similar to Noto, the town was flattened by the terrible earthquake that hit most of Eastern Sicily in 1693, so most of the buildings you see were rebuilt after the quake.
If you’re looking for a quiet off the beaten path day trip from Catania, Ragusa is the ideal choice and it can easily be paired with neighbouring towns of Modica, Noto or Caltagirone.
How to get there from Catania: 1h40m from Catania by car
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and a magnificent town, Noto is one of Sicily’s most pristine cities. Like many other towns in the area, Noto was destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 1963 and besides some small sections of the town walls, very little of Noto Antica was left. The town eventually rebuilt itself and was dubbed “The Stone Garden”, famed for its limestone Baroque buildings and elegant piazzas.
Its easy to cover the town on foot, exploring its main thoroughfare Corso Vittorio Emanuele and the numerous churches, gelaterias and restaurants along it. You can explore the town in half a day, making sure that you make a visit to the Porta Reale gate at the beginning of the town and the Cathedral of San Nicolo (see picture above).
Getting there from Catania: 1h10m by car or by train to Siracusa and then change to train to Gel (3-hour journey each way)
A true off the beaten path gem, Marzamemi is regarded as one among the most beautiful sea towns of Italy. This small historic fishing village was put on the map when the Arabs of the 10th-Century built a tonnara (tuna fishing plant) that became of great importance to the island. While the original tonnara is no longer standing, the town has continued its fishing legacy.
Its cute and quaint old town features a picturesque piazza and a number of charming buildings, galleries and a multitude of bars and restaurants all serving locally caught fish. If you visit Noto or Regusa during the day, Marzamemi makes a great pit stop for late afternoon drinks or dinner when the piazza comes alive with live music, singing, and dancing.
How to get there from Catania: 1h20m by car south of Catania.
For the majority of visitors to Sicily, a visit to the beach is essential. There are so many beaches to choose from and plenty of great options located close to Catania or if you want to go further afield we have suggested a few that are a great day trip option as well.
- Siracusa – There are so many beach options here but our favourites are Arenella Lido (flat and sandy with a Lido for families), Plemmirio Nature Reserve (more rocky beaches great for rock pooling and adults) and Fontane Bianche (again great choice for families with a few lido options – Sand Beach).
- Taormina – If you’re visiting Taormina you can easily combine your visit with some time at the beach. The iconic Isola Bella is situated at the bottom of the town where you can rent lounger and umbrellas at the lido and even take day trips by boat to the nearby grottos and caves. See the picture above.
- Giardini Naxos – This is a low key seaside resort close to Toarmina. The water here is super clear (pebble beach). If you’re looking for a more upbeat beach for young adults then this is the spot with lidos playing music and some great nightlife.
How to get there by Catania: Most beaches in Siracusa will require a car to reach them (Ortigia also has a beach which can be reached on foot from the city). Taormina beach can be reached by train or bus from Catania as can Giardini Naxos.
This small elegant Baroque town sits on the coast of the Ionian Sea just a short 30 minute drive from Catania. Few tourists visit the town so its a great choice for those looking for a less touristy day trip from Catania.
Its Cathedral and scenic Piazza located at the historical heart if worth a visit, and if you’re looking to eat typical Sicilian cuisine, a few restaurants serve delicious local dishes and fresh seafood. The baroque town is mostly known for its festivals and carnivals which is about the only time Acrireale gets an influx of people visiting. Its carnival in February is considered one of the most beautiful and colourful festivals in Italy where you can see creative (sometimes grotesque) floats pass through the streets.
If you happen to miss the festival in February (or don’t wish to visit when it’s cooler), you can get a repeat show in August which is far more enjoyable and the nights are much warmer.
How to get there by Catania: 25 Minute drive by car or by local regional train (approx. 15 minutes) in the direction of Taormina from Catania Centrale.
If you want to take an organised tour check out this combined full day trip to Acrireale including Mount Etna and Acitrezza.