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On Catania- the non-Palermo way to do Sicily




Any Sicily itinerary usually starts and ends with Palermo, making Sicily’s second biggest town oftentimes bypassed and overlooked. However, tucked away in its narrow alleyways, Catania allows visitors an authentic Sicilian adventure through exemplary architecture, quintessential Sicilian food and a prolific history. Most Italian itineraries start with a pilgrimage to the central Piazza, usually flanking the main Cathedral. A beautiful and elegant Baroque composition, Piazza del Duomo was rebuilt by Vaccarini after the 1693 earthquake that flattened the city and wiped out two-thirds of its population. In its center, is Fontana dell’Elefante, an elephant sculptured from lava rock carrying an obelisk on its black – taking inspiration from Bernini’s “Elephant and Obelisk” in Piazza della Minerva – and in the background, the lofty Cathedral dedicated to St. Agatha, the city’s patron saint. Not far is the cluster of Piazza dell'Universita, Palazzo Degli Elefanti and Palazzo dei Chierici. Indulgence in La Dolce Far Niente (the sweetness of doing nothing), a favourite Italian pastime, is especially recommended at the Piazza dell'Universita. People watching, sipping on a Cioccolata Calda in the chilly months, or even an authentic Granita di Limone for the adventurous, would go a long way for those intending to savour la dolce vita. A favourite thing to do when in a new place is stepping into a local market. While I favour street markets, flea markets and farmers markets, I also love picking local fare at supermarkets. Catania’s resident fish market La Pescheria is the scene of incessant haggling over not only seafood but also fresh produce, local cheese, oils, wines and cakes. Witnessing it was a delight! Also recommended is the La Fiera, a flea market at the Piazza Carlo Alberto. It opens at 7 AM and closes around 2 PM everyday, except on Sundays when it’s closed. It’s a super local thing to do in Catania, especially if you get here a bit early. Try some of the local specialities from the small vendors selling different foods. Not far, Via dei Crociferi is a concentration of several examples of Sicilian baroque architecture and grand churches. The beautiful tree-lined street is home to four churches of note that one much include in their Catania itinerary. San Francesco church, San Benedetto church, San Giuliano Church and the church of San Nicolo all’arena are all free to enter without a charge. A bit away from the hustle and bustle of Il Centro is Castello Ursino. Castello Ursino dates back to the 13th century and was home to Emperor Federico II, one of the most powerful Roman emperors. The building has been well maintained and is worth a visit for the beautiful examples of handicrafts, porcelain, clothes, weapons, and paintings on display. It's Sicilian heritage and culture at its best.