(110Km from Rodia)
Sicily’s second city by size and population, Catania is characterized by its extraordinarily elegant baroque beauty. Its origins are linked to the succession of the various rulers of Sicily. Under the Aragonese dynasty it was the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily. The history of Catania reflects the city’s extreme closeness to Mount Etna and the volcano’s many eruptions over the centuries. In 2002, Catania’s baroque historical centre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with seven towns of the Val di Noto: Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Ragusa and Scicli. The coast, hillsides and mountains here come together to form the varied landscape of the eastern side of Sicily; the region of Catania also includes a large part of the Plain of Catania, which is one of the lushest in Sicily.
Place to see
Cattedrale di Sant’Agata (Cathedral of St Agatha): the cathedral, symbol of the city, stands over the adjacent square where you can find the stele of Liostro, showing the iconic elephant of Catania. The Cathedral stands on the Terme di Achille (Hot Springs of Achilles) and is dedicated to the city’s patron saint, the martyr Agatha. Of great historical and artistic value is the bier used to carry the statue of the saint, which is safely kept and guarded during the year in the chapel to the right of the main altar. Only on the occasion of the feast of the martyr, February 5, can you admire the extraordinary magnificence of the bier. Adjoining the square is the historic fish market of the city where the bounty of Sicilian fish arrives daily.
Castello Ursino (the Ursino Castle): The Ursino Castle of Catania was erected by Frederick II of Swabia in the 13th century. It now houses the municipal museum, and its exhibits come from the collections of the local Benedictine monks and the Prince of Biscari. The Ursino Castle was the royal residence of the kings of the House of Aragon in Sicily (a parallel branch of the Barcelona family) and accommodated King Frederick III and all his descendants. After the episode of the Sicilian Vespers, the castle, which was then the home of Maria, Queen of Sicily, became the scene of the abduction of the queen by Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada in 1392, to avoid a marriage with Gian Galeazzo Visconti. With the coronation of Martino I of Sicily, the castle became once again a court of the kingdom.
Teatro Massimo ‘Vincenzo Bellini’: the Vincenzo Bellini Theatre is the work of the Milanese architect Carlo Sada, and was opened in 1890. On its stage the greatest masters of the twentieth century have performed. The facade of the theatre, in neo-Baroque style, is inspired by the 16th century Library of Venice, designed by the architect Jacopo Sansovino. It was inaugurated on May 31, 1890 with a performance of the opera Norma by the composer Vincenzo Bellini of Catania.
Villa Bellini: Villa Bellini is the main public park in the city. The main gate is on Via Etnea and the park occupies an area of 70,942 square meters. The botanical heritage of Villa Bellini consists of 106 species of plants, shrubs and trees, mainly of exotic origin. There are several hundred-year-old specimens which, by their magnificence, give the garden a certain prestige. For the people of Catania, the Giardino Bellini is simply ‘a Villa’, a place of recreation and relaxation, for walking and meeting friends.
Via Etnea: this is the street that passes through the historic heart of the city, from Piazza Duomo, where the Cathedral and the Town Hall are located, up to the highest part of the city. Along the street there are noble palaces in an unmistakable baroque style characterized by the use of black lava stone. Now the long road is home to the headquarters of various institutions, and the numerous premises of shops and restaurants.
Mount Etna: At over 3000 metres, Etna is the highest active volcano in Europe. Its slopes dominate the east coast of Sicily, thanks to its constant smoke and cyclical eruptions. It is called a ‘green lung’ because of the thick forest vegetation that surrounds the volcano as far as the village of Nicolosi, the settlement closest to the mountain. The green of the woods contrasts with the dark color of the volcanic rock, the result of cooled magma. In the winter season Mount Etna, covered with heavy snows, offers the opportunity to enjoy different skiing activities..
For all information related to the guided tour of Mount Etna, visit the website www.parcoetna.it.
Feasts, events and movida
Festa di Sant’Agata (Feast day of St Agatha), patron saint of Catania, 5th February: a striking outdoor procession of a statue containing the relics of the Christian martyr. The festival lasts three days, moving around the outermost localities of the city and then up to the city center. Huge numbers of devotees and tourists crowd into the city each year to watch the procession. The faithful are characterized by the typical white dress called ‘sacco’ and the wax candles that they offer to St. Agatha along the processional route.
Scalinata Alessi (the Alessi Steps): The Alessi Steps have medieval origins and lead to the Via Sacra, also known as Via Crociferi. From the steps can be seen several Baroque buildings, including the Benedictine Monastery and the Palazzo Zappalà. For younger people, this is the place to be in the evenings because of the widespread presence of small pubs, including the historic Nievski Pub. Beneath this pub were found archaeological traces of a Roman city – the remains of domestic buildings with beautiful mosaics and wall paintings.
Carnival of Acireale: A small town in the hinterland of Catania, Acireale is located approximately 18 km from the city centre. Its Carnival has ancient origins: the first document to mention it dates back to about 1594. The carnival takes place today in the beautiful setting of the Baroque old town. It is twinned with the Carnival of Viareggio. Some of the costumes from the Venice Carnival are also worn at the Carnival of Acireale. The traditional programme of events includes a parade of papier mache floats on Thursday, Sunday and Shrove Tuesday, while flowered floats take part in the carnival procession on Monday and Tuesday. For several years now, however, the programme has been different. Nowadays the papier mache floats can also be seen on the two previous Sundays and on the final Saturday, while the flowered floats parade every day from the final Saturday to Shrove Tuesday. The event closes on the evening of Shrove Tuesday with an awards ceremony and traditional fireworks during which the Carnival King is burnt..
La Playa: the long, sandy coastline that runs from the port of the city toward its southern side is named “La Playa”. Among this series of beaches, several are equipped with facilities, and there are also open-air discos which make La Playa particularly lively in the summer season. There are only four beaches which have free entry, but to make up for this, there are holiday villages, a water park, two hotels, some restaurants, and other places to meet.
Every year, on May 1st, music festivals are held, including One Day Music and Revolution Day, which attract thousands of people from all over southern Italy.
Night-time entertainment in Catania takes place mainly in the ‘golden square’, namely the area between Piazza Duomo, Piazza Università and Piazza Teatro Massimo, where many popular pubs, clubs and restaurants are set among baroque palaces, creating a really lovely atmosphere. There are other equally attractive areas for lovers of nightlife, such as the renowned Via Etnea, full of bars and restaurants; and Via Plebiscito and Via Penninello, where some of the cocktail bars stay open until far into the night.
Restaurants & Pizzerie:
|Trattoria Catania Ruffiana||Mé Cumpari Turiddu||Eat Pizzeria|
|Via Aloi, 50 – 95129, Catania||Via Mons. Ventimiglia, 15 – 95124, Catania||Via Coppola, 49/51 – 95100, Catania|
|+39 095-2162222||+39 095-7150142||+39 095-310100|