Located at the foot of the picturesque Mount Etna which with its eruptions often gives it a special charm, Catania, overlooking the Ionian Sea, is a splendid city of art, an undisputed example of Sicilian baroque and for this Unesco heritage together with the other cities of the Val of Noto.
Catania originates as a Sicilian settlement, refounded with the name of Kατάvη in 729 BC from Greek Calcidese settlers. In the 5th century BC was occupied by the Syracusans, who baptized it Etna, was later conquered by the Romans in 263 BC With the fall of the Roman Empire, the city followed the fate of Sicily, being conquered first by the Ostrogoths, then by Arabs, Normans, Swabians and Angevins.
Shocked by the terrible eruption of Etna in 1669 and by the disastrous earthquake of 1693, the city was almost entirely rebuilt at the beginning of the eighteenth century, according to the baroque taste of the time that characterizes all of south-eastern Sicily.
Catania is a city that fascinates. Beginning with the remarkable testimonies dating back to the Roman period, among which the Odeon stands out, which stands in the historic center, next to the Roman theater. This last building was built in the Greek era, but restored between the I and II century, and other monumental structures also belong to this period, including the amphitheater and some thermal buildings made with lava stones.
Do not miss a visit to the Ursino castle, founded by Frederick II of Swabia in the 13th century and now a civic museum.
Catania, an illustrious example of Sicilian baroque and post-earthquake reconstruction, preserves the urban layout designed by the architect Vaccarini, with wide straight streets that connect around the main Via Etnea, open to squares and gardens. Among these scenic streets is Piazza del Duomo, which presents itself with the characteristic elephant fountain, the true center of the historic city.
What to do
Visiting Catania is a continuous surprise: you can walk among the great eighteenth-century avenues and relax in one of the bars along the beautiful Via Etnea, the beating heart of Catania’s social life and an ideal place for shopping.
For those who love the sea, the Catania coast, characterized by the alternation of sandy beaches and rocky coasts of lava nature, leaves the embarrassment of choice.
An itinerary full of suggestions is then dedicated to the nearby park of Etna, among pine forests, black lava surfaces and smoking craters.
Catania is therefore a city of a thousand faces and the cultural life of the city that revolves around the university is also remarkable, one of the oldest in Italy (1434).
Not to be missed
Those who visit these places in February, can immerse themselves in the unique atmosphere of the feast of Saint Agatha, the patron saint of the city. From the dawn of February 4th to that of the 6th, a human river in procession crosses Catania. The devotees, dressed in white, carry very heavy lighted candles by hand, they pull the fercolo of the saint or follow the candelor.
Catanese cuisine is among the tastiest in Sicily. Fish dishes are not to be missed among the traditional dishes. The pasta with the “Norma” style is also typical, but the cuttlefish ink and the “masculine” are also famous.
A must taste is the prized doc wine of Etna and, at the end of the meal, a typical dessert such as cannoli with ricotta, Sant’Agata nougat and marzipan.