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Sicily Guide > Catania province


Catania, overshadowed by Mount Etna, spreads along the Ionian coast. It is a dynamic and lively city, which boasts magnificent architecture, a rich culture and a wealth of historic sites.
According to Tucidide, Catania, or Katanè as it was called, was founded in 729 B.C. by the Chalcidians of Naxos. The city of Catania was dominated by the Carthaginians and 263 B.C. became a Roman colony. When the Roman Empire fell, Catania passed under ruling of various populations such as the Vandals, Ostrogoths , Byzantines, Arabs and Normans who occupy until the end of the eleventh century. Successively under the Angevins, the Aragons and the Spanish Bourbons was a period of great prosperity. The city preserved the Middle Ages style until the 17 th century, while the most disastrous of the earthquakes, that of 1693, wiped out the entire city, erasing almost all the vestiges of Middle Ages and Renaissance. As a result of this last catastrophe the Catania of today is actually 18 th century city, and its palaces and other buildings are mostly in the baroque style. Its historic centre, declared a UNESCO World Heritage, preserves monuments of a great charm: churches and monasteries in Via Crociferi, the gigantic San Nicola church and the refined backdrops of Piazza Duomo, with the building of the town hall, the Elephant and the Cathedral, dedicated to the beloved patron Sant’ Agata, and many others.

The Cathedral of Sant’Agata

The Cathedral, dedicated to Sant’Agata, was built during the Norman domination between 1078 and 1093 on the ruins of the Roman baths (Terme Achilliane). Today, it is still visible the three apses and the transept from that epoch. After the earthquake of 1693 the Cathedral was rebuilt in Baroque style. Its marvellous façade was erected by the architect Giovanni Battista Vaccarini, who took over thirty years to finish it. Inside the Cathedral is divided by pillars and Norman apses into three naves. The Cathedral houses the chapel dedicated to Sant’Agata, where the relics and treasure of the saint are kept. Also, inside it there are the tombs of Vincenzo Bellini and of Aragon’s kings (Frederic II and Constance D’Aragona).

The Elephant Fountain

In Piazza Duomo in front of Cathedral is placed the symbol of the city – "U Liotru" or  Elephant Fountain (Fontana dell’Elefante), assembled in 1736 by Giovanni Battista Vaccarini. "U Liotru" is a lava stone elephant, mounted on a high pedestal in the middle of its large circular basin and bearing on his back an Egyptian obelisk of granite. The obelisk’s eight sides are covered in hieroglyphic carvings which regarding the worship of the goddess Isis. The top of obelisk is surmounted by a ball and the insignia of Sant’Agata: the cross, the lily, the palm and the angelic table.

Palazzo Biscari

Palazzo Biscari is one of the most beautiful Baroque buildings in Catania. It was erected after the earthquake in 1693 on the remains of the 16 th century city walls. The older part of Palazzo Biscari was commissioned by Vicenzo Paterno' Castello, fourth Prince of Biscari, and concluded by Ignatius Paterno' Castello, fifth Prince of Biscari. The palace is accessed through a large portal facing via Museo Biscari. It’s outstanding façade, designed by architect Antonio Amato, overlooks a beautiful view of sea from the harbour. Among its splendid 700 hundred rooms, there are a magnificent banqueting hall and grand gallery with a lovely winding staircase in Rococo style. There is also a particular bathroom, entirely decorated in wood, with a marble roman floor originating from the excavations of the Catania Roman Spa. In 1758 the Prince Ignazio Paternò Castello inaugurated inside the palace a museum that displayed his precious archaeological collection, now partially moved to the Civic Museum in the Ursino Castle.

The Church Badia di Sant’Agata

The church Badia di Sant’Agata is an architectural masterpiece by Giovanni Battista Vaccarini, built in 1735-1767. The church rests upon the ruins of the ancient church and monastery, dedicated in 1620 to Sant’Agata, and later destroyed by the 1693 earthquake. The façade, enchanting with its concave and convex surfaces, is dominated by a portal featuring decorative elements typical of the art of Catania as palms, lilies and crowns. Inside all the surfaces are in white stucco and precious marble on the floor.  

Teatro Massimo Bellini

The Teatro Massimo V. Bellini is an Opera House, dedicated to the famous Catania’s composer Vincenzo Bellini. It was designed by architect Carlo Sada from Milan and was opened on 31 st May, 1890. The event was celebrated with a masterwork of Vincenzo Bellini – "Norma" symphony. The theatre façade is dominated by ornaments and allegories; in foyer, which leads to the concert hall, is located a statue of V. Bellini. The concert hall has an excellent acoustic and is considered to be among the best in the world. Its ceiling is ornamented with frescoes by Ernesto Bellandi and its stage curtain portrays the legendary "Victory of Catania over Libya" by Giuseppe Sciuti.

Roman Amphitheatre

Second only to that of Coliseum in Rome, the Roman Amphitheatre in Catania was considered to be one of the best and magnificent edifice. It was built around the 2 nd century AD and brought to the light during the excavations in 1904 and 1906. It was oval in shape, built from lava stone, brick and marble. The Roman Amphitheatre could accommodate up to 16 000 spectators. Unfortunately, only one part of it is visible today, because other part is still buried under lava bridge or stones were removed in order to reconstruct other buildings.

Via Crociferi
Via Crociferi is a true triumph of 18 th century Baroque architecture, lined with spectacular churches and monasteries. It starts in Piazza San Francesco d'Assisi and can be reached by passing under the arch of St. Benedict. The first impressive building is the Church of St. Benedict, followed by the Church of St. Francis Borgia and Jesuit College, used to house the Art Institute. Opposite the College is located the Church of San Guliano, with a beautiful iron gate and a facade of rare beauty. Continuing on the other side of via Antonino di Sangiuliano one will find the Convento dei Crociferi, and, finally, at the end of the street, the entrance to Villa Cerami, which houses the Law Faculty of the University of Catania

The Church of San Nicolò l’Arena

The Church of San Nicolò l’Arena, built on a site of a Benedictine Monastery, is an imposing monumental edifice. Construction of the church began in 1558, but the earthquakes of 1669 and 1693 caused it to collapse. In the 1700s begun the reconstruction works. The task was entrusted to the architects A. Amato, F. Battaglia and G. B. Vaccarini. Unfortunately, because of lack of funds it was partly unfinished. The interior is divided into naves and aisles by impressive pillars. The church is a home for an extraordinary organ, with 2916 silver pipes enclosed in an elaborately carved case of gilded wood.

V. Bellini Civic Museum

The Civic Museum is housed in the birthplace of the musician Vincenzo Bellini in Piazza San Francesco d'Assisi. The birthplace of composer was declared a national monument on November 29 th, 1923 and opened as museum on 5 th May, 1930. The museum, which occupies three rooms and two smaller rooms, has a collection of documents, souvenirs and personal objects. There are also models of scenery, autographed scores, paintings, musical instruments and various autograph manuscripts completed while Bellini studied at Naples.

Location: Piazza San Francesco d’Assisi, 3.
Info: 095 7150535
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 9:00-13:00

The Roman Theatre and Odeon

The Roman Theatre was probably built between 1 st and 2 nd centuries AD, on the pre-existing Greek Theatre. It had a diameter of about 87 meters and could seat up to 7000 spectators. Today is still visible the remains of  the cavea, orchestra, and some parts of the scene.
Next to the Roman Theatre there is the Odeon, which could seat up to 1300 spectators. It was used for the choir rehearsals  and competitions.

Location: Via Vittorio Emanuele 266
Info: 095 7150508
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 9:00-17:00
Ticket: Full price - 6,00 €; Reduced price - 3,00 €

House-Museum of Giovanni Verga

House-Museum is housed on the second floor of 19 th century building in via Sant’Anna, between via Vittorio Emanuele and via Garibaldi. Giovanni Verga (1840-1922) was one of the greatest Sicilian’s writers, who lived and wrote here for many years. After his death, the house was bought by Sicilian Region and opened to visitors as a house-museum. Inside there are preserved some pieces of furniture and books that belonged to Giovanni Verga. The library in G. Verga’s house boast more than 2500 books written by Italian and foreign writers such as Giacosa, Oriani, Rod, Capuana, Di Giacomo, Turgenev, Dostoevskij, Tolstoj, Gorkij, Flaubert, Maupassant, Dumas.

Location: Via Sant'Anna 8
Info : 095 7150598
Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday 9:00-13:30/14:45-19:30
Ticket: Full price - 4,00 €; Reduced price - 2,00 €


From 3 rd to 5 th February - Feast of Sant’Agata (Catania)
The event in honour of Saint Agatha (Sant'Agata), the patron of Catania. The feast lasts for three days and two nights during which the procession goes around various areas of the city. Also, it is celebrated with a turn of events like shows, exhibits, fireworks.

- L’arancino siciliano - fried rice balls with meat sauce, peas and carrots inside
- Pasta alla Norma - a savoured pasta with tomato sauce, aubergine and salt ricotta
- Sweets and ice-creams
- Etna wine D.O.C


By car: from Milano / A1 Milan-Naples, from Naples embark for Sicily; from Messina / A18 Messina-Catania; from Palermo / A19 Palermo-Catania

By train: Catania is easily reachable from any Italian train station. Train station - Piazza Giovanni XXIII.

By bus: daily links with all major Sicilian cities

A.S.T. - 095 7461096 (Avola, Caltagirone, Carlentini, Grammichele, Ispica, Lentini, Mazzarrone, Mirabella Imbaccari, Modica, Noto, Palagonia, Piazza Armerina, Pozzallo, Rosolini, S. Michele di Ganzaria, Scicli, Sigonella)

ETNA TRASPORTI - 095 532716 (Aidone, Fiumefreddo, Gela, Giardini Naxos, Recanati, Licata, Piazza Armerina, Ragusa, Marina di Ragusa, S. Croce Camerina, Taormina, Valguarnera, Vizzini)

INTERBUS - 095 532716 (Agira, Avola, Catenuova, Leonforte, Nicosia, Nissoria, Noto, Pachino, Portopalo, Priolo, Regalbuto, Siracusa)

SAIS Trasporti - 095 536168 (Agrigento, Caltanissetta, Canicattì)

SAIS AUTOLINEE - 0935 524111 (Enna, Messina, Palermo)

From airport /
AMT 457 "ALIBUS" - every 20 minutes from 5.00 am to midnight, from the Airport to the City Centre and the Train Station
Info: 800 018696 (free call)

By ferry boat: Catania-Naples / TTT Lines. Maritime station – Via Dusmet.

By plane: International Airport "Vincenzo Bellini" Fontanarossa (7km)

Location: International Airport "Vincenzo Bellini" Fontanarossa
Info: 095 0937023
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 9:00-19:00

Location: Via Vittorio Emanuele II, 172, 95131 Catania
Info: 095 7425573
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 8:15-19:15; Saturday 8:15-12:15

Location: Via Etnea 63/65 (Minoriti Palace)
Info: 095 4014070

Location: Piazza Giovanni XXIII (Railway Central Station FF.SS)
Info: 095 0937024

Ursino Castle

Ursino Castle was built between 1239 and 1250 by the architect Richard of Lentini, by order of Frederick II of Swabia and served as the residence of the Aragon’s Royal family in the 14 th century. It has four circular and semi-circular towers, and today is the seat of the Town Museum. The Ursino Castle in Catania houses a valuable coin collection, sculptures from Greek and Roman times and such works of art as a representation of The Virgin on a Throne by Antonello de Saliba, dated 1947, and a portrait of S. Cristoforo dated 1637 by Pietro Novelli.
Location: Piazza Federico II di Svevia
Info: 095 345830
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 9:00-13:00/14:30-19:00; Sunday 9:00-13:30
Ticket: Free entrance


The Fish Market (La Pescheria)

The Fish Market is as old as the ancient Catania itself. Located between Piazza Pardo and Piazza di Benedetto, it is astonishing with its wonderful show of colours, smells and sounds. It is a typical Mediterranean market where one can found various type of fish, meat, cheese, fruit, vegetables, spices and many other foodstuffs. The Fish Market is a worth to visit, even when you’re "just looking".

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