This can be an extraordinary experience!!!! Trust me, italian markets are ALIVE: sounds, smell, colors, yelling, the mix of everything... it is WOW.
We bought fruits and spices from here and we were, usually, desperately looking for good places to eat seefood, since i was thinking only about it.
This is a real gem of a site. It is very well preserved and well worth the time. The stone is beautiful and makes for an atmospheric experience.
You are able to wander over much of the site making for an intimate visit. It gives you a very good feel for how towns were built on top of the Roman ruins.
There is a nice little museum filled with recovered carvings at the exit.
I had to practically drag my friends with me. They had a great time and we have talked about it several times.
So put this site on your list you will not regret it.
To the west of the fish and produce market there is a little park. It under the arches of a bridge. It is a nice intimate spot. Here you will find groups of men playing a card game that I am unfamiliar with. It is fun to watch as they take it really seriously kind of like poker in the States. There is lots of arguing and laughter. This is a must see in Catania.
Just off the Piazza Duomo is the most fantastic open air market. There are bakeries, cheese, olives, meat and fish, fish, fish, every imaginable fruit and vegetable. The prices are great.
It is a cultural treat. The vendors are very engaging and friendly.
Do not miss the park to the south of the market. We watched a fascinating card game being played by lots of men. I was completely unfamiliar with the cards so was clueless to know who was winning. It was great fun.
Don’t miss the very popular and folkloristic open markets (every morning except Sunday):
-the fish market next to Cathedral square (Piazza Duomo)
-the huge open market (food and clothes, but better the food part) not far from the underground Roman arena (along the Etnea street)
Walk Etnea street during the day & night, and it will look very different. Don’t miss the Opera Theatre dedicated to Vincenzo Bellini (the famous composer from Catania), gorgeous inside, but usually open just for concerts and Opera. Have a walk on Via Crociferi, a evocative Baroque street, and the stairs below, usually full of young people after 10pm.
If you can, visit the Benedettini monastery, actually the main site of the ancient University of Catania, you will dream of studying literature in such a beautiful and inspiring building (or perhaps not :-DD )
Of course enjoy the beaches if you come during the summer. Rock beaches made by lava are much much better than sand beaches, you can get to them by bus on the way to Acicastello (you can pay about 6-7 euros entrance in a private "lido" very well organized)
If you have time, don’t miss Acicastello and Acitrezza, small villages on the seaside north of Catania (you can get them by bus from Catania railway station or from Piazza Alcalà, not far from cathedral square)..
About ETNA VOLCANO:
It is very nice to go up until 2000mt (Rifugio Sapienza).Difficult by public bus, cause at the moment (perhaps it will improve) just one bus a day, leaving every morning (close the railways station) at 8.15am, and just one bus that go back to Catania at 16.30 (AST company, http://www.aziendasicilianatrasporti.it/,tel 0957461096)
From Rifugio Sapienza you can walk on that area (very nice, there are at least 3 old craters to visit) or go until the top (in a good weather day, only in summer) until the top and the active craters (3300m) by cableway+guide (http://www.funiviaetna.com/index.aspx) for about 40-50 euros.
Another experience (but more expensive, about 60-70 euros) is to look for a private agency that pick up you at your Catania hotel and give you a nice tour of Etna area.
In 1434 the king, of Spain and Sicily, Alfonso of Aragon and Pope Eugene IV authorised the foundation of a university in Catania. Prior to this, the main education centres had been Palermo, Messina and Trapani but none of them could grant degrees; a right which could only be given by the Pope. It was not until 1444, however, that the first four faculties were established in Medicine. Philosophy, Law and Theology & Arts.
In 1445 the first students attended classes but it was not until almost two centuries later that the university gained its own establishment in Piazza Università where it stands today, in the former grounds of the hospital of St. Mark's.
When in Catania we stumbled across what we though was an old cinema in the backstreets, what we discovered was incredibly interesting... It turned out to be a porn cinema, with rent boys hanging around in seek! We strolled in, paid the mafia type owner some money and headed into find out what was hapenin. Basically, its a huge abandoned warehouse with plastic seats set out, with a dilapidated old screen showing early nineties Italian porn. Very strange as when the urge to touch oneself comes over you, you quickly realise you surrounded by 40 old italian guys! Wierd experiance but fun all the same, it will be hard to find but worth a look if you like the sleazier side of life!
You'll hear me say this as a top suggestion whenever you are visiting a new place. There is no better way to experience a new place than on foot. Take a walk around town and take notice of the architecture. If it's one terrific thing I can say about Catania, it's that from many places around town you can also capture Mount Etna in the background of many things you'll want to take pictures of.
If you like street vendors, you'll see plenty of them in Catania. Although many of them sell fresh procude, some sell novelties as well.
The thing I found fun was sitting in a cafe on a Saturday evening people watching. Saturday evenings must be when everyone comes out all dressed up and parade / strut through the streets.
It is interesting to watch the weird hairs, the fashion and the behaviours
Arancini are rice balls filled with a variety of sauces, such as bolognaise sauce, mozzarella and mushrooms. They are a Sicilian delicacy and they are really good. I always have at least one when I'm at Catania.
Catania has two excellent examples of baroque churches within 50 metres of one another. Both are product of the creativity of Giovan Battista Vaccarini, the Master Architect who rebuilt this city from a heap of ruins after the 1693 earthquake and made it a pearl of late baroque style.
The Duomo (Cathedral) was built in the 11th century by the Normans, but was severely damaged in the earthquake. The restoration was left to Vaccarini's genius, whose main product is the facade.
The Church of Saint Agata, the patron of the city, instead did not make it through the earthquake, and had to be rebuilt from scratch on the other side of Via Garibaldi, which was created in the replanning of the city. Perhaps even more impressive than the Duomo, it carries typically sicilian decorations such as the fruit bowls.
This fountain of the Elefant was built by the Master Giovan Battista Vaccarini, and is now the symbol of the city.
The fountain symbolizes the victory against Hannibal, who tried to invade Catania using elephants. The obelisk is probably taken from Egypt by the Romans, and represents the symbol of Egyptian civilization. The cross, palm and globe on top represent the symbol of Christian civilization.
The name in Catanese dialect (U' Liotru) probably comes from that of a magician that rode the elephant as part of a magic ritual.
An interesting remark is that the fountain was built on the model of Bernini's Elefante di Minerva, located in Rome.
The gate is a result of the urban planning project that the Duke of Camastra initiated after the city was destroyed in the 1693 earthquake.
Via Etnea, the city's main shopping street, ends up here after crossing Piazza del Duomo. Outside the gate are the Marina Arches (Archi della Marina), where the railroad runs.
The city hall is situated on one side of the wonderful Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square), just a stone's throw from the Marina Arches (Archi della Marina).
Like most of the city centre, the building was built after the earthquake that devastated this area of Italy in 1693. Its main architect was Giovan Battista Vaccarini, who designed many of the most relevant buildings you see today in Catania. The building was built in late-baroque style, but with an added touch of rationale (see the layout of the windows).
Don't miss the entrance hall where you can see two perfectly preserved 18th century carts that are used once a year by the city's authorities, during the celebrations of St. Agata.
... or actually the ruins of a castle in Catania. In the evening, one night, we went with the group for a pizza and I saw this castle. No one could tell me anything of it however, and I searched on the internet as well, but couldn't find anything, so if you can tell me something about it, I'd really appreciate!
There were lots of people here and we also enjoyed a nice walk here along the promenade.
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