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Campervan hire Catania

Carved from rock straight from the volcano’s mouth and defying nature’s desire to wipe it away, Catania is a straight-talking and spirited city with some lovely Baroque piazzas too.

 

Situated on Sicily’s east coast, overlooking the Ionian Sea and lying at the feet of the infamous Mount Etna, Catania’s down-to-earth beauty doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. Sicily’s second largest city after Palermo, Catania, with its gritty charm and slightly unkempt allure, has none of the pretensions but just as many delights as the capital to offer. It has known catastrophe: devastated by earthquakes in 1169 and 1693 and by Mount Etna’s eruptions, the most violent of which was in 1669. Its buildings may fall but Catania stands firm. Rising from the greying ashes of these disasters, robust spirit intact, this is a city that boasts UNESCO-listed architecture, intriguing folklore and traditions, exceptional gastronomy, Roman ruins, and, of course, the every-watching Mount Etna. So why rent a campervan in Catania? With its palaces, churches, and ruins from centuries past as well as sun, sand, and other simple pleasures, it’s the perfect city to enjoy the seductive Sicilian lifestyle –– and the ideal starting point for a road trip!

 

Practical Information

Depot + Transfer

Our depot is located in the area of Fontanarossa, a 20-minute drive from Catania’s city-centre and an 8-minute drive from Catania–Fontanarossa Airport (CTA).

Are you starting your road trip in Catania? If you arrive by airplane, we’ll pick you up at Catania-Fontanarossa Airport (CTA) and take you to the depot where we’ll get you familiar with your campervan. After returning your RV to the depot, we’ll take you back to the airport. Free of charge in regular hours, of course.

Parking in the city

There‘s a lot of congestion in Catania and traffic is somewhat of a mess, making a free parking spot essentially impossible to find. If you choose to hire a campervan, it’s best to park it at the public parking near Piazza Falcone-Borsellino, or at one of the private parking garages such as Piazza Lupo Garage.

Camping grounds nearby

There are great camping options for those hiring a campervan in Catania, such as Campeggio Paradise, 45 minutes from the city, or Camping Almoetia, 40 minutes from the city. We especially recommend Camping Sabbiadoro, rated one of the 70 best campsites in Italy, right by the beach and close to the Greek archeological site of Syracuse — one hour in your hire van from Catania.

 

About Catania

Founded in the 8th century BC by Chalcidians from Greece, the city was then conquered and occupied by the Romans, a trend that repeated itself through history, although it’s said that the hardy people of Catania always put up a good fight.

But battles and invasions aside, Catania was also, and still is, famed for its vibrant culture, magnificent architecture and — of course — fabulous food. Begin your amble around the historic old town at Piazza Duomo where you will find an elephant fountain carved from lava and carrying an obelisk. The symbol of the city, it’s said that at one time, pygmy elephants inhabited the island and chased away invaders. Fact or fantastical legend — you decide. Worth visiting too is the fortress of Castello Ursino, built on a cliff for its superior vantage point until lava from the 1669 eruption pushed the sea back, creating a new coastline and robbing the fortress of its privileged position — just one example of how nature’s power has shaped this city.

Trade historic wonders for the chaotic hubbub of La Pescheria — the fish market — to experience its noise, smells, and fishy delights. Catania certainly has a flair for producing addictively delicious dishes. Home of Sicily's iconic pasta alla Norma but with plenty of other treats on offer, make sure that stopping at restaurants is a staple part of your daily itinerary.

Of course, constantly casting its ominous shadow over the city, you’d be hard pushed to forget about Mount Etna. A sense of awe is instilled by the enduring and imposing presence of ‘A Muntagna’, as the locals call it. The volcano has played a starring and sinister role in the history of this city, almost wiping it off the map several times. In 1669, the city was engulfed in lava, before, 24 years later, an earthquake did its best to tear it down again. Mount Etna, and the city’s history of ongoing disasters and near-misses, lends Catania an air of both resilience and fragility that makes it somehow extra beautiful. Indeed, it was following the earthquake that the entire old town was rebuilt in Baroque style. In fact, in rebuilding their city, the ever practical citizens of Catania decided to use the very material that had nearly destroyed them: lava. The irony and aptness of this are typical of a city characterised by its cheerful robustness and indomitable lust for life.

 

What to discover

In and around the city

Ancient Roman Theatres

Somehow — given all the natural disasters endured by this city — three Roman theatres still stand, just about. Each carved out of volcanic rock, the ruins of Teatro Romano, the Odeon and the Amphitheatre were originally the impressive work of the Greeks but were expanded by the Romans. More modern buildings have since sprung up around the site, creating the sense that you’ve accidentally stumbled back in time.

San Nicolò L'Arena

What if we told you that the best roof terrace in Catania isn’t in some hip new bar or fancy restaurant but on the top of a monastery? This beautiful example of Sicilian Baroque architecture is home to a Roman domus, stunning cloisters and an idyllic roof garden where you can pause for breath and take in the scenery. The monastery also hosts musical and theatrical performances, as well as cooking classes, if you fancy mastering your culinary skills in this ancient spiritual setting.

Below Catania's streets

Catania is also a city that extends below ground, thanks to the many volcanic eruptions that have repeatedly buried the city, forcing residents to start afresh. Below Catania lies a whole other city, complete with streets, churches and even sign posts. This underground wonderland - which somehow survived an eruption that buried two rivers and an entire lake - has apparently been the scene of clandestine love affairs between friars and nuns and a hiding place for outlaws. For those who delight in strange enigmas of the past, it doesn’t get better than this subterranean secret.

 

Recommended locations

Taormina

An hour’s drive from Catania, this stunning hilltop town is some of the world’s most enlightened minds’ favourite summer muse. From Wagner and Wilde, to Klimt and Coppola, all made their way to Taormina. Join the club: hire a campervan near Taormina and make your way to a city that condenses all the stuff that makes Sicily, well, Sicily. Greek and Roman remains, Arab fortifications, Byzantine and Norman art, Baroque churches, and Gothic cathedrals, all who’ve laid claim to Sicily are represented in Taormina. Looking out from the hilltop town, gorgeous views appear of Mount Etna, the Ionian Sea, and all the way to mainland Italy.

Portopalo

If you’re craving a laid-back beach town after the chaotic scenes of Catania, rent a campervan and drive to Portopalo, an easygoing old fishing village that for the most part escapes the notice of the holiday crowds. After driving through fields of melons, tomatoes and citrus fruits, you will arrive at a town that enjoys spectacular views of the ocean, rivalled only but its equally spectacular sunsets. Portopalo is also home to Castello Tafuri, a fairytale-esque mansion, the imposing Forte of Portopalo, and gorgeous coves with reefs perfect for snorkelers and divers.

Syracuse

Hire a campervan and drive 50 minutes south of Catania to reach Syracuse. Like Catania, it boasts stunning cultural artefacts, a rich history and even a few amphitheatres, surrounded by classically Mediterranean citrus trees. Strolling down its ancient meandering streets passing beautiful Baroque piazzas, it’s difficult to grasp that this idyllic seaside city was once the largest in the ancient world and a major seat of power. It’s also a city of myths and legends: the remarkable Ear of Dionysius is found here, an ear-shaped cave that amplifies the sounds inside it — just like, you’ve guessed it, an ear. The tale goes that Dionysus used it to imprison people here and listen to their conversations.

 

Depot Contacts

Phone: +351308 809 080

Email: [email protected]

Address: Via Giuseppina Virlinzi, 26 - 95121, Catania, Sicily

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