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A bit of History

Catania was founded in the century VIII B.C. by Greek colonists. It was numerously hard hit by earthquake in 1169, by eruptions in 1329, in 1381 and in 1669, most of it was razed to the ground in 1693 by a tremendous earthquake. Catania revived in baroque style; only a few vestiges of the times past could resist and, sometimes, they were used in the rebuilding of the new Catania. This is, for example, the case of the front of the Cathedral (in which were used stones of the Greek-Roman Theatre) and of the Fountain of the Elephant, masterpieces of the architect Giovanni Battista Vaccarini. The Fountain of the Elephant is a real crucible of different cultures: the elephant is made of lavic stone and it is of roman epoch (Byzantine epoch for some searchers) and brings on its back an Egyptian obelisk with a singular hexagonal plan.

 

PIAZZA DEL DUOMO

Vista notturnaIt has been designed by the celebrated architect Vaccarini,Immagine:Catane Fontana Dell elefante.jpg surrounded by magnificent baroque buildings creating a great elegance impart. It is recognized as the heart of the city and at its centre rises the Fountain of the Elephant. On the South side is the fine 1800’s Amenano Fountain, partly offset by the Chierici and Pardo palaces. The Cathedral joining with the Bishop’s Palace and the Porta Uzeda dominates the square. On the North side stands the fine Palazzo Senatorio or of the Elephants, now knew as Town Hall and on the left it is placed the lovely Badia of S. Agata.

 

Duomo

Dedicated to the martyred St. Agatha, Catania’s patron saint, it was erected in the late 11th century on the orders of Roger I, and rebuilt  after the 1693’s earthquake. Along via Vittorio Emanuele II, by the courtyard of the Bishop’s Palace, one can look up to the tall lava apses, dating back to the Norman age. The cathedral’s solid-looking structure suggests that it was conceived as a fortified church. On the North side a fine portal ornamented  with an entablature of cherubs can be admired.

 

BISCARI MUSEUM

It is the most beautiful secular building in Catania. It was erected after the earthquake in 1693, and in 1934 Ignazio Biscari decided to bring in it different collections, such as the objects from the Benedictine Friars and donations from Duke Zappalà Asmundo. The South wing of the palace shows a rich decoration of figures and volutes, cherubs and racemes, that fill the window frames along the long terrace relieving the sombreness of the dark facade. The entrance of the Sicily / Sicilia - Palazzo Biscari - inside (images by *ve)palace, on via Museo Biscari, consists of a rich portal and on the first floor are the main reception rooms. In the back you can enjoy a splendid Salon with some frescoes realized by Sebastiano Lo Monaco. The centre of the ceiling opens out into an oval dome with gallery conceived as the place where the music would descend from the heaven. The fresco portrays the Triumph of the Family celebrated by the council of the Gods. A lovely spiral staircase situated in the gallery next to the hall provides access to the little platform. From the gallery the south terrace of the building can be admired.

 

Giovanni Verga’s house

Giovanni VergaVerga's house is situated in Via S. Anna, 8 and here the writer spent many years of his life. The house is preserved much as he left it otherwise  some furniture has been added from his home in Milan (notably to the last rooms). His study offers the opportunity of browsing through his literary preferences, among which are Capuana, D’Annunzio and Deledda.

 


Piazza Università

It is a square room surrounded by elegant buildings. On the right stands Sangiuliano palace, realized by Vaccarini. The square is illuminated at night by four fine lamps (dated 1957) by a sculptor from Catania. Further down rises the lovely concave facade of the Church of S. Maria della Consolazione designed by Stefano Ittar in the 18th century.

 

 

Piazza Stesicoro

At the centre of the square lie the remains of a Roman amphitheatre that could accomodate over 15,000 spectators. Much of the structure lies hidden below the square and the surrounding baroque buildings.


S. S. Biagio (S. Agata alla Fornace)

This building (1700s) was built on the foundations of an original chapel dedicated to S. Agatha. Within the church, a chapel preserves the furnace where Agatha is believed to have met her death. Other sources claim that she died in prison. According to popular tradition the "Church of S. Agata al Carcere", rising behind the square, was built on the site of the jail where she was imprisoned in 251. At the entrance you can see the fine Romanesque doorway. A wild olive-tree was planted behind the church where, still according to legend, a plant had sprouted at the Saint’s stopping, on her way to the prison.

 

Villa Bellini

It is a large and luxuriant park with a great variety of exotic plants. From the top of the hill, in the little kioskit is possible to enjoy a beautiful view of the city and out towards the Etna volcano.



 

Castello Ursino

It is an austere and solid-looking structure built on the sea-front by Frederick II of Swabia, now not so close to the sea because of the lava flow that invaded the city in 1669. The castle derives its name from the Roman consul Arsinius or possibly from the Orsinis, a Roman family who refuged here in the Middle Ages . The castle is square in plan, with a large round tower at each corner and two additional towers half-way along two sides.


Bellini Theatre

The city’s Opera House, dedicated to the famous composer Vincenzo Bellini, with its wonderful facade welcomes spectators.The acoustics of its beautiful auditorium is considered to be among the best in the world.  

                                        
 

THE SEASIDE

Acicastello is a small fishing village in the Eastern coast of Sicily. This shore stretch is particularly rich in lemons – hence often referred to as the “Lemons’ Coast” – agaves and palm trees.

The Castle –the symbol of the city- is built of black lava strone, this Norman fortress is a rocky spur on the sea.  Destroyed on several occasions, it was rebuilt by Tancredi in 1189. Under the Bourbons, around 1787, the castle was used as a prison.

 A splendid view over the faraglioni and the Lachea island can be enjoed from its top. The castle houses the small City Museum, collecting archaeological relics and mineral specimens.

 

 

Acitrezza is a small fishing village dominated on the seaward side by the Rocks of the Cyclops, a treacherous pointed mass of black lava rising up from the crystal-like waters. The Odissey tells that these were hurled by Polyphemus against Ulysses who had blinded him by thrusting a flaming stake into hin only eye; the hero then escaped with his companions by clinging to the bellies of rams belonging to the Cyclops. Beside the rocks sits the island of Lachea, now a biology research station run by the University of Catania.

 


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Last updated: 30-mag-2008.