Walk to Castelmola from Porta...
Walk to Castelmola from Porta Messina, Taormina (2km).Walk uphill alongside the city walls to the Cappuccini fountain from where Via Cappuccini begins. Just before the Convent take the higher road to the left and at the end of the buildings (before the school) turn left up the steps at the side of the hotel. This is Salita Branco an ancient stairway-muletrack that twists up the northern side of Monte Tauro. Enjoy panoramic views of the coast towards Messina as you climb towards the ancient hilltop fortress of Castelmola, which was built to protect Taormina. Once there a 360 degree vista rewards you, enjoy a drink or a scenic lunch before returning by the alternative path described in 'Must see activities'.
The Elephant Statue
The large elephant in the center of Piazza Duomo is pretty hard to miss. What's the deal?
Okay, first, it's not 'la statua dell'elefante folks' - it's the 'Liotru' (accent on the u), the slick Catanese dialect word for elephant.
It was carved out of a single piece of Etna lavic rock by our hero Vaccarini, again after the earthquake of 1693. The obolisk on its back is Egyptian.
Why an elephant? Well, the elephant is the city of Catania's symbol. Why? Two versions of the story: either it has something to do with Hannibal and his little sojourn from Carthage in present day Tunisia towards Rome via the Alps - I don't exactly understand how Catania fits into any of that - or it comes from the prehistoric sicilian pigmy elephants, the skulls of which were perhaps the basis of the cyclops myth (instead of for the trunk, the large central hole in the skull was thought to be for an eye). You decide.
But the really important question: what's the story of the gigantic, um, balls? Well, apparently Vaccarini originally carved the statue anotomically correctly - with no visible testicles. When it was first unveiled the male Catanesi took this as an insult to their sexual prowess and demanded the elephant be endowed. As one can see, Vaccarini appeased them.
It used to have a lawn around it, but they repaved the piazza this year, and now it's all stone. Cleaner, but still a little sad.
SeaBreezeUSA's new Catania page
The history of Catania and its Province seems to identify itself with that of Mt. Etna, the Vulcano which dominates the city. It is a city of ancient origins; in fact, its foundation goes back to the second half of the 8th century BC, when the Chaldeans from nearby Naxos established the first settlements, in the centuries that followed there came war, destruction and subsequent reconstruction. Famous battles were fought against Syracuse, Athens and Carthage. The city also shows a strong, economic development marked by a new, young, ambitious class of entrepreneurs. There are now many industrial areas displaying a high productivity index. The increase in the economic growth and potential of the region is due mainly to the trade of small and middle-sized companies. "Milan of the South" as it is often referred to, has now strengthened its transport and communication systems, but above all has witnessed the growth of many new urban areas directly dependent upon the city- one must not neglect however the 'Natural' beauty of the countryside in and around the Province, which, with its parks and natural reserves offers an excellent opportunity to appreciate the local plant and wildlife. Most people will remember Catania and its province as the birthplace of Verga, Bellini, Vitaliano Brancati. Acitrezza, Via Etnea, "The Master Don Gesualdo", "Don Giovanni in Sicily" are all portraits of the Sicilian style of life, its problems and its people.