For the vast majority of the time that I’ve travelled, I’ve only visited countries that are known for being budget friendly, hence why a lot of content on this blog focuses on affordable regions such as the Balkans, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.
I’m also passionate about discovering lesser-known destinations that fewer tourists visit, and Catania, Italy, is certainly one of the less touristy parts of Italy.
However, with its close proximity to the sea, stunning Baroque architecture and delicious Sicilian cuisine (did someone say cannoli?), Catania may well be one of the best places to visit in Italy, especially if you enjoy getting a bit off the beaten track.
However, to my fellow budget travellers, the idea of travelling to Italy may seem a little daunting and you may be wondering ‘Is Catania expensive?‘
Although Catania is a damn sight more affordable than Florence or Rome, it is still part of Western Europe, and therefore it isn’t quite as budget friendly as some of the other places I’ve travelled to on the continent.
With that in mind, I decided to put together a handy guide to visiting Catania on a budget so that you can enjoy this beautiful city without worrying about money.
How to Visit Catania, Italy on a Budget
Why visit Catania?
Just where is Catania, exactly?
Well, Catania is actually part of Sicily!
On the east coast of the island, Catania lies at the base of Europe’s biggest volcano, Mount Etna.
It is Sicily’s second largest city with almost 1 million residents, and is both an important economic hub as well as a thriving student city.
With an abundance of Sicilian Baroque architecture, Catania’s downtown area has actually been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for history lovers, there is also a Roman Amphitheatre right in the city centre!
Not only does Catania boast impressive architecture, but it also has some great markets (its daily fish market is famous in Sicily), a buzzing nightlife, and gorgeous sandy beaches.
Catania is also a stone’s throw from Taormina, Castelmola, Militello and Mount Etna (where there are so many wineries!), so it’s also a great place to base yourself if you want to explore the East side of Sicily.
Cheap Eats in Catania Italy
Whilst I was in Catania, I really took advantage of the ‘tourist menus’ offered at lunchtime in most restaurants.
Usually, when you hear ’tourist menu,’ it is easy to think that you are being ripped off.
However, the tourist menus in Catania are more akin to the ‘Menu del Dia,’ or ‘Menu of the Day’ in Spain, whereby you get a set menu at a fixed (discounted) price.
The food isn’t the best food that you’ll ever eat, but it makes eating out at local restaurants super affordable and is a great way of enjoying a two-course meal in Catania without breaking the bank.
The tourist menus typically offer a pasta first course, meat or seafood as a second course, a side salad and a drink. The meat menu was usually 10 EUR and the seafood menu was 15 EUR.
If you prefer to grab food on the go, my go-to in Catania was arancini. Arancini are deep fried rice balls with various fillings which can include meat ragu, spinach and mozzarella, pistachios and more. Arancini can be found literally everywhere, they are super filling and they only cost 2 EUR – bargain!
There are also lots of cheap grilled meat restaurants where you can munch on horse meat and spring onions wrapped in bacon, or you can get some cheap seafood at Scirocco Fish Lab close to the fish market. I got a plate of fried seafood for only 6 EUR which is a bargain!
You can also head into any café or patisserie and choose form the pre-made meals at the counter. The chicken and rice dish below was less than 7 EUR.
Budget accommodation in Catania Sicily
The two hostels that I recommend in Catania Italy are The Yard Hostel and Ostello degli Elefanti.
I haven’t personally stayed at The Yard, but the reviews are fantastic, and I’ll definitely be checking this place out when I return to Catania. The Yard has a free breakfast (with freshly baked pies and fried eggs!), super cool common areas and a really great looking bar. I’m getting FOMO just looking at the pictures.
The other hostel that I recommend in Catania is Ostello degli Elefanti, which was where I stayed.
Not only is it smack bang in the middle of Catania with less than a 50m walk to the main square, but the free breakfast here is delicious and includes croissants, homemade carrot cake, crusty bread with a variety of spreads, individually wrapped biscuits and fresh fruit and cereal.
In terms of typical Italian breakfasts, it doesn’t get much better than this, and there is also a proper coffee machine which makes a mean cappuccino!
On the roof of Ostello degli Elefanti is a stunning rooftop bar offering stunning panoramic views of Catania, and is definitely an Insta-worthy place to enjoy a glass of Prosecco or three 😉
If you want to cut your costs down even more, another option is Couchsurfing which means that you get to stay with a local for FREE – as long as you don’t mind sleeping on a stranger’s couch, I think that Couchsurfing is a great way to meet new people whilst also saving money, and I found the Couchsurfing community to be quite active in Catania.
Last, but definitely no means least, you could also try house sitting. House sitting enables you to stay in someone’s empty home for free, on the condition that you just take care of it (water any plants etc.). You can use TrustedHousesitters to see if there is anything available for your dates!
Free attractions in Catania Sicily!
Almost all of the main things to see and do in Catania are completely free of charge and the best bit is that as the centre of Catania is so small, everything is easily reached on foot!
Some great free things to do in Catania include the Amphitheatre of Catania, Catania Cathedral, the Monastery of San Nicolò l’Arena, Catania’s fish market, and the Botanical gardens.
For a small fee you can also go to the top of the bell tower of Catania Cathedral and enjoy the spectacular views over Catania.
Go to the beach!
A 30 minute walk from the centre of Catania is the beach.
Although most of the beach is owned by private beach clubs that charge entrance fees, (this is my least favourite thing about Italian beaches), there is a small section of the beach at the beginning that is free to enter, and while it isn’t maintained quite as well as the private beaches, it is still perfectly fine for an afternoon of sunbathing.
If you’d prefer to go to the beach clubs, they cost as little as 5 EUR to enter, but then you will be expected to pay for a sun lounger. The ones which include sun loungers and parasols start at around 10 EUR.
If you’ve enjoyed an afternoon arincino and aren’t hungry enough for your main evening meal but are in need of a little something, then the perfect solution is aperitivo!
If you purchase an aperitif drink (such as Aperol spritz or Prosecco), then your drink will be served with a selection of nibbles that usually include crisps, nuts, olives, mini arancini and mini pizza breads.
Most cafes in Catania Sicily serve aperitivo in the late afternoon/early evening, and it’s a great way to enjoy some free nibbles!
The best aperitivo in Catania can be found at Pasticceria Mantegna and Boheme, or for sushi lovers, make sure to have the sushi aperitivo at Oxidiana!
When I arrived in Catania, one of the first things I did was to open the CouchSurfing app and make myself ‘available’ on the Hangouts feature.
CouchSurfing Hangouts shows you all of the people who are also on the app and wanting to hang out in the area, and from there you can begin messaging people and arranging things.
On my first day I met with a local guy who happened to work as a tour guide – he showed me around the city centre, giving me detailed explanations about everything from the types of cacti in the Botanical gardens to what exactly we were looking at when we arrived at the Roman amphitheatre.
On my second day, I wrote in the app that I wanted to visit the nearby town of Taormina.
I intended to find somebody to take the bus with me, but almost immediately a local guy messaged me saying that he would be happy to drive my friend and I there.
Within 30 minutes he’d picked us up and he not only took us to Taormina, but also to the hilltop town of Castelmola! We spent the entire day exploring both towns, and in the end, Michele would only accept 5 EUR gas money from us.
CouchSurfing Hangouts was not only a great way for me to explore the towns around Catania without paying for an expensive tour, but it also enabled me to meet some really cool local guys who just like to show tourists around to improve their English and introduce foreigners to their city.
(Of course, as a solo female traveller my inbox was inundated with young Sicilian men wanting to spend one on one time with me. Many people use CouchSurfing Hangouts as a dating app, which can be kind of annoying. However, as long as you’re clear about your intentions to only meet as friends, you should be fine. Both of the guys that I met were super nice and didn’t try anything!)
How to Visit Catania, Italy On a Budget | Final Thoughts
So, that just about concludes my list of tips on how to visit Catania on a budget.
Catania isn’t the cheapest place that I’ve been to but if you follow my advice then it’s definitely possible to visit Catania on a backpacker’s budget and have a great time!
If you’re planning a trip to Catania and have any questions then please leave them in the comments below and I will get back to you!
Until next time,
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