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Catania, the Ionian bulwark

Colour is the first striking thing. Not just the churches’ and palaces’ one but the bridges and the colonial houses’ as well: the molten rock from the Etna overlooks the landscape by means of its dark shade crossed by the copper lights when the sun is at the zenith. Catania is a theatre featured by lavish, elaborate and elegant Baroque elements. Actually some great black and white palaces overlook the baroque squares while the Etna stands out against them by adding a further emotion through its presence.

 Catania is a lavish and at the same time a happy-go-lucky destination, a stage that offers amazing architectonical views with Piazza Duomo - the core of the town - that was restored after the earthquake of 1693; today it is a Unesco World Heritage Site and it is enriched with the precious “fontana dell’elefante” (the elephant fountain). The statue s made of lava and it is the perfect mix of Christian and Pagan culture: according to the most reliable version, it is the simulacrum that was put inside the temple where the Eastern rituals were performed. On the other hand, according to a number of legends, it was a magic symbol that was meant to prevent the dangers coming from the Etna. Opposite to the fountain there is the cathedral dedicated to St. Agatha where a collection of valuable works and jewels, visible only four days a year in memory of the city’s Patron Saint is kept. The statue is walked in procession every 5th February before a crowd of people and it is one of the most famous events organized in the city. In the opposite underground area near the cathedral there are the Terme Achilliane (Achilliane Bath) while in a few minutes walk you can reach the Roman Theatre dating back to the first century AD and the Odeon, featured by its solemn remains. The most picturesque show is staged in Piazza Duomo, it is the loud and colourful fish market near the food market with the fountain of Amenano at the entrance– it represents a powerful river that once ran over-ground and it was on its banks that the Greeks founded the city of “Katane”. Svevian recalls can be found in the Ursino castle dating back to the XIIIth century by the will of Frederick II, it has a rectangular plan with a large circular tower at each corner and today it is the seat of the Civic Museum that keeps a number of important collections. Not far, in via Museo Biscari, there’s Palazzo Biscari: it is the highest expression of the Baroque and also the biggest and the most decorated palace in the city.

 Not far from piazza Duomo there is the museum-house Giovanni Verga, a National monument since 1940 and the Regional Museum today. Piazza Giovanni Verga is dedicated to the great Sicilian writer, it is very important for the civic traditions of the city and the Courthouse is based there – in the middle of the square the Fountain of “Malavoglia” stands out, it represents the tragic shipwreck of the fishermen that is described in the novel “I Malavoglia”. From literature to the famous opera house, the Teatro Massimo "Vincenzo Bellini", dedicated to the very famous composer from Catania. It was inaugurated on the 31st May with “Norma” and it is today the symbol of the elegant nights for all the travellers who love the opera singing.

Luciana Francesca Rebonato

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