The Sicilian city of Catania, known for its active volcano 365 days a year, is a city that hides a great history and is famous for its constant seismic activities, it is for many centuries that the earth needs constant maintenance, because of the Etna, which with its eruptions has often caused the destruction of soil and towns. The last historical reconstruction of the city dates back to 1693, in the middle of the Baroque period, thanks to which the architecture was a fundamental pivot of the old city and you can still admire its beauty today.
The raw material used for the construction of houses, and the roads themselves, is basalto, a stone that comes from Etna, which is one of the most resistant layers and formerly used in construction.
The footprints of the people who inhabited this territory are still visible, like the Greek-Roman ruins, preserved in their original status and admirable in the city center, for lovers of good old food, the essence of this city is found in the ancient markets, where merchants display their goods jealously valuing the products of the mother land of Sicily, and in small fry shops that make food according to ancient culinary traditions.
Catania is a very big city and full of historical attractions, nightlife and much more, but here are 10 things that must certainly be taken into consideration during your stay (those that I think are most valuable and focus of what has been and continues to be this city):
10 - Ursino Castle
Built in the thirteenth century, by order of Frederick II of Swabia, was born as a military fort on a promontory overlooking the sea, following the lava flow of 1669, the structure has changed and is now surrounded by a leveled ground, built from lava stone. In 1934, during the Fascist period, it was restored for the first time and equipped with tomes of Medieval, Renaissance and Modern archaeology, to become, in 1988, a monument of historical and cultural heritage.
9 - Piazza Duomo
It is the main square of Catania, recognizable by the statue of the elephant, symbol of the city, which hides an access to the subsoil where the river Amenano flows (which takes its name from a Greek deity, or the river god); you can access it from the inside of St. Agatha’s cathedral, the patron saint of Catania, to admire the flow that ends into the sea in the Gulf of Catania.
8 - Horse meat
Typical dish of Catania, to be tried by anyone visiting this city, which is the matrix of Catania's street food. In the areas of old Catania, there are many of the old trattorias, or simple street vans that serve horse meat in all its forms, from burgers to meatballs and even sausage, if you pass through here you must taste it!
7 - Benedictine Monastery
The monastery of San Nicolò La Rena was built in the 12th century and is considered the second largest monastery in Europe. It is located in the historic centre of Catania, in Piazza Dante, and was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002 as a jewel of the late Sicilian Baroque";. A monumental and historical complex of great value, in a strategic position, which must be visited for those who want to imagine the city in its gold age.
Integrated as a whole, we find the Church of St. Nicholas, or formerly known as St. Nicholas of the Arena (so named for the devotion of the monks to St. Nicholas of Bari) built after the eruption of 1669; you can visit the interior to admire the majesty and characteristics of the Renaissance, a fundamental pivot in the history of this city.
6 - Street markets
For those who want to immerse themselves in the culture and take a dip in the past of this city, it is a must to visit the ancient markets that are located in many parts of Catania, the central point of this ancient tradition can be found between Piazza Duomo and Piazza Borsellino (in the center) where the merchants exhibit their products at Km 0, loved
by every tourist, which enhance the flavours of the earth and with a price accessible to all.
5 - Etna
Etna is the volcano that boasts the greatest seismic activity in all of Europe, thanks to its continuous eruptions and the structure of the volcanic cone, is a scientific dogma that has fascinated our generations for centuries, you can admire the activity from the city, or go up to its 3,000 meters to see it up close. Thanks to its ski resort and various nature trails, the top of the volcano has become very well known throughout Europe, for those who love trekking and hiking at high altitudes, is undoubtedly the heart of the city of Catania that everyone should see.
4 - Greek-Roman ruins
Still today preserved and scattered in the city we can admire the ruins of both empires, Greek and Roman, the dominations of these cultures have made possible a fusion of history, traditions and architecture, which are of interest to many lovers of archaeology.
In Piazza Stesicoro, bordered by a fence, we find the Old Roman Amphitheatre built around the second century, in the area that was once used as a Necropolis. In ancient times it was buried by various destructions and brought to light after the excavations of 1903; most of the city walls were built with material taken from the Amphitheatre.
In via Vittorio Emanuele we can find the Greek Theatre, dating back to 415 BC, made of lava stone and facing the sea. It was made for theatrical performances, such as tragedies and comedies, and characterizes an important piece of history and culture of the city (formerly known as Katane, a name purely originating in the Greek tradition). The theatre can be visited in all its splendour, as most of its original structure has remained intact.
Recommended for lovers of history and archaeology before Annus Domini.
3 - Etnean villages
Just as important as Catania are the ancient seaside villages bordered by the Alcantara river, which rise on the slopes of Mount Etna.
The peculiarity of the structure of these countries, including Catania, is the use of lava stone for the construction of roads, walls and homes themselves, we can see in the historical architecture the prevalence of two colours, the red that represents the red sand, a stage of backward lava stone that owes to its colour thanks to the loss of gas inside the stone, then crumbly and malleable, and the black stone known as Basalt, very durable and suitable for construction.
This landscape of intertwined hills and slopes, is due to the influence of the
of the volcano, which with its past eruptions, has formed a sequence of mountains of eruptive-plastic nature, known today as Etnean hills.
For those who want to have a panoramic of this volcanic territory and see it in all its forms, it is a must to visit these villages, also full of history and majestic Baroque architecture.
2 - Via Etnea
Formerly crossed by the river Amenano, is now the main street of the historic center of Catania, famous for the influx and concentration of tourism, many of the shops and bars on this street, have been renovated and have become the places of greatest attraction of the city.
Halfway down the main street, Villa Bellini, is a peculiar garden on two levels; it boasts of its green spaces and the presence of numerous statues of Catanese artists, an immersion in botany and history.
We can also find numerous bnb, hotels and holiday homes, mostly chosen by tourists for their strategic location.
If you are interested in nightlife, Via Etnea is definitely the place to find good food, good wine and many places in the city.
1 - Church of St. Agata
The church of St. Agata is considered as the most important church by the people of Catania, as St.Agata is its patron saint; lived in the third century, she was sentenced to death during Christian persecutions, her sentence was due to the fact that she never betrayed the profession of
her Christian faith. The presence of ecclesiastical buildings is due to the Catholic religion, important for the people of Catania, as in the past boasts a long and dated history of Christian culture and martyrdom.
The Saint is celebrated every 5th February, with a suggestive procession behind the statue, a moment to honour her memory and to pray.
This celebration is also known by many, lasts 3 days and is an important role from the Christian point of view but also for its festivity, aimed at celebration and pleasure.
So what about this wonderful city? Above listed there are only a few of the attractions and wonders to visit, certainly not just a few days to see them all, but certainly are the key points of the history of Catania. May this little guide encourage you to visit the city and immerse yourself in its history and troubled tradition.
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