Things to see in Catania
While Catania in Sicily isn’t bursting with things to do, there are a few good things to see in Catania.
The favourite of my things to see in Catania was the Fish Market (Google Map link). Running from Monday to Saturday, it was bursting with life which is more that can be said for its wares! The sheer volume and noise of this place is great. Like Italian traffic, it was busy, loud and chaotic. There are some places to grab a coffee around the fish market but personally, somewhere with a bit clearer air would be my preference!
Next to the fish market, heading to the piazza, is a fountain worthy of attention. The Fontana dell’ Amenano. The water from it runs under the piazza.
And that leads us nicely into;
Architecture – The Piazza Duomo
1.Palace of the Elephants
There is some good architecture to see in Catania, for example, the Town Hall, also known as the Palace of the Elephants.
You’re probably wondering why elephants? Yeah, I was too! This is the reason, and I promise I’m not making this up!
Around the time of the Iron Age, a tribe of Sicels, Sicily’s original inhabitants, founded Katana. The name morphed into Catania over time. While trying to build their town, the Sicels were being attacked by other tribes and lots of wild animals. But happily, the animals and other tribes were chased off by a pack of friendly elephants which allowed them to build their town in peace!
I should say that archaeological evidence is ‘unclear’ about this. For unclear, probably read untrue. It’s a mad and fantastic boast! And brilliantly novel! I think they’d be a lot fewer wars if everybody had Guard Elephants. I’m guessing a ton of enraged pachyderm running towards you is a good deterrent!
2. Palace of Chierici
Located on the south side of the Piazza, the Palace of Chierici also known as the Clerks’ seminary is connected to the cathedral via an overpass. Also, on the balcony of the building is where Mussolini addressed the crowds back in 1937.
3. Fontana dell ’Elefante
The Fountain of the Elephant, built in 1736, has, you guessed it, an elephant on it. The elephant is made from lava stone, thanks to Mount Etna. Improbably, it has an Egyptian obelisk growing out the top of it! It was designed by Giovanni Battista Vaccarini and has had several revamps over the years. I’m guessing to try and make it even madder than it is! After all, what does every elephant statue need? An obelisk growing out of its back!
4. Catania Cathedral
Originally built in the latter half of the 11th Century on the site of an old Roman Baths it had the look of a fortified church. But in 1169 it was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake. I haven’t been able to find out whether it was an earthquake caused by Mount Etna or a herd of stampeding elephants. You decide…
Anyway, like Swamp Castle, it was rebuilt but suffered a bad fire. And in 1693 the earthquake struck again, (Etna or Jumbo and his mates) demolishing it once more. But it was once again rebuilt in 1711 and that’s the version of the building you see today.
Moving away from the Piazza, there are some other things to see in Catania.
Roman Theatre and Odeon
Also, there is the Odeon and the Roman theatre, which I couldn’t get into. The Theatre seemed to have an event going on with people taking roses into it. It’s only because I followed some people that I found the entrance, otherwise, I wouldn’t have found it! Is this a time I should raise signage in the city?
Or whether the fact that even amongst all these historical riches, they are not a big deal for the people of Catania? They’re just tripping over the stuff there, so perhaps it is more of an inconvenience than anything else. There is so much of the stuff that they are probably bringing home Greek and Roman artefacts on the bottom of their shoes each night!
The wife is probably complaining;
” Argghh no, look at the mess you’ve bought in Marco! 15 roman tiles and a Grecian Urn! Now I’ve got to clear all that up! I’ll just pile it up next to the bust of Plato and the aqueduct that got caught in your trousers last week..”
It’s brilliantly mental! I couldn’t find a way to get into half the stuff! The Odeon bit I saw through the fence. And that was after walking around it several times and using Google street view! It’s almost like the whole of Catania has got that mafia mentality, “you ain’t seen nothing”!
C’mon Catania, a few signposts wouldn’t hurt!
I did ask someone where the entrance was but they didn’t know. Perhaps the mafia had got to them too? It would have been easier to nail jelly to the ceiling!
A pleasant diversion for things to do in Catania is the harbour. With its mix of old-time fishing boats and new trade. Also, it’s a place to grab a coffee too!
I just fancied doing a black and white image, it’s not an old photo, this is what it looks like today.
Overall, the pavement café culture is excellent, as you would expect from southern Europe. There is a relaxed vibe of course. Or, of course, a normal vibe, if you’re from this neck of the woods.
For me it’s a town to relax in, it’s not the prettiest, (try Taormina up the road for chocolate box houses) but Catania does have a charm and honesty of its own in some areas. And it has some wonderful architecture, some of which you can only see from a distance!
A visit to Mount Etna is perfectly possible on the bus. Providing you are up early. There is only one bus a day and if you miss it, that is it! Unless of course, you can find an elephant to take you. For bus journey timetables and cost see my Bus from Catania to Etna. Also, see my Visit to Mount Etna as to what to do while you are there.
For the full info on Taormina click Things to do in Taormina. The beauty of the town is one of its most appealing features. Perching on a hill overlooking the Ionian Sea, your first must-see is the Greek Theatre. The Greeks settled here in 735 BC and Taormina was their first colony in Italy. The theatre was probably built in the third century BC and later rebuilt by the Romans in the 2nd century AD. Firstly, the best time to visit Taormina is spring and autumn as in the summer the town is packed. I came on the bus from Catania – a fairly easy trip with no changes. See my Bus from Catania to Taormina for where, when and how.
Catania left me with a feeling that there was more to be explored and I didn’t see as much as I would have liked. The tight-lipped Sicilian family would have been proud of the town.
There is a lot of great food to be had in many of the restaurants but if you are not a fan of Italian Food, see Steak House Catania, for a great European steak experience.
But what do I know?
I was only there for 4 days! Probably as many days as you’ll be there. And I spent 2 of them at Etna and Taormina So, I can say with my limited knowledge, it’s great for a BA Tier Point run and a couple of days of seeing the sights but you might struggle to fill a week. BA’s current schedule leaves early from Gatwick and returns late at night. Ideal times to maximize your hours in the place.
I found it tricky to find good information about things to see in Catania but GPS my city was really helpful for a walking route.
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