Catania, a stirring open-air museum
Appealing, wild, twirling and proud, Catania is one of those cities that take you to another world. Get ready for history, baroque magnificence and amazing cultural riches.
Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002, the city is nestled on the eastern shore of Sicily, like a crown delicately laid on the Etna's lava.
As the origin of the world suggests - Katane in Sicilian meaning "harsh place", "rugged and rough soil" - Catania is not easily tamed. You have to agree to lose yourself in its midst to win its charms. In turn enchanting and impetuous, the city perfectly embodies the ideals of Late Baroque periods. Like a pearl of uneven nature, it breaks free from classical rules. Architecture, sculpture, painting, music and literature make for an unlimited art trove in a very Latin sort of disorder. It was the birthplace of composer Vincenzo Bellini and author Giovanni Verga. It was a home of princes, suffered Arab and Norman invasions, and now radiates stirring magnetism in each and every street, monument and market place.
Destroyed and rebuilt seven times over the centuries, this old port town bears the elephant as an emblem, celebrated with a fountain on the Piazza del Duomo. The animal embodies the successive influences that gave the city its identity, an island halfway between east and west shaped by Aeolus' winds and the Mediterranean Sea.
Catania, like the remainder of the territory, celebrates the island's everlasting beauties, which Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa - author of The Leopard, adapted for the screen by Visconti - paid tribute to in his novella The Professor and the Siren: "So we spoke about eternal Sicily, the Sicily of the natural world; about the scent of rosemary on the Nebrodi Mountains and the taste of Melilli honey; about the swaying cornfields seen from Etna on a windy day in May". Buon viaggio!
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