The best way to get around Sicily without a car is by "pullman", the large passenger buses. They are faster than trains, cleaner and more comfortable, the view is better, and they are competitively priced. The Catania bus depot is little more than a large parking lot across the street from several ticket offices. It's just north of the train station.
The most confusing thing about buying a bus ticket is figuring out which office sells it. Although all towns are covered, there is little overlap from service to service - so if you want to go to Agrigento, you buy the ticket from one office. If you want to go to Palermo, from another. Fortunately all the offices are right next to each other and the cities are clearly marked. A knowledge of Sicilian geography is crucial however and DON'T FORGET TO CHECK RETURN TIMES AND MAKE SURE IT'S NOT SOME KIND OF FESTIVAL DAY. You don't want to get stuck in Piazza Armerina. Although there ARE connections to destinations as far away as Milano, I would recommend taking a flight unless you are really hard up for cash.
Offices are open from about 6 AM, always before the first bus leaves, and you can only buy your tickets on the day you want to travel.
Okay, an explanation about the Catania Metro. It has 6 stops, and goes back and forth. That's all. If you're going somewhere nearby, it's fairly useful. Otherwise, pointless.
The reason for its minimal length is due to the unusual geography/geology of Catania. a) the whole city is built on lava, not the easiest stuff to dig tunnels through. b) the priceless antiquities of ancient Catania, surviving under present day Catania, cannot be destroyed, which limits where they can dig. c) the city is built on a mountain slope - and subways just don't do mountain slopes too well. They say they're planning on expanding it but I doubt many will live to see the day.
The real reason for this subway's existence is that it took the place of the last several miles of the Ferrovie Circumetnea, the train that goes all the way around Etna. From la Stazione, get on the metro to the end of the line and you will be at the head of the Circumetnea.
I believe tickets cost 1.50 Euro. I never paid, but don't be dumb like that - if you get caught it's a hefty fine. You can buy them at any Tabaccheria just like city bus tickets.
The Catania Stazione is fairly inconveniently located on the coast, a bit away from the city center. it is of course part of the Ferrovie dello Stato . Sicilian train service overall is worse than the rest of Italy, which itself, though improving, is still worse than much of Europe. Be prepared.
The Catania subway stops here as well, which offers transits to the circumetnea railroad station across town.
Exact schedules can be found at www.trenitalia.com but I feel that I should warn you about a few things.
First of all, I would FORGET arriving in Sicily by train. If you're coming from the north, just keep in mind that it's a 10 HOUR ride from Roma Termini. Although the experience of riding on a train that goes onto a ferry (at the Straits of Messina) is interesting, it isn't worth the length of the trip. FLY, then take the train if you want.
The situation isn't much better once you're here. There's a main line to Messina or Siracusa, but to get to Palermo you've got to take a roundabout path through Agrigento which takes 4 hours and much of what you want to see is not easily accessible by rail. It can be done, but it's hard, and I would recommend renting a car or, if you are low on cash, using the buses.
Finally, don't forget to stamp your ticket. Better yet, research how the train system works before you take off.
We caught a flight on Italian budget airline Windjet from Milano Malpensa to Catania Fontanarossa. Catania is Sicily's second biggest city. The airport is small. From the airport, we caught a bus to the city centre to our pre-booked accommodation.
Here is a link to a website for buses to and from Catania Airport:
Bus 457 is the one you can take to get in the city and also goes downtown.
Some tips about it: first, before you leave the airport building, go to a newspaper shop and buy yourself some bus tickets (1 euro/ticket) !!! only after that go and find the bus stop, which, in this case, will be right after you step outside the airport.
We had some problems before understanding this 'small' rules and had to wait for the next bus, meaning you must waaaiiittt (even 40 min).
The best way to get to Catania by car is to go via the airport Fontanarossa road and leave the car outside the city!
You will be arriving from Via Cristoforo Colombo and should find the parking lot (behind bus parking) at Porta Uzeda just underneath the railway bridge. Take a parking ticket like on the picture at the booth.
There are just too many one-way streets and the circulation is really chaotic to drive safely in Catania.
The Ali bus (bus 457) goes to and from the aiport about every 20 minutes. You can get it at the Central Station or a few stops along the way.
Only costs about €1 one way and takes about 20-30mins depending on traffic
Crazy, but true - Catania's airport is Italy's third largest in terms of passenger traffic. That may explain the millions of people you're likely to see amassed in the departure hall. They're building a new terminal complete with parking hall and all that stuff, but they've been building it forever, so it may well never see its life (though my guess is that around 2014 it will become operational). In the meantime, take long time, since check-in can take half an hour and security even more. Be prepared for a noisy, messy and somewhat colourful place, and for lots of delays.
Someone who lives in Rome can hardly be put down by the traffic. So I decided to rent a car in Catania, encouraged by its regular shape (square blocks cut by perpendicular streets). It was not easy.
The traffic is excruciatingly slow in most of the centre and hair-risingly fast in the motorways and wherever conditions allow. Not for the faint-hearted (and take CWD insurance! I had my car bumped twice in a parking place).
By plane (at Aeroporto di Catania)
After, the sole individual transport is the rented car because the train and the regular lines of bus are not convenient.
To drive in Sicily, you must have in mind the rule is : 'there is no rule'. The signs are made for the decoration not to be respected. For French people, it needs a short period of adaptation. I guess, US people are more puzzled by this way of driving.
It needs to anticipate the actions of the other drivers (at a crossroad) and to know what is really forbiden (use a one way street in the wrong direction, for example). The speed limits are not respected but, excepted for the highways, the roads are rather bad and the landscape is so beautifull, and everybody applies his own reasonnable limits.
What does the police ? On my opinion, nothing, if I believe what I have seen.
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Flight in gives wonderful views. Excellent transport centre - direct from the airport to a number of key places. get to Agrigento by bus or train and on to other South coast areas by bus.
Local buses Ok but not always clear which direction to go. Check carefully! I wish I had.
I arrived at this airport and found that the easiest way to get around is to rent a car.
Car rental agencies are located outside the terminal just across the street in a small white building. To get to Taormina, where I stayed, just follow A18 motorway sign (it's a toll highway: first get the ticket and pay at the exit) and exit at Taormina. The journey lasts 45min.
There are also buses that connect to the main towns: Catania, Naxos, Taormina, Messina.
For more details: Catania airport
Thank you for taking this Baroque Tour of Catania
Related sites: Italy/Taormina and Messina
The main civil airport of the province of Catania is 'Filippo Eredia' in Catania - Fontanarossa, 6 Km. far from Catania.
From there you can reach daily all the main italian and international cities.
The province of Catania is crossed by these highways:
The highway 114: Siracusa - Messina
The highway 120: Cerda (Pa) - Railway station of Fiumefreddo (Ct)
The highway 121: Palermo - Catania
The highway 124: Siracusa - Crossroad of Gigliotto
The highway 192: Catania - Enna
The highway 194: Ragusa - Catania
The highway 284: Randazzo - Paternò (Ct)
The highway 288: Piazza Armerina - Crossroad of Gerbini
The highway 385: Crossroad of Iazzotto - Caltagirone
The highway 417: Catania - Gela
The highway 514: Ragusa - Catania
The highway 575: Troina (En) - Paternò (Ct)
The province of Catania is crossed by the motorway A19 connecting Palermo to Catania and by the motorway A18 connecting Messina to Catania.
They have two lanes plus an emergency lane in both directions: the motorway A19 is a freeway.
The motorway A19 provides the following service areas:
Caracoli between Termini Imerese junction and industrial area;
Scillato between Buonfornello junction and Scillato junction;
Sacchitello between Enna junction and Mulinello junction;
Gelso Bianco at Motta Sant'Anastasia junction.
The motorway A18 provides the following service areas:
Tremestieri at Tremestieri junction;
S. Teresa di Riva between S. Teresa di Riva junction and Taormina junction;
Calatabiano between Calatabiano junction and Fiumefreddo junction;
Aci S. Antonio at Aci S. Antonio junction.
When you arrive at the airport the best way to get to the city is by bus. Its is bus #457 that goes from the airport to the city every 20 minutes. The round trip also finishes at the airport. 90 minute tickets are still (2014) at 1€ only.
A map with directions where the bus goes along is hard to find: catania.bplaced.net
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Alibus is running between 4.40 am until midnight from the airport to the train station, city center, etc. for € 4 every 25 minutes.
There are also direct buses from the airpoert to Taormina, Siracusa and other towns.
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