Travel Guide: Catania
With their demotion to Serie B last term a trip to Catania is possibly not high on the agenda of fans wishing to get their fix of Italian football, however, sitting in the shadow of the famous Mount Etna on the southern island of Sicily there are still plenty of reasons to make the journey to catch the Elefanti in action.
Last season in Serie A matches against the traditional ‘big names’ of Italian football were not necessarily difficult to obtain without a Catania Fan Card, but were certainly expensive.
Accessible via official partner Ticketone and collected at the stadium at general sale against Juventus last March were only available at a mouth-watering €180, albeit moderately modern Tribuna A, whereas regulars receive tickets on the Curvas at around €30 and only a fraction more along the Tribuna B.
With the Elefanti currently battling it out in the second-tier and island neighbours Palermo passing them on the way down you will find tickets obtainable for the more modest price €15 to €30 for all matches, which was essentially category C whilst in Serie A, although Tribuna A could still set you back €50.
Tickets can be bought at the gate on matchday for smaller opposition or from two Lottomatica outlets. One is situated on Via Plebiscito 8 in the city centre while the other at Via Giuseppe Fava 69 is the closest to the stadium.
If in the city for a three to four nights it is worth staying fairly close to city centre where most of the tourist attractions (Mount Etna aside) are within walking distance and there are many cheap hotels and hostels branching off the popular Via Etna, but I can recommended is Civitas B&B that for four nights came to just over €100 per person.
Situated on Via Vittorio Emanuele II, leading to the famous Fontana dell’Elefante, the room was spacious and could easily have accommodated another two people, while owner Pietro and his staff were extremely welcoming and even left the kitchen open to access on our early morning excursions.
Getting to Sicily is simple enough with many direct flights from various London airports with budget airline Easyjet, however, unless booked well in advance, the journey often works out far cheaper if willing to endure one or two hour stop at Milan-Malpensa before heading on to Catania.
When you do reach Catania airport you can access the city centre on the 457 AMT bus for a reasonable €2 even if not running as regularly as some airports, but compared to a €15-20 journey by taxi is a bargain.
At €70 one of the more popular operators Etna Trekking provide excellent service with a friendly and informative guide, however, during the summer a daily bus departs for around €6 which will take you to the base should you not wish to explore the crater close up.
Sitting at the foot of Europe’s largest active volcano it is Sicily’s second-largest city after Palermo and the main sights surround the centre.
Starting at the Piazza Duomo you will find the stunning Cattedrale di Sant’Agataand before a two minute walk takes you to the equally impressive Piazza Universita. There begins Via Etnea, Catania’s main shopping area, with either side of the now pedestrianised street bustling with activity around the many shops, bars, and restaurants.
If it is culture you crave at Piazza Stesicoro you can wander round the ruins of the second century BC Anfiteatro Romano amphitheatre or further south are the less dilapidated Teatro Romano-Odeon.
Whilst walking the city centre you cannot fail to come across the historic pasticceria Savia and must sample some arancini (deep-fried rice balls). The Sicilian speciality come in a variety forms and are significant in size at just €2, but if it is something sweet you’re after the cannoli are equally mouth-watering.
For a more substantial bite to eat you cannot go wrong heading towards the Al Vicolo pizzeria, tucked away a side street Anfiteatro Romano amphitheatre, the sizeable pizzas at €12-€15 could feed three people in one sitting let alone two and they’ll box up the remains so you really get what you pay for.
Although a situated in a dense urban area, it does provide several some typical local Italian bars and restaurants, however, rushing to the stadium would not necessarily allow you to sample the atmosphere in the surrounding area with fans heading inside early to creating their own special welcome, particularly against bigger opponents.
Therefore, if it is a stiff drink you desire staying around the centre until as late as possible is probably the best decision you can make with the underground Agora Hostel Bar on Piazza Curro one of the cheaper options or Bar Cuore Catania further up Via Etna on Via Penninello a livelier alternative.
Getting to the Angelo Massimino
From the city centre you can easily walk 30 minutes to the stadium, heading along Via Etna and then Via Androne the road merges with Via Cifali, but can easily follow the pockets of home fans making their way on foot.
Buses are somewhat hard to judge, even though apparently running every hour, but the 4-7 bus from Via Etna will deliver you yards from the Angelo Massimino getting off at Piazza Spedini. If not in the centre the bus can also be boarded at Piazza Stesicoro.
An alternative, but that runs more regularly, is line 431N from which you’ll need to exit at the corner of Via Cifali and Via Beccario taking a short walk to the stadium.
At the Angelo Massimino
Whilst advised to have some form of photographic identification on you for entry in two trips to the Angelo Massimino this was never requested, instead I was approached by an Ultra to smuggle one of his two small children in under my coat, although it was hardly well hidden and the steward showed little interest.
With a capacity just short of 20,000 the surrounding area was reminiscent of many ageing british stadia, blocked in by urban housing until you pass the tall iron fences that allow access to your seating area.
By far the best way to see Catania, and probably football anywhere, is alongside the fervent home support and you won’t be disappointed by the atmosphere created on the Curva Nord. The lack of concern for the specific seat number assigned on your ticket you also have the freedom to observe from afar or deep within the Ultra crowd.
Even as a neutral it was difficult to sit through an entire 90 minutes and not be captivated by those around you not just expressing vociferous support but pouring out emotions somewhere between outright despair and a sort of gallows humour that certainly set in with the locals last season with them resigned to watching Serie B.
Hotel (per night): €25-€30
Flights: €60 return
Airport transfer: €4 return
Match ticket: €15-€50
Food: €6-10 pizza
Follow Kevin Pogorzelski on Twitter: @rabbitrabbiton