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Catania is the second largest city in Sicily, and is also a port town. In common with other Sicilian cities Catania has a rich historical heritage, and the foundations of the city are thought to predate the Romans - during the Roman Period the city was a well known city of the empire with a name very similar to its Italian variation: Catina.
The city suffered very extensive damage during an earthquake in 1693, hence a great deal of the baroque architecture we see today dates from the century that followed the tragedy.
In the shadow of Mount Etna
In common with Naples on the Italian mainland (which sits in the shadow of the notorious Mount Vesuvius), Catania is also a coastal city which is overshadowed by an equally devastating yet breathtaking volcano at Mount Etna - an active volcano that still erupts from time to time.
Catania history and architecture
The historical architecture of Catania is an interesting attraction and the city center area has been declared as part of the Val di Noto UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city has a huge number of buildings of beautiful Baroque Architecture, which are major tourist attractions .
As in other Sicilian cites, Catania’s Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo) has a central position in the city life, and features fine views to Mount Etna. The elephant made out of larva and carrying an Egyptian obelisk is an unusual feature of the square and is the symbol of Catania. The Elephant fountain is called 'U Liotru' and is the symbol of the city.
Catania's Cathedral is another of the key Baroque buildings and has a facade by Vaccarini. Inside the cathedral is the tomb of Constance of Aragon. The treausury holds the body of a martyred woman from the 3rd century.
There are a good number of churches to be admired as you walk the streets of Canania. Many of them are also in Baroque style like the cathedral. Amongs these are: the the Basilica della Collegiata, the San Placido church, the Badia di Sant Agata, the San Benedetto church, the Basilica di San Nicola l'Arena and the Church of St. Francis of Assisi.
Other archaeological sites in Catania include the Greek-Roman Theater, which lies within the city, the Roman Thermal Baths, the Odeon and the Catanian Roman Amphitheater which held over 15000 spectators and could be flooded to allow gladiators to compete in water battles.
Opera fans will be interested to know that the famous composer Vincenzo Bellini is buried in the cathedral of Catania. The Baroque opera house is named after him and puts on productions of many of his works.
Want to buy something Sicilian? Head for Via Etnea, a popular shopping avenue.
Beaches near Catania include La Playa, Fiumefreddo apart from the rocky volcanic coast that stretches up to Taormina.
St. Agatha is the patron saint of the city and her feast is celebrated on February 5.
At 35 km north-west of Catania, and visible from much of the region, it is needless to mention that Mount Etna is a major source of interest for tourists to Catania. At 3370 metres high it is Europe's highest volcano, and it is still active.
You can arrange tours to the base or drive yourself. Once there you can walk up to the summit, or use the cable car or the 4*4 vehicules. Once above the cable car guides will lead walks around the summit and keep you at a safe distance from the acive craters. The black landscape is very eerie and well worth the trip.
Apparently the city has been buried in Lava from Mount Etna a phenomenal 17 times and remains of the Roman and Greek cities of earlier times are buried in the larva.
Places to Visit Nearby
You can find more local travel ideas in the guide.