One of Europe’s largest Benedictine monasteries and a UNESCO World Heritage site, Catania’s Monastero dei Benedettini, or the Monastery of San Nicolò l’Arena, is among the city’s top attractions. The stunning monastery was founded in 1558 but almost completely rebuilt in the baroque style following an earthquake in the 18th century.
One of Catania’s baroque treasures, the Monastero dei Benedettini is a highlight of walking and Segway tours of the city along with Piazza Duomo, the Cathedral of Sant’Agata, and the Elephant Fountain. Architecture enthusiasts will especially appreciate touring the palatial complex, which includes two magnificent internal cloisters and one of Sicily's most important libraries.
Things to Know Before You Go
- This vast complex includes the small Church of St. Nicolò, where modest attire covering shoulders and knees is recommended.
- If visiting the monastery as part of a walking tour of Catania, opt for comfortable shoes and a sun hat.
- The monastery is accessible to wheelchair users.
- There is a bookshop, a small café, and a coat check in the monastery.
How to Get There
The Monastero dei Benedettini is located in Catania’s historic city center, a short walk from the main Piazza Duomo and the Catania Centrale train station.
When to Get There
Much of the monastery is indoors and can offer a welcome respite from Catania’s midday heat in the summer months. Visit the city’s outdoor attractions in the morning or afternoon, and stop in the cooler monastery when temperatures soar.
Treasures Inside the Monastero dei Benedettini
Today, Catania’s Benedictine Monastery is home to the Department of Humanities of the University of Catania, the Church of St. Nicolò, and the Museo della Fabbrica. This fascinating museum, which chronicles the building and architectural design of the complex, is housed in the cellars and kitchen designed by baroque architect Vaccarini. Additional highlights of the Monastero dei Benedettini include the remains of a Roman domus, a huge meridian clock, and a series of landscaped cloister gardens.