Catania: all places to visit
Among the cities not to be missed absolutely if you come, even just for a few days in Sicily, there is with no doubt Catania! Catania is the second largest city on the island, after the capital, Palermo, and it is famous for ‘a Muntagna’, the name that the inhabitants of the place give to Mount Etna, which frames the city as in a postcard, making it even more beautiful!
PLACES NOT TO BE MISSED
Piazza del Duomo, which opens to visitors with “O Liotru”, the elephant symbol of Catania. The different legends tell it as magical and as protector from the eruptions of Etna. The name “O Liotru” seems to derive from the crippling of Heliodorus, the name of a noble considered magician and necromancer who rode the stone elephant to go to Constantinople.
The fountain on the square takes its present form in 1736, after various interventions during different ages. On the same Piazza del Duomo, on the north side there is the Palazzo degli Elefanti with the function of Town Hall, on the south side the Palazzo dei Chierici joined to the Cathedral by a passage over the Porta Uzeda. In front of the Town Hall there is the Amenano fountain, the river that flows under Catania visible right under the fountain.
The Cathedral of Sant’Agata, built on the remains of ancient baths, has been destroyed and rebuilt several times after the numerous earthquakes and also following the eruptions of Etna. The first building dates back to about 1070 and only the apse remains of that time, while all the rest, destroyed and rebuilt, dates back to the works carried out from 1734 to 1761 that offer the current appearance.
The facade is entirely made of Carrara marble with the grafting of the columns from the ancient Roman theater. The interior is majestic and, protected behind a gate, there is also the chapel of Sant’Agata, also with relics. Opposite the altar is the tomb of Vincenzo Bellini, a musician from Catania by birth.
Another place not to be missed and that characterizes every city in the south is the popular market, where you can find the true soul of the place and where the people of Catania show themselves for how they are in business and in daily situations.
There are several but those that you can not miss are two: the fish market, which is located behind Piazza del Duomo, and Fera or Luni, in Piazza Carlo Alberto. La Pescheria is a fish market, colorful, animated, chaotic and therefore fully reflects the soul of Catania.
Typical of many Sicilian markets, are the vuciate, that is the cries of the merchants, that resonate abundantly to attract customers. Not too far away, in Piazza Carlo Alberto, takes place in Fera or Luni, a daily market where everything is sold: from fruit to clothes to toys. In recent years this market has taken on a strong multi-ethnic connotation.
If you visit the city you can not take a walk on the most important street of Catania: Via Etnea. This takes its name from the fact that during the walk the Etna is always visible. The Via Etnea is a place of walking of Catania and tourists, where along the way you can admire many baroque works, since almost all the palaces and churches were built after the disastrous earthquake of 1693 that razed to the ground Catania.
The walk ends in Piazza Cavour, in what the people of Catania call “Il borgo” because until 1693 it was outside the city walls. A fundamental stop of the city visit is the Teatro Massimo Bellini, to which Catania could not fail to pay homage to the composer Vincenzo Bellini who gives the name to the structure.
This was inaugurated in 1890, 55 years after his death at only 34 years old, and opened with the performance of Norma, his most famous work. You can admire this beautiful theater with a guided tour and you can visit the hall with four tiers of stages and the richly decorated gallery.
The ceiling is frescoed with images of Bellini and his most famous works: Norma, La sonnambula, I puritani and Il pirata. The curtain also portrays the “Victory of the people of Catania over the Libyans”. To further honor the artist, a bronze statue was made by Salvo Giordano.
The Monastery of the Benedictines in Catania is undoubtedly another stop not to be missed! It is considered one of the largest monastic complexes in Europe. After an important restoration, the Monastery is now home to the Department of Human Sciences of the University but not only: it is also a cultural space where exhibitions, workshops and conferences are held. It can also be visited thanks to a guided tour and through this you can retrace the 500 years of life of this place that hosted the monks but also barracks, schools, to the current destination.
If you come to visit Catania, you must visit Etna: this is the highest active volcano in Europe that, at any time of the year, does not stop giving shows of lava and fire. You can take advantage of the many excursions offered by tour operators, agencies and individual tour guides to see more closely this wonder of nature, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Climbing the volcano, you can visit the Valle del Bove, the summit craters but also the about 200 caves used since ancient times as refuges, cemeteries and sacred places. It is also possible to make excursions by jeep, ski descents, walks on foot, horse rides or a panoramic tour with the Circumetnea Railway that runs around the lower ring of the volcano.
In short… a real show, not to be missed! As typical of Sicily, food is always a guarantee!
If you visit Catania you can not miss, among the most famous desserts, the cassate, the cannoli with ricotta, the Iris, the olivette di sant’Agata (the patron saint of the city, to which the people of Catania are very devoted) and the brioches with granite.
Among the salty foods that stand out most in the traditional cuisine of Catania are arancini, crispelle, schiacciate or roasted artichokes. Among the most famous dishes, you can not miss a pasta alla Norma, a pasta with sardines, a caponata or a falsomagro. Whether it’s a day or a week you can decide to stay in a hotel or a B&B, with the possibility of finding a nice accommodation at an affordable price, which allows its guests to receive an excellent treatment and to discover Catania and its many facets.