Catania, the city of the volcano
Catania is the second-largest city in Sicily; located on the east coast, it is the capital of the province that bears its name. In the north, it is bounded by Mount Etna, the biggest active volcano in Europe. It was founded in the 8th century and its name stems from «Katane» (“scratch”), as it is associated with the rough soil of the lava territory from which it has risen.
WHAT TO SEE
It is the main piazza in the city. It is located in a spot where the “Platea magna” used to stand in Roman times. A wide area with beautiful and imposing palaces giving the atmosphere a touch of elegance.
On the eastern side of the piazza there is the Saint Agatha Cathedral, virgin and martyr, and Saint Patron of the city.
On the north side, the “Palace of Elephants” can be viewed, where Catania’s town hall is currently situated.
And it is all about elephants in this city, as in the centre of the piazza there is Catania’s most representative symbol, the “Litoru”. A very beautiful fountain with an elephant statue topped by a granite Egyptian obelisk.
Located in the Via Etnea, it is one of the most characteristic and important piazzas in Catania. One can find the ruins of the former Roman amphitheatre here, discovered last century.
Also, in the centre of the piazza there is Vincenzo Bellini’s monument, surrounded by multiple elegant and imposing baroque palaces.
It is located in the Piazza del Teatro. It is the most important theatre in Catania and it was built in the 19th century.
This piazza is the favourite meeting point of young people in Catania, as the surrounding area is buzzing with bars, restaurants and clubs.
This monastery used to be the largest in Europe, and it is located at the foot of Mount Etna. It ceased to fulfil its role when the earthquake in 1693 destroyed almost the entire city.
After several centuries it was rebuilt and today hosts the Faculty of Arts, Philosophy and Languages at the University of Catania.
WHAT TO DO
Strolling along Via Etnea
It is the main street of the city and it is full of all kinds of shops. From the big and luxury brands to traders from the area. This is a very bustling street due to its beauty, mainly because of its spectacular architectural features.
Etna Volcano Tour
Going to Catania and not exploring Etna is like not going there at all.
The city and the volcano complement each other, making them interesting; this is why visiting Etna is so important.
There are many agencies throughout the city that organise visits to the volcano’s summit. Once at the top you can visit its huge crater and enjoy the panoramic views of the city.
“La Pescheria” Fish Market
It is located in the Piazza del Duomo and is one of the liveliest and most colourful in all of Italy. Delving into the market is a unique experience, as you can find all types of Mediterranean fish, so fresh that they are still moving.
There are also shops selling fruits and vegetables. Many of these merchants still speak Catanean Sicilian with the aim of encouraging sales.
All in all, a mix of scents, flavours, sounds and colours making the visit to the Pescheria a must if you are in the city.
Lava beaches of Catania
Enjoying a few days at any of the lava beaches on the coast around Catania is quite an adventure.
These are not sandy beaches, but are made up of cooled lava residues expelled during the violent eruptions of Etna. Something very odd and almost unique.
WHAT TO EAT
Catania’s cuisine offers a number of tasty delicacies that feature all over the island of Sicily.
Pasta Norma. It is basically macaroni with tomato sauce, fried aubergines, basil and an abundance of salted ricotta.
Rice arancini, one of the most popular recipes. It consists of a ball made of rice, breaded, stuffed and fried, which can be tasted in one of its many different forms. Some are stuffed with mincemeat, accompanied by mushrooms, or even pistachio. The “arancini” from Catania are distinguished from the other cities’ by their elongated shape resembling a cone.
Another ubiquitous appetiser is the “crespelle”: soft dumplings stuffed with ricotta or anchovies.
- The city has been destroyed seven times by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. The last eruption of the volcano occurred very recently, on 22 January.
- The pasta “Norma” is named in honour of the composer Vincenzo Bellini, from Catania, author of the lyrical work “Norma”.
- The Etna volcano featured in the fourth of the Superman series of films, “The Quest for Peace” (1987).