Located at the foot of the impressive Mount Etna that with its eruptions often gives it a special atmosphere, Catania, overlooking the Ionian Sea, is a beautiful city of art, a great example of Sicilian Baroque and for this UNESCO heritage.
There are also remarkable testimonies dating back to the Roman age, for example the Odeon and next to it the Roman theatre. Other monuments of this period are the the Terme della Rotonda, public baths later transformed into a church or the Terme Achilliane below Cathedral square. Not to forget the “black Colosseum” – the remains of the Amphitheatre that could seat ca. 16.000 spectators. A famous witness of the middle ages is the Ursino castle, founded by Frederick II of Swabia in the 13th century and today a civic museum.
Illustrious example of Sicilian baroque and post-earthquake reconstruction, Catania preserves the urban layout designed by architect Vaccarini, with rectilinear streets that link around the main Via Etnea, with squares and gardens. Very scenic is Piazza del Duomo, which presents the characteristic Fountain of the elephant, the true heart of the historic city. Other beautiful baroque buildings surround the square such as the Cathedral dedicated to the patron S. Agata, the Archbishop’s Palace and the town hall. Not far Via dei Crociferi, a road that takes you back to the 18th century with numerous baroque churches and convents.
Don’t miss a visit to La Pescheria, the traditional daily fish and food market with an impressing variety of fish, fruit and vegetables.
Not far from Catania another ancient and special city: Syracuse, where precious testimonies evoke the splendour of the Magna Graecia. Romans and Byzantines, Arabs and Normans, Swabians and Aragonese, all wrote their part. It is known for the ruins of antiquity that you can find e.g. in the Archaeological Park of Neapolis which contains the Roman amphitheatre, the Greek theatre and the Ear of Dionysus, a cave in the ancient Latomie, the stone quarries of the Greek. The Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum exhibits a great variety of objects ranging from the skeletons of prehistoric dwarf elephants to elements of Greek temples and early Christian tombs.
The most charming part is the old town on the island of Ortygia with the remains of the Apollo temple, the ancient cathedral and the Arethusa spring.
Another day certainly should be dedicated to the largest active volcano in Europe, Etna (3343 mt). Driving up its slopes you will cross various landscapes: from the sweet citrus groves of the fertile countryside to the dense woods, from the most bleak landscape, where the scent of the broom reigns, to the lunar scenes near the crater. From the highest points, you can enjoy a spectacular panorama that extends to the Italian mainland. Today, Etna is a popular destination for tourists interested in the volcano and its manifestations as it is one of the few active volcanoes in the world to be easily accessible with specialized guides and off-road vehicles that safely take visitors to the summit craters.