Catania Things to Do
monuments and museums
This is the largest private palazzo in the 18th-century Catania. Construction was begun by Prince Paterno' Castello on an embankment of the 16th-century walls. Work continued for nearly a century and involved some of the leading architects of the time. The most interesting side of the building faces Via Dusmet, with a large terrace decorated with putti, telamons, and garlands sculpted by Antonino Amato. The building is partly private and partly used as city administrative offices.
The heart of city life lies at the crossing of the two main streets, Via Etnea and Via Vittorio Emanuele. The square boasts many fine Baroque buildings: Palazzo del Municipio (the Town Hall), the former Chierici Seminary, the Cathedral, and Porta Uzeda, the city gate built in 1696 to connect Via Etnea with the port area. In the middle is the Fontana dell'Elefante, a well-known fountain sculpted in 1736 by Giovanni Battista Vaccarini. On a pedestal in the basin is an elephant made of lava, on the back of which is an Egyptian obelisk with a globe on top;. This sculpture has become the city's symbol.
The principal church in Catania is dedicated to the city's patron saint, Sant'Agata. It still has its three original Norman apses and transept. The facade, with two tiers of columns, is full Baroque thanks to the design of GB Vaccarini, who also designed the left-hand side of the Cathedral. The majestic interior has a cupola, a tall transept, and three apses with lovely columns. On the second pilaster to the right is the Tomb of Vincenzo Bellini. A door in the right-hand transept leads to the Normal Cappella della Madonna, which contains the remains of various Aragonese rulers.
Built of limestone and lava on the southern slope of the acropolis, the theater had a diameter of 285 feet and could seat 7,000 people. Although there was probably a Greek theater on this site once, the present ruins are all Roman. The theater was badly damaged in the 11th century when Roger I authorized the removal of the marble facing and limestone blocks for use as building material for the cathedral. What remains of the theater today are the cavea, the edge of the orchestra, and part of the backstage area of the theater. Next to the theater is the small semi-circular Odeion, made of lava and used mainly for competitions in music and rhetoric. It had a seating capacity of 1,500.
This street is lined with lavishly decorated Baroque palazzos and churches. The road begins at Piazza San Francesco, with the Baroque San Francesco d'Assisi. In the interior are the so-called candelore, carved and gilded wooded constructions which symbolize the various artisans' guilds in the city. Every February the candelore are carried in procession as part of the impressive celebrations honoring Sant'Agata, the city's patron saint.
Catania's main street goes up a slight incline and connects the most important parts of the city. Partly closed to traffic, Via Etnea has the most elegant shops and cafes in town. Halfway along it is Piazza Stesicoro, with the ruins of the Roman amphitheater, built in the 2nd century AD. Nearby is the vast Piazza Carlo Alberto, where a bustling antiques market is held every Sunday morning. Back on Via Etnea is the Collegiata, a chapel built in the early 1700s and one of the most important late Baroque works in the city. Near the end of Via Etnea is the Villa Bellini, a public garden with subtropical plants and busts depicting famous Sicilians.
This castle was built in 1239-50 by Riccardo da Lentini for Frederick II and is one of the few remaining vestiges of medieval Catania. The Castello Ursino originally stood on a promontory overlooking the sea and was part of a massive defense system. Castello Ursino is square, with four corner towers and was rebuilt in the mid-1500s.
The upper rooms house the interesting Museo Civico, which has a fine art gallery.
Situated at the beginning of Via Garibaldi, the Fontana dell'Amenano fountain is led by the waters of the underground Amenano river, which also forms a pool in the Roman theater. Sculpted in 1867, the fountain is the focal point of a colorful fish market, the Mercato della Pesceria, which occupies the nearby streets and small square every morning. The smells and atmosphere of the market are reminiscent of North Africa and the Middle East. At the end of Via Garibaldi is the monumental Porta Garibaldi city gate, built of limestone and lava in 1768 to celebrate the wedding of Ferdinand IV of Sicily.
Etna is snow and fire, lush vegetation, and black lava and is Sicily's greatest natural attraction and also its highest mountain: Mount Etna, 10,990 feet high, is the most active volcano in Europe and the oldest recorded active volcano in the world.
Etna emerged two million years ago and it has erupted frequently in known history. Two of the most devastating eruptions were in 1381 and 1669, when the lava reached Catania, and one of the most recent was in the 1920s, when the villages of Cerro and Mascali were destroyed.
Experience the magnificent views of terraced vineyards and almond and hazelnut groves, as well as the volcano itself, when you take the picturesque carriages of the Ferrovia Circumetnea. This delightful route climbs up the slopes of Mount Etna, passing through barren stretches of black lava alternating with lavish vegetation.