A stroll in Catania: what to see in the Etnean city

On the slopes of the majestic Mount Etna rises the beautiful Catania, the second largest city in Sicily. Pearl of Val di Noto, Catania was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002.

Sitting in the eastern half of the island, Catania is a gem worth visiting and exploring: here is a list of places you can’t miss if you find yourself in this spectacular city!

Duomo Square

Duomo Square
(“Piazza del Duomo”) is one of the symbolic places of Catania and is the very heart of the city. In the center of the square visitors can admire the famous Fountain of the Elephant, the emblem of Catania.

It is a monumental masterpiece, realized between 1735 and 1737: its main element is the black basalt statue depicting an elephant, called “u Liotru” by the citizens of Catania. On the animal’s back stands an obelisk more than 3 meters high, of clear Egyptian inspiration. The southward exit out of the square is the spectacular Porta Uzeda, opening into the 16th-century walls of Charles V and named after the Spanish viceroy Giovanni Francesco Paceco, duke of Uzeda.

Also in Piazza del Duomo is Catania’s Town Hall building.

Duomo of Catania

The square is home to the beautiful Duomo, from which it takes its name. The cathedral is dedicated to the patron saint of Catania, St. Agatha. The entire city dedicates three days of celebrations to the Christian martyr who lived in the 2nd century AD: between February 3rd and 5th of each year, Catania dresses up and honors its “Santuzza”.

The Cathedral is always open for visits and is a true architectural and stylistic masterpiece. The building has been renovated and rebuilt several times due to numerous earthquakes and eruptions of Mount Etna. The exterior facade is completely made of white marble, and the interior is a Latin cross plan divided into three naves. Protected by a gate, there is the chapel of St. Agatha, containing the relics of the Santuzza of Catania. Inside the cathedral, right in front of the altar, it is possible to admire the tomb of Vincenzo Bellini, a world-renowned musician born in Catania.

Via Etnea

The beautiful and scenic Via Etnea, Catania’s main street, unfolds from Piazza del Duomo. It runs from south to north for about 3 kilometers.

Via Etnea is ideal for strolling immersed in the Baroque beauty of Catania. For the most part, it is a pedestrian island and a go-to shopping street. It is one of the busiest streets for tourists in the city both during daytime and nighttime hours: in fact, along Via Etnea there are plenty of restaurants, bars, pubs, and breweries.

 

The fish market

A piscarìa“, in dialect, is Catania’s ancient fish market, itself a landmark in the city. It is a fish market, colorful and chaotic. Its distinctive smells and sounds make it one of the most characteristic places in Catania.

Here you can enjoy the freshest fish, while being beckoned by the “vuciate“, the typical shouts of traders inviting you to their stall.

 

Villa Bellini

Villa Bellini or Giardino Bellini is the perfect place to relax completely surrounded by nature right in the heart of Catania. The Villa occupies an area of about 70 thousand square meters and within its interior boasts stunning statues, gushing fountains, hedges, and lawns that are always well cared for. Absolutely worth seeing is the Avenue of Famous Men, which features busts depicting famous people from both national and Catanian history.

The oldest core of the garden dates back to the 18th century and was owned by Prince Ignazio Paternò Castello di Biscari, who designed it according to the style of the time.

The Greek Roman theater

The Greek Roman theater in Catania, surrounded by buildings dating back to the 19th century, is a real gem of antiquity found in the Etnean metropolis. It is located in Via Vittorio Emanuele and was built on top of an earlier theater from the Greek era, the remains of which are now gone. Today’s facade dates back to the Roman era, which can be placed around the second century AD.

Today it is possible to admire the Odeon, the quarry, the orchestra and parts of the stage. The theater has a diameter of about 80 meters and a capacity of 7,000 spectators.

Ursino Castle

Ursino Castle is another essential stop on your stay in Catania. It is a construction dating back to the 13th century.

The castle was erected at the behest of Frederick II of Swabia and, throughout history, played an important role during the so-called Sicilian Vespers: it was the seat of parliament and later the residence of the Sovereigns of Sicily of the dynasty of Aragon.

Today it is the seat of the Civic Museum of Catania and houses mainly the Biscari and Benedictine collections.

What to see in the surroundings of Catania

Mount Etna towers over Catania with its ominous and fascinating appearance. Its beauty, along with its uniqueness, resulted in UNESCO naming Mount Etna a “World Heritage Site” in 2013.

The first eruptions occurred about 600,000 years ago, and more than 2,000 years of these activities have been documented.

Since then, Mount Etna has continued to scare and fascinate. From Catania, getting to the volcano is very easy: Etna’s crater is about 20 kilometers from the city. You can go by yourself or with one of the many organized tours. Etna Park, located in the province of Catania, was the first to be established among the Sicilian parks by a Decree issued by the President of the Region on March 17, 1987.  With its 59000 hectares, the Park protects a unique natural environment: the beautiful landscape surrounding Europe’s highest active volcano.

In addition, not too far from the city of Catania, you can also visit Aci Trezza, with its incredible stacks: this is precisely the place where Giovanni Verga set his Malavoglia.

Then again, from Catania you can also easily reach the Alcantara Gorges, a natural wonder of breathtaking beauty, and the wonderful city of Taormina, with its terraces, palaces, and the incredible Isola Bella.

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