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Casa Cifali

  • Writer's pictureMassimo

The City of the Volcano

Founded in 729 BC by Calcidesi, Catania has a long history characterized by various rulers whose remains enrich the art, architecture and culture of this city. Under the Aragonese dynasty it was the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily.

In the course of its history it has been repeatedly impacted by volcanic eruptions (the most impressive in historical times, is that of 1669) and earthquakes (the most catastrophic were those of 1169 and 1693).

The Baroque architecture of its historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site, together with that of the seven municipalities of the Val di Noto.

The territory is typically flat to the south and southeast, and mountainous north to the presence of Etna.

The original core of the city was located on a hill, which corresponds to today's Piazza Dante, where stands the Monastery of San Nicolò l'Arena (now a university).

The city is crossed by an underground river, the Amenano. In the past, just outside the walls to the west, you could find Lake Nicito, connected to the river and now covered by the lava flow of 1669 (the fountain marks the location). The Amenano becomes visible at the white marble fountain that stands between the fish market and the Piazza del Duomo.

The symbol of Catania is an elephant, probably from the Byzantine or Arabic eras. The obelisk that extends above it was brought to Catania from Egypt during the Crusades. Not much is left of what existed before 1693 because the city was destroyed and later rebuilt 7 times. Among the places to visit there are the Roman amphitheater, the Benedictine monastery located in Piazza Dante, of course Piazza Duomo with the elephant, the church of Saint Agata patron saint of the city, the Amenano fountain with the characteristic fish market, the Uzeta gate, Biscari palace which is not open to the public, the Piazza Duomo of la via Etnea made of lava stone, on this path are many very important buildings. Another place worth visiting is la piazza teatro massimo. One of the structures that survived the lava flow of 1669 was the Castello Ursino. It stood on a cliff that overlooked the sea, radically changing the coast. I advise everyone to hire a guide to take you around the city. It is very chaotic during rush hours and you may have difficulty entering and exiting the city so I recommend a morning visit before working hours that should be between 8 and 9.

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