Hotel Liberty, Catania ****
This hotel in Sicily is in Catania, the island's second largest city. Dominated by the smoking hulk of Mount Etna, the city of Catania has lots to interest the visitor, including some lovely Baroque churches, elegant palazzi, and the stout grey fortress of the Castello Ursino. View hotel
Double rooms from €70
Grand Hotel Baia Verde, Cannizzaro, Catania ****
The Grand Hotel Baia Verde, Cannizzaro. Set on the cliffs close to Catania, this Cannizzaro hotel lies in an enchanting bay of volcanic rock. The view of Mount Etna from here is simply stunning. View hotel
Double rooms from €79
Hotel Parco degli Aragonesi, Catania ****
This is a brand new complex offering ultra modern, executive accommodation close to the beautiful beach of La Playa. The hotel is only three minutes from the airport and five minutes from the train station, ideal whether you're visiting for business or pleasure. You can spend lazy days relaxing on the... View hotel
Double rooms from €79
Every city is shaped by its history of course, but Catania rather more than most. Unlucky Catania has been buried no fewer than seven times by lava from neighbouring Mount Etna - the volcano looms watchfully over the city. It has been flattened by earthquakes and, earlier in its history, had to suffer constant invasions by Mediterranean neighbours.
Catania, the second largest city in Sicily after Palermo, is the main town on the island's eastern seaboard. A commercial centre and a transport hub for the island's road, bus and rail network, it has one of the island's major airports, Fontanarossa (the destination for most charter flights into and out of Sicily), and ferries to Malta. Catania has a thriving commercial seaport, while local transport includes the Circumetnea narrow-gauge railway, which runs from the city out around Mount Etna and along the coast.
The relics of early Catania can be seen around the city, with the tops of the Greek and Roman amphitheatres now at street level. Engulfed by lava, the old Roman and Greek cities lie below ground, and there is a network of tunnels below the city. See Piazza del Duomo, the cathedral square, and home to the Elephant Fountain, symbol of the city. There are good museums including Museo Belliniano and Museo Civico, and it's worth a trip to the Castello Ursino. Once the magnificent fortress of Frederick II it was engulfed by the 1669 eruption. Now all that remains is a blackened keep.
Catania is superb for food, and has marvellous fresh fish. A trip to the open-air market (close by the Piazza del Duomo) is a delight for those who love Italian markets. Endless rows of fresh fruit and vegetables, stalls laden with live fish, shellfish and eels, and good restaurants serving the freshest produce. You'll find good restaurants and trattorias around the city centre, and Catania has come alive at night over the past decade too, with a lively bar and club scene. Head out to the beach resorts of Brucoli and the ancient Greek sites at Megara Hyblaea. The one trip every tourist will take, though, will be out to Etna. The smouldering hulk dominates the city and sits, smouldering, at Catania's back.