Welcome to Catania, a place where fire, sea and earth meet in enchanting ways. Walking through the main street, via Etnea, it is easy to get fascinated by one of the main features of this Metropolis: the black lava rock used to build streets and tipical Baroque style buildings.
So, take a deep breath, take a look around and meet this unique beauty.
The city is rich in cultural historical places, so let's take the map and start our trip from the real heart of it.
Take a 360-degree turn on yourself to get all the details. To welcome you immediately is the symbol of the city, " u Liotru ", as the people of Catania like to call the statue of the Elephant in lava stone. To its left is the Municipal Palace, a UNESCO heritage site, while to its right you can see Palazzo dei Chierici, the Fontana dell'Amenano, better known as " Water or Linzolu " which introduces to the unmissable Pescheria market, the Diocesan Museum, the Uzeda Gate and the Cathedral.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is named after the holy mistress of the city, Sant'Agata, whose sacred relics are kept in a special chapel dedicated to her. The Cathedral was erected at the behest of Count Ruggero: over time it has undergone numerous modifications due to the numerous earthquakes and eruptions of Etna to which it was subjected. The structure you are admiring dates back to the eighteenth century, and is the work of the architects Girolamo Palazzotto and Giovanni Battista Vaccarini , but within its walls it is possible to see the nine centuries of history.
Do not miss the tomb of the famous catanese composer Vincenzo Bellini , located & nbsp; at the second pillar on the right; & nbsp; the fresco, placed in the sacristy, in which the eruption of the Etna of 1669, where we see the lava flow that submerges the city and the Ursino Castle; the remains of Cardinal Giuseppe Benedetto Dusmet laid under the altar of the Virgin and the Achillian baths on right of the external entrance that opens onto the square.
Greek Roman Theater
This theatre is surrounded by 19th century buildings and hiding such as a precious pearl, you can find it in Via Vittorio Emanuele n. 226 hiding between some of them.
At the beginning it was builded on another theatre, who got totally lost during the years.
The theatre is about 80 meters large and could host until 7000 people. We can still admire the Odeon, the Cavea, the Orchestra and some parts of the Scene. The space in front of it has been totally submerged by the Amenano river, still running through the valley underground.
Piazza San Francesco d'Assisi
In the middle of the square we find the statue of the Cardinal Giuseppe Benedetto Dusmet made by Silvestro Cuffaro. In front of it, you will find the church of Francesco d'Assisi all'Immacolata and Palazzo Gravina Cruyllas, where Vincenzo Bellini lived and that is currently site of the Bellini and Emilio Greco Museum.
Walking by the side of the church, you will admire the San Benedetto Arch that represents the beginning of one of the most beautiful and evocative street in Catania: via Crociferi, scenary of many movies such as "Vita di una capinera" by Franco Zeffirelli and where cloistered nuns still live today.
You will be surprised to know that once, all around this castle, there was just sea. Through the years the volcanic eruptions modified his appereance. Today it stands in the middle of Piazza Federico II, the King who decided it had to be built, between 1239 and 1250, by archictect Riccardo da Lentini.
The castle became a Civic Museum in 1934 and since then, an important destination for scholars, archeologists, historians and restorers.
Inside of it you can find many collections, including a picture gallery, many archeological finds from roman and ellenic era, greek vessels, prints, engravings and much more!
It takes its name from the noble lineage of a viceroy of Sicily, Juan Francisco Pacheco Téllez-Giròn, and was commissioned by the Duke of Camastrata in 1696. La Porta, opened on the walls of Charles V, it was built on the stretch that overlooked the Sea, or the Bastion of Sant'Agata, and would have become part of the urban living room along with the rest of the buildings with a baroque character that would have arisen later. Cross it: on the one hand you will be placed on Villa Pacini, part of the fish market and the city walls, on the other you will see the splendor of Piazza Duomo in front of you.
Piazza Università is called like this because of the presence of the University building, office of the Rectorate, built in 1696 together with the square.
Turning toward the East side of it, you will meet Palazzo San Giuliano, built later in 1738, for the family Paternò Castello Marquis of San Giuliano.
The four bronze candle sticks you see, had been realised in 1957 by the catanese sculptors Mimì Maria Lazzaro and Domenico Tudisco and represents the four legends about the four most important characters in Catania: Gammazita, the Pili brothers, Colapesce and the paladin Uzeda.
Piazza Vincenzo Bellini
You are in one of the most beautiful squares of the Catania baroque living room, where the Massimo Bellini Theater is located, the representative center of the Catania opera. It is also the heart of the city's nightlife, where in the evening you can find places to eat or have a drink.
At the center is the Fountain of the Dolphins, designed by the architect Giovanni Battista Vaccarini, made of white stone placed on three steps.
The position of the planters and benches, the work of a 15-month restoration that ended in 2007, follows a play of symmetries that make both the public space of the square, and that of the two entrance streets, pleasant and welcoming.
Inspired by the model of the four Palermo Songs, they arise from the intersection of two main arteries of the city: the main and elegant via Etnea and the representative via San Giuliano. Looking at the 4 corners you will notice the four noble palaces, also in the Baroque style, symbol of the eighteenth-century revival of Catania and so arranged: to the north-east is the Palazzo del Duca dei Carcaci, to the north-west the Palazzo San Demetrio of Baron Eusebio Massa , to the south-east we have the San Giuliano palace of the marquises Paternò Castello, and finally to the south-west we find the Convent of Santa Nicolella. If you turn to the east instead, you can see the part of Via San Giuliano that rises on the hill of Montevergine, called by the people of Catania as " acchianata di Sangiuliano ", that is the ascent of San Giuliano, which represents one of the most significant features of the Feast of the Patron Saint.
But you must know that the four Cantos were also protagonists of an important historical event: it is in fact from one of those palaces that, on 18 August 1862, Giuseppe Garibaldi appeared by saying the famous farse "O Rome or death".
You are in one of the main and most crowded squares of Catania, whose name derives from an ancient Greek Sicilian poet. The square, with its rectangular shape, is divided by the passage of the Via Etnea which thus forms two sections, with a different architectural style. In the eastern part, in fact, you can admire the 15-meter monument, made of white marble by the sculptor Alessandrino Greco Monteverde, depicting one of the most illustrious Catanese musicians, Vincenzo Bellini. At the base are the four statues depicting the most successful works by Bellini: The Puritans, Norma, The Pirate and the Sleepwalker . Behind the monument you will notice the entrance of the ancient city market, known as " fera o 'luni ".
On the west side of the square, you will surely see a section of the Roman Amphitheater , probably dating back to the 2nd century AD and brought to light in the early twentieth century.
The square is finally surrounded by important buildings including, the Church of San Biagio known as the Church of Sant'Agata alla Fornace, the Palazzo della Borsa of the Fascist era, the Beneventano palace, which became the historic headquarters of the Banco di Sicilia, and finally the Palazzo Toscano (to the north) and the Palazzo Tezzano (to the east).
The park is the oldest green lung in the city. The main entrance is from via Etnea, where a huge flight of steps leads in a square with a Fountain in which once were living swans and ducks.
Up on the hill standing above the fountain you will find a calendar and a clock made of plants that is changed and modified everyday by a great work of some gardeners.
On the top of the southern hill there is a cloister made of wrought iron where is possible to listen to concerto or music still today, or where ho can just sit and take a deep breath to enjoy the nature.
If you are lucky, maybe, you can also enjoy the Etna view. Walking around you may see aviaries, statues, fountains and basins. The south west side hosts the avenue of illustrious men, where we are quite sure you will easily recognize some of catanese and italians glories.
Posted in Itineraries