15 Day trips from Catania: Places to visit near Catania under 2 hours away from the city

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Clambering up an active volcano, witnessing sunset over an ancient Greek Theater or sunbathing in the most southern part of Sicily are but a few of the exciting day trips from Catania available. These are my 15 favorite places to visit near Catania. All reachable within 2 hours from the city

Base yourself out of Catania to explore Eastern Sicily. This part of the island is home to some of the most beautiful Sicilian villages, jaw-dropping Baroque architecture and the active volcano Mount Etna.

In general public transport in southern Italy is a bit tricky, Sicily is no exception. Renting a car and driving in Sicily is the fastest way to get around the island. That being said many of the must-visit places near Catania are in fact reachable without a car. When possible I have added in how to get there via public transportation.

Western Sicily is equally beautiful to explore, but the sights are simply too far to reach from Catania, especially in one day. To visit this part of the island, consider basing yourself out of Palermo instead and venturing out on day trips from Palermo instead of Catania.


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Most popular tours from Catania

While it is very easy to get around Sicily on your own, sometimes it is equally nice to sit back and not have to worry about organizing transportation and other practicalities. This section covers the top-rated tours from Catania available.

Not looking to take a tour? No problem, simply scroll to the next section to get an overview of the 15 places to explore near Catania and how to get there.

MOUNT ETNA TRIP + WINE TASTING: This 4-hour budget tour includes a guided trek around Mount Etna caters and lava flow cave with a local guide and a tasting of “cantucci” biscuits and “zibibbo” wine. Check rates & availability.

MOUNT ETNA SUMMIT & CRATER GUIDED TREK: A 6-hour tour that includes a 2-hour guided hike starting at 2500 meters taking you to Mount Etna summit and around the various craters. Check rates.

ORTIGIA, SIRACUSA & NOTO FULL DAY TOUR: Depart early in the morning for a full-day tour from Catania visiting the prettiest Baroque villages in Eastern Sicily with a local guide. Check rates

Palermo Hotel
Why not stay in Palermo? Image courtesy of Booking.com

WHERE TO STAY IN SICILY

The island of Sicily is the largest in the Mediterranean, do you know which part of Sicily is best suited for you during your stay? These are the best areas I would recommend for all types of travelers.

Getting around the various places near Catania

Unlike Western Sicily, public transportation will get you to the various places to see around Catania. You might need a healthy dose of patience but the infrastructure is there. Therefore renting a car is a optional and not an absolute must.

TRAIN/BUS: Check schedules and book tickets online

RENTING A CAR: Drivers need to be at least 18 years old and in possession of a valid driving license. If you are from outside of the EU, an international drivering licence is required to drive in Italy. Find prices and book online.

Useful Reading: If you are exploring the island by car, make sure to check out my detailed local guide to driving in Sicily, choc-a-bloc with safety tips and practical info.


day trips from Catania

15 day trips from Catania

Below are some of the most exciting Catania day trips. A quick peek at the map below will show you that most of these excursions are confined to Eastern Sicily. Locations within Western Sicily are usually more than 2 hours driving which for a day trip would entail over 4 hours in the car.

I want you to have ample time to enjoy the places you are visiting, hum and harr over which delicious typical Sicilian pasta to try this time around and to have the freedom to get lost in the many little streets. Therefore below you will find a list of places to visit near Catania that are at best 20 minutes out and at worse a 2 hour drive.

TIP: If you are looking to explore more of Western Sicily, base yourself out of Palermo and explore Western Sicily through a variety of day trips from Palermo.

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7 Catania day trips under one hour from the city

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Things to do near Catania: Aci Castello

1. ACI CASTELLO & ACI TREZZA

Getting there from Catania: Will require your own car
Travel time: 18 min car
Combine with: Taormina or Mount Etna

The little villages of Aci Castello & Aci Trezza are a great place to escape the heat as well as the throngs of people you are likely to encounter in Catania. Far removed from the well-trodden tourist path and highly praised by local Catanese, both Aci Castello & Aci Trezza have a super laid-back vibe and is perfect for slow travelers.

A visit to the impressive 11th-century Norman castle in Aci Castello is an absolute must. Sadly it was closed when I went, but the views over the coastline are said to be unbeatable. We parked in Aci Trezza, and had wonderful picnic lunch by the beach (we ordered takeaway A Putia di Colpesce – vegetarian options available).

From Aci Trezza, simply follow the lungomare to get to Aci Castello (15 minute walk). The beaches surrounding Aci Castello and Aci Trezza are rocky beaches. We saw a few lidos near the towns, but in all honesty, there are better beaches around Catania to relax on.


Noto in Sicily
A visit to Noto is one of the easiest day trips from Catania

2. THE BAROQUE VILLAGE OF NOTO

Getting there from Catania: Direct bus from Catania (Piazza Paolo Borsellino) to Noto (€8.4/$9 single journey ticket)
Travel time: 1h47 in bus / 1h6 in car
Tour: Ortigia, Noto and Siracusa tour
Combine with: Avola or Ortigia

Possibly the most well-known of the four baroque beauties, Noto has become the poster child for the baroque villages in Sicily. Many travelers choose to explore Noto as a day trip from Catania, in practice, this means that the town is packed to the brim during the summer months At least this was the case when we visited in July.

For breakfast, we devoured an almond-flavored granita for breakfast at 1893 Caffè Sicilia. This gave us plenty of energy to explore some of the gently fading baroque palazzos (Palazzo Ducezio, Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata) and lavish churches (Cathedrale di Noto) that put Noto on the map.

In the evening, we sat on the steps of the famed, slightly crumbling Piazza Municipio and listened to the many street musicians.

Tip: If you do have a few additional days, consider spending a night in Noto. Take a guided walking tour during the day and revisit your favorite places early in the morning of the next day. To be able to enjoy the town, and wander around the Historical Center undisturbed we ventured out in the early hours of the morning (07.00 AM).


Bay of Giardini Naxos Sicily Guide
Catania day trip with the best view – Giardini Naxos

3. BEACH WITH VIEWS OVER MOUNT ETNA: GIARDINI NAXOS

Getting there from Catania: Direct train from Catania Centrale to Taormina Giardini (tickets start at €3/$3 single journey). From the Taormina Giardini station a 20 min walk takes you to Giardini Naxos.
Travel time: 1h to 1h20 train + walk / 38 min car
Tours: Giardini Naxos, Taormina and Castelmola 5-Hour Tour
Combine with: Taormina or Aci Castello and Mount Etna

Remember how I said there were better beaches around Catania than Aci Castello? Giardini Naxos is the perfect place for travelers looking for a sandy beach near Catania. It is a very family-friendly environment with plenty of activities geared towards families with kids.

As we do not have kids, we opted to veer away from the crowded beaches of Giardini Naxos during the day and instead came later in the day to watch the sunset. On a clear day, the beach of Giardini Naxos offers is an unbeatable spot to catch the sunset over Mount Etna.

Good to know: Giardini Naxos is infinitely more budget-friendly to stay in than Taormina. If you are still unsure of where to stay in Sicily, this area is an excellent alternative.


4. TAORMINA

Getting there Catania: A direct train runs between Catania and Taormina, however the train station is a good 30 minutes walk away from the center of Taormina (tickets start at €3/$3 for a single journey)
Travel time: 1h5 train + walk, 46 min in car
Tour: Etna & Taormina full day tour from Catania
Combine with: Mount Etna or Giardini Naxos and Aci Castello

The village of Taormina is quite possible the prettiest village in all of Sicily. Aside from the picturesque village, the horseshoe-shaped ancient amphitheater (Teatro Greco) with staggering views over Mount Etna is an absolute highlight.

While it is very much worth a trip, do be aware that Taormina is positively heaving with tourists during the high season. Over the many years of visiting Sicily, Taormina was one of the last places I ended up going to simply because the sheer volume of people was overwhelming, especially in the heat.

My number one tip for avoiding the constant throng of tourists it to either explore early in the morning (aim to be there around 08.00 as most tourist groups come in around 10.00) or alternatively by going after 16.00 (4 PM) when many of the daytrippers have already left. Combine Taormina with half a day at the beach of Giardini Naxos or a hike up to Mount Etna.

Tip: Purchase your tickets for the Teatro Greco in advance online and avoid standing in the huge cue. Download the audioguide to learn about the history.



Mount Etna from Catania Trip
Visiting the crater of Mount Etna is a very popular day tour from Catania

5. CLAMBER UP OR VISIT MOUNT ETNA

Getting there from Catania: One bus daily leaves at 08.15 from Catania Stazione Centrale. Getting back take the 16.30 bus. There is only one bus which arrives around at Rifugio Sapienza around 10.30. Purchase your tickets from the AST office located here.
Travel time: 2 hours bus / 52 min car
Tours: Etna & Taormina full day tour from Catania
Combine with: Taormina or Aci Castello and Giardini Naxos (if you do not intend to hike)

A visit to Sicily is not complete without traipsing up the active volcano Mount Etna, it is without a doubt one of the most stunning natural attractions in Italy. There are a variety of different options to climb Mount Etna, some more adventurous than others. The start of any hike (guided or not) is Rifugio Sapienza. If you are driving, type Rifugio Sapienza in the GPS. The car can be parked for free in a large parking spot.

Rifugio Sapienza has a visitors center, from where the majority of tours start. Many tours mention riding a cable car, this cable car ride starts at Rifugio Sapienza (1900 meters) and takes you all the way up to a mountain hut (2500 meters high). The ride takes 10 minutes and costs €35/$35 return.

From the mountain hut you can either hike 40 minutes to Torre Del Filosofo (2900 meters high) or opt for a 4×4 jeep ride (€65/$65 return). Please note, it is mandatory to take a guided tour if you want to hike past 2900 meters to the summit

TOUR OPTIONS IF YOU DRIVE TO ETNA YOURSELF


Towns near Catania Ortigia
Ortigia near Catania is the prettiest village in Eastern Sicily

6. THE PRETTIEST VILLAGE IN EASTER SICILY: ORTIGIA

Getting there from Catania: Direct train between Catania Centrale and Siracusa, from Siracusa station walk 20 minutes to the island of Ortigia (tickets €8/$8.2 single journey)
Travel time: 1h47 train + walk, 55 min car
Tours: Ortigia, Noto and Siracusa tour
Combine with: Noto or Avola

The Baroque city of Ortigia is located on a pocket-size island next to the city of Syracuse. Ortigia is my personal favorite place to visit near Catania. In fact, I loved it so much that I ended up spending four weeks there in 2021.

Ortigia moves at a slow pace, and you can spend hours wandering its quaint streets and alleyways. The crowning jewel of Baroque architecture is without a doubt Piazza Duomo. The Syracuse Cathedral dominates the square and is well worth a visit. Closer inspection will reveal the Cathedral was actually built over a much older Greek Temple (the columns are still visible!).

I always made sure to walk past the 18th-century Palazzo Benevetano del Bosco on my daily walk. The façade is simply unrivaled! Go souvenir shopping in Via delle Vergin, grab an aperitivo on the Lungomare Di Levanto Ortigia or around the Fonte Arethusa (great spots to watch the sunset!).

Good to know:
If you reserve a hotel or Airbnb make sure to provide your host with your number plate so they can register your car. Parking on the island is reserved for locals (or registered cars).


7. AVOLA

Getting there from Catania: Direct bus from Catania (Piazza Paolo Borsellino) to Avola (Piazza Vittoria Veneto). Tickets €7.5/$7.6 single journey
Travel time: 1h22 In bus / 49 min car
Combine with: Noto or Ortigia

The city of Avola is a great day tour from Catania when visited in combination with either Noto or Ortigia. Avola is surrounded by plenty of pristine beaches and has a quaint Historical Center that is pleasant to walk around.

We came to Avola after a day of exploring Ortigia and witnessed the most glorious sunset over the ruins of the Tonnara di Avola. Aim to be in Avola in the late afternoon, either walk around the Historical Center for a few hours or head straight to the beach in front of the Tonnara di Avola to work on your tan (this second option will require having your own car).

Wherever you end up seeing the sunset, make sure to have a nice bottle of local wine (Nero d’Avola) to share.

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7 Places to visit near Catania between 1 hour and 2 hours from the city

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The next section of day trips from Catania are slightly further from the city, between one to two hours of journey time (each way) is required to reach them.

Tip: If you are heading towards the Scala dei Turchi, make sure to head out early in the morning to avoid the eternal traffic in the city. The drive is a solid 2 hours without traffic, getting stuck in the morning rush could mean double the amount of time in the car.

1. PURCHASING CERAMICS IN CALTAGIRONE

Getting there from Catania: Will require your own car
Travel time: 1h car
Combine with: Piazza Armerina or Ragusa alternatively add on Scala dei Turchi if you are up for a long drive.

Caltagirone is a small city south of Catania. The name of the city is derived from the Arabic words Qal ‘at al Gharùnwhich translated to “Fortress of Jars” – a reference to the artisanal ceramics made here at the time. 

Ceramics are still very important in Caltagirone as both locals and tourists flock to the city in droves to get their hands on artisanal ceramics (one can simply never have enough plates decorated with lemons). The grandest display of ceramics is without a doubt the Scalinata di Santa Maria del Monte – 142 steep stairs leading to the medieval part of Caltagirone. The stairs themselves are richly decorated with square-shaped ceramics.

We traipsed up the stairs (with a few stops to catch our breath) and were rewarded with the very best views over the city. Walk around the many carrugi (alleys) as you make your way back down. Pop into the bakery and try the local cuddureddi (biscuit from honey, wine & almonds) or cool down in my favorite part of town the Giardino Pubblico della Villa Comunale


Messina Sicily

2. EXPLORING MESSINA AND PLANNING A TRIP TO THE AEOLIAN ISLANDS

Getting there from Catania: Various busses and trains run hourly, single tickets start from €9 /$9.2. Check schedule and purchase tickets online.
Travel time: 1h20 train and bus / 1h18 car
Combine with: Taormina or Giardini Naxos

Messina is the gateway to both mainland Italy and the Aeolian Islands. The bustling port is home to a variety of Renaissance monuments, scenic vistas, and fascinating museums and forms the perfect one-day trip from Catania.

Highlights of Messina include a visit to Fort of San Salvatore, discovering the Fontana di Orion, exploring the Duomo of Messina and the Basilica Santuario as well as a stroll around Piazza Antonello.

Aside from monument hopping, make absolutely sure to try the local specialty: Granita. This delicacy is served pretty much everywhere on the Island and throughout mainland Italy (we even found it in Umbria). I have to agree with the locals who swear that Messina is the best place to try your first Granita.


3. THE FISHERMAN VILLAGE OF MARZAMEMI

Getting there from Catania: Will require your own car
Travel time: 1h18 car
Combine with: Isola delle Correnti or Noto

One of the prettiest seaside fishing villages in Sicily is without a doubt Marzamemi. Once the most important tuna-fishing towns of the island, nowadays relegated to a picturesque stop for tourists and sun worshippers.

The highlight of our visit to Marzamemi was witnessing the 16th-century former tonnara. What was once the site of a tuna processing plant is now a very picturesque courtyard filled with tiny restaurants and bars serving up traditional Sicilian cuisine. Must-try foods include Pomodoro di Pachino (tomatoes from the nearby town of Pachino) and a delicious glass of Nero d’Avola wine.

Aside from trying the local food and grabbing a drink in the former tonnara, the best thing to do in Marzamemi is swim. The bright blue waters will lure you in before you can think twice. On the outskirts of Marzamemi, there are a variety of Lidos and free beaches to choose from.

Parking: We visited in July and the town center was closed off for cars. We ended up parking the car further along the beachfront south of the Marina di Marzamemi.


Places near Catania Piazza Armerina
Mosaics in Villa Romana del Casale, Piazza Armerina

4. UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE MOSAICS IN PIAZZA ARMERINA

Getting there from Catania: Will require your own car
Travel time: 1h18 car
Tours: Valley of Temples Agrigento and Piazza Armerina full day tour
Combine with: Caltagirone and Scala dei Turchi (if you are up for a long drive)

Piazza Armerina is a little town deep in the heart of Sicily. Tourists flock to the town every year, not so much to visit the medieval historical center but rather to catch a glimpse of mosaics.

Mosaics? Yep! The UNESCO classified mosaics in the Villa Romana del Casale by the hands of very talented North African artisans have been impressing travelers since the 4th century BC. What makes these floor mosaics so special is the various scenes they depict (ranging from everyday scenes to mythological stories). In fact, the “everyday” scenes are considered of great historical importance as they offer us a rare glimpse into daily life during Roman times.

There is a lot to see, the Villa has over 50 rooms so make sure to plan enough time for your visit. Aside from Villa Romana del Casale, Piazza Armerina has a pretty Baroque Cathedral (the Cathedral of Piazza Armerina) and an Aragonese Castle worth popping into.

Parking: Park your car in the lot in front of Villa Romana del Casale


Catania day tours Scala dei Turchi

5. THE SOUTHERNMOST PART OF SICILY – ISOLA DELLE CORRENTI

Getting there Catania: Will require your own car
Travel time: 1h25 car
Combine with: Marzamemi or Noto

Travel to the end of the world, or at least Sicily. Isola delle Correnti is the southernmost point of the Island. When I visited, the beaches were pristine and there were a lot fewer tourists angling for a spot to throw down their towels compared to other beaches in Sicily. The only downside was the ever-present wind.

We visited Isola Correnti on the same day as Marzamemi, opting to drive between the two. Our GPS took us through tiny winding roads, seemingly deserted. This part of the island is wonderfully untouched. A large sign reading “Parcheggio di Isola delle Correnti” led us to a (paid) parking lot. The fee for unlimited parking was €4 (to be paid in cash).

A few lidos line the stretch of beach in front of the Isola delle Correnti. Getting to the island is easy enough, you simply wade through the water (make sure to bring all your belongings in a waterproof bag with you as the water is waist-deep). The island itself contains a lighthouse and an abandoned building, truth be told neither is very special.


6. RAGUSA

Getting there from Catania: Will require your own car (public transport takes 3 hours)
Travel time: 1h26 in car
Tour: Noto, Modica & Ragusa day tour from Catania
Combine with: Isola delle Correnti

When we visited Ragusa, we were hit by an untimely bout of torrential rains which meant we had to abruptly cut our visit short. Despite the brevity of the trip, the spectacularly scenic drive to the hilltop town and the glimpses caught of the wonderful Baroque Ragusa Ibla (The Historical Center) were more than enough to peak my interest.

Ragusa is in fact a UNESCO world heritage site, together with seven other cities in the Val di Noto area of Sicily it has been acknowledged for its exemplary Baroque architecture. The city is cut in half, Ragusa Ibla (lower old town) and Ragusa Superiore (upper town), divided by a ravine over which 4 different bridges were built to join both parts of the city.

Quite unintentionally we parked in Ragusa Ibla and as we hopped between doorframes (in a desperate attempt to hide from the rain) we stumbled across the Cathedral of San Giorgio, the Church of Santa Maria delle Scale and the Chiesa del Purgatorio. All Baroque masterpieces and well worth a closer inspection.

Sadly we were not able to delve deeper into the various things to do in Ragusa, but it is one of the first places I want to go back to when we visit Sicily again later this year. The little city is one of the most scenic trips from Catania to take.


Towns near Catania Sicily, Cefalu
Cefalu is a relatively far away day tour from Catania

7. CEFALU

Getting there from Catania: Will require your own car (public transportation requires 4+hours)
Travel time: 2h car
Combine with: None as this is a packed day trip from Catania already

The quaint fishing village of Cefalu is a very popular day trip from both Palermo & Catania. It is one of the best places near Catania to discover the Arab-Norman UNESCO-classified architecture that can be found in a few select churches in Palermo as well as churches in the surrounding villages.

The Arab-Norman architecture in Cefalu can be found in its Cathedral. While the cathedral is relatively stark on the outside, the inside tells a different story: A ceiling positively covered in tiny Byzantine golden mosaics.

Whenever I visit Cefalu, a languorous stroll through the maze of little streets that make up the Historical Center is an absolute must. If you go in shoulder season a stroll along the Lungomare (the boardwalk) or an afternoon at the beach are a fun ways to relax.

Good to know: During high season the beaches in Cefalu are very busy. If you are on a trip from Catania by car drive along the SS113 in the direction of Castel di Tusa. Various beaches dotted along the road offer a great alternative to the beaches in Cefalu

GET AWAY FROM THE CROWDS: A great way to explore Cefalu from another angle is from the sea. Hop on a guide boat tour of the coastline of Cefalu, swim & snorkel in tranquility and get the best views over the ancient port of Cefalu from the comfort of your little boat.


Scala Dei Turcchi Sicily

8. SCALA DEI TURCHI

Getting there from Catania: Will require your own car to get here
Travel time: 2h03
Tours: Valley of Temples Agrigento and Turkish Steps Catania day tour
Combine with: Caltagirone

Scala dei Turchi or Stairs of the Turks is a large limestone cliff surrounded by the clearest water on the island and nestled between two very comfortable sandy beaches. Through years of exposure to the elements, the limestone has taken on a layered shape (not unlike stairs).

Prior to 2019 it was possible to clamber on the limestone, but since then access has been restricted to protect the site. This however did not stop vandals in 2022 from vandalizing the site by spraypainting it red. Luckily the damage has since then been repaired.

Sunset over the Scala dei Turchi is absolutely spectacular. If you come with your own transportation, make sure to calculate in plenty of time to find parking. The spot is very popular with both locals and tourists alike. We parked our car near the “Belvedere Scala dei Turchi”. Bring a few Euro cash to pay for parking (no cards accepted).

The various Catania day trips plotted on a map

Have a look at the interactive Google Map to get an idea of where the various locations discussed above are located in relation to Catania. Yellow pins are under one hour from Catania while red pins are under two hours from the city.

Places to visit near Catania
Places to visit near Catania in under two hours

To conclude on day trips from Catania

There are plenty of day trips from Catania that will not lead to endless hours of driving. Marvel at the beautiful Baroque villages of Ortigia & Noto, swim in pristine waters near Aci Castello and explore the natural beauty of the Turkisch Stairs (Scala dei Turchi).

Many of the best places to visit near Catania are reachable via public transportation making it possible to visit them without the need to rent a car. If, like myself, the thought of driving in Sicily gives you goosebumps consider using Catania as a basis to explore Eastern Sicily thoroughly via the bus and train system.

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MORE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR VISITING SICILY

Accommodation: Where to stay in Sicily for a relaxing holiday
Food: Streetfood in Palermo
Food: Traditional Sicilian recipes you need to try in Sicily
Food: Typical vegetarian dishes in Italy from every region
Palermo: 14 Breathtaking churches in Palermo
Palermo: A local’s guide to visiting Palermo
Palermo: Day Trips from Palermo
Sicily: 13 villages in Sicily to visit
Getting Around: Driving or renting a car in Sicily

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Caroline Muller

Thanks for dropping in! With this blog I hope to harness the power of travel to do good in the world. Think connecting with local cultures, sustainable tourism and in-depth guides to known and lesser-known adventures. 

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