This is one of the best modern exhibits Italy has to offer, believe it or not. It is TRULY a must-see. One of the largest WWII museums in Europe, and shockingly well-done. Housed in 'Le Ciminiere' (literally, the Smokestacks), an abandoned factory on the coast, this completely modern exhibit covers the 33 day American/British invasion from its dramatic beginnings on the southern coast near Noto, through the taking of Palermo and Catania and finally to the Axis escape across the straights. Multimedia, photography, artifacts and audio bring the story to life. Also, as an American, the opportunity to see the story from the other side was a welcome and impressive experience.
I'm sorry I don't remember how good the English was on the many, many placards and whatnot - I was reading the Italian so I didn't pay attention. The guides are also very friendly and helpful and many speak some English.
Can you believe the American forces wore WOOL? In July in Sicily? Poor planning, guys.
Bellini's childhood home has been turned into a museum in his honor. Manuscripts, letters, historical documents, pianos and photographs are tastefully displayed in the tiny space. True Bellini lovers of course CANNOT miss this stop, and even those with only a passing interest should stop in to learn a bit about Catania's most beloved musician from the guides who themselves are quite knowledgable and passionate about their work.
The sign says: "This house, where Vincenzo Bellini was born, was declared a national monument on November 29th, 1923."
Don't forget to ask about the church across the street. You will hear the story of how Vincenzo would walk, unaccompanied, across the piazza every morning to practice the church's organ - when he was 3 years old.
The church itself houses several candelora for the St. Agata festival, and is itself worth a visit.
All things Bellini: Teatro Massimo Bellini, Bellini's house and Museum, Statue of Bellini, Piazza Teatro Massimo Bellini, Villa Bellini
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.
Saint Agatha is Catania's Patron and several churches, streets and monuments are dedicated tho the Saint.
Catania, brought back to life after every eruption of the Etna volcano, has bestowed some of the most beautiful churches and monuments to the Patron. On the inside of "S. Agata al Carcere", the III century remains of the gaol, where St. Agatha faced her martyrdom and death, are still to be seen. The Church of "S. Agata alla Fornace" (in piazza Stesicoro) and "S. Agata la Vetere" (the first Cathedral of Catania, and supposedly the first burial-place of the Saint) are non far. Many other places in Catania keep alive the memory of St. Agatha: "Badia S. Agata", the "stele" in piazza dei Martiri, the fountain in via Dusmet, the Norman-baroque Cathedral.
In most of Catanian private houses and in those churches where the Saint is officially venerated, busts of St. Agatha are easy to be found.
The whole province of Catania is rich with works of art dedicated to such a cult: the most famous of them is in Nicolosi, where Cardinal Dusmet saved the city using the veil of St. Agatha to stop lava flows
As mentioned elsewhere, Bellini is Catania's most famous musical figure. I love this piece. From the top down:
Bellini, seated on a throne. Below him, facing in each of the cardinal directions, are four figures, each representing one of his famous operas. We have Norma, a Puritan, la Sonnambula (the sleepwalker), and the Pirate. They are each standing on a case of seven steps (the seven steps of the musical scale), which have important themes from the operas carved into them.
All things Bellini:
The final resting place of Catania's beloved and dashing opera composer Vicenzo Bellini. Most famous work is la Norma (and pasta alla norma). The tomb is inscribed with a line of his music and depicts a bas relief of his dashingness being carried up to paradise in the embrace of two very pretty angels.
Bellini's death is shrouded in mystery. He died very young, and there are suggestions of his being poisoned by a jealous rival searching the hand of a certain damsel.
It's a running joke with me and people who care that the Catania tourist bureau guides may disagree on a lot of dates and place names, but they all agree on one thing:
Blond haired, blue-eyed Vincenzo was a total player.
All things Bellini: Teatro Massimo Bellini, Bellini's house and Museum, Statue of Bellini, Piazza Teatro Massimo Bellini, Villa Bellini.
I'm no Catholic, so I'll watch my mouth.
Cardinal Dusmet's dessicated body is on display at the Cathedral. Apparently he's on his way to Sainthood one of these centuries, but I'm not sure of that. His face is covered by a silver deathmask.
Interesting story regarding il Cardinale, told to me by one of the Cathedral staff: he is attributed with having saved Catania from destruction. One of the regular eruptions on Etna released lava towards the city, and everybody got pretty worried, as they should. Cardinal Dusmet took a veil, supposedly St. Agatha's, and dropped it in the path of the lava. Where it was dropped, the lava stopped, and the veil did not burn. Take this story as you find it.
Catania is a port city with no major river. However, there is one important subterranean river, the Amenano. It flows under the city and can be most easily seen at the Youth Hostel (see hotels and restaurants) and in Piazza Duomo, where it feeds the fountain 'dell'acqua a lenzuolo', the fountain of sheeting water.
The fountain was carved by Tito Angelini in the 1800s to celebrate the total encasement of the river's waters, which had caused untold damage to the foundations of the city center.
Interesting things nearby: Piazza Duomo, the Fish Market.
Catania has a really magnificent Cathedral.
Though extensively rebuilt on Baroque and neo-classical models, the oldest part of the cathedral (duomo) was constructed
Several royal personages are entombed there, including Frederick III of Aragon and Queen Constance,
wife of Frederick IV .
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.
Randazzo is not very far from Catania and it was a small beautiful and quiet village in the country - perfect for a relaxing afternoon. We went on Saturday and there was the market which was very large and great fun too, which at that time was my only interest :) There are many places of interest there, which one could visit -these are the Vagliasindi Museum in Piazza Rabata, the 13th century Porta Aragonese, the Palazzo Scala, the Palazzo Finocchiaro, the Palazzo Lanza, the Civil Natural Science Museum and many churches as well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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