Catania is best known for its Sicilian baroque architecture, but one of the most important attractions in the city actually dates from centuries earlier: the formidable 13th-century Ursino Castle. Built by Emperor Frederick II, it now houses an impressive collection of art and artifacts in the Museo Civico (Civic Museum).
The most impressive vestige of medieval Catania, Ursino Castle (also known as the Castello Svevo di Catania) holds much of the personal collections of the Prince of Biscari, including paintings from the Sicilian school, a Hellenistic statue of Polyphemus, a Roman relief depicting gladiators, and weaponry, sculpture, and porcelain. Join a walking or Segway tour of Catania to visit the castle and museum along with other city highlights including Piazza Duomo, the Cathedral di Sant’Agata, and the Monastero dei Benedettini.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Kids especially love to visit imposing Ursino Castle, with a large circular tower at each corner and an open-air inner courtyard.
- If you’re joining a walking tour of Catania, wear comfortable shoes and a sun hat.
- The castle is entirely accessible to wheelchair users via an elevator.
How to Get There
Ursino Castle is located on the edge of Catania’s historic city center, an easy walk from the Catania Centrale train station and the main Piazza Duomo.
When to Get There
Catania, like all Sicilian cities, can be uncomfortably hot in the summer months. Ursino Castle is open all day and can offer respite from the midday heat, so visit the city’s outdoor attractions such as Piazza Duomo and Via Etnea in the cooler morning and evening and tour the castle during the hottest hours of the day.
The Moving Castle
Ursino Castle was originally built high on the sea cliffs to guard the Sicilian coast, but was encircled by lava after the 17th-century eruptions of nearby Mount Etna filled in the moat and moved the coastline farther out to sea. The castle now stands 1,640 feet (500 meters) inland, just on the edge of the historic city center, surrounded by bustling city streets and squares.