Sicilia - Places to Visit - Catania
Situated on the Gulf of Catania, this town spreads tidily over the foot of the southern slopes of Etna, as well as to the south on the low-lying fertile Catania plain, where the modern industrial zone has been sited.
Founded by the Chalcidians in the 8th century BC., it quickly attained a position of importance in Sicily, often warring with Syracuse. It was taken by the Romans in 263 and experienced periods of great prosperity under the Empire.
After the fall of the Western Empire, it was dominated by the Goths, and in 552 passed together with the whole island to Byzantium, who held it until the 9th century, when Sicily was conquered by the Arabs.
The Normans took possession in 1072 and its fortunes were those of the Kingdom of Sicily until unification with Italy in 1860. Catania was destroyed by an earthquake in 1693 and rebuilt several years later to an orderly layout on late Baroque lines.
The town has an interesting heritage of monuments and works of art, though few of the ancient buildings still retain their original forms: Ursino Castle, built by Frederick II (13th century), with its characteristic round towers, the Duomo (11th-12th century, rebuilt in the 18th century, fine chapel of S. Agata), the church of S. Maria del Ges (15th century, Gothic, rebuilt), the Greek theatre (rebuilt in Roman times) and the Odeon, the remains of a Roman amphitheatre (2nd century BC.). Other interesting buildings include the church of S. Nicol (18th century) with a rich interior, the Collegiate church (18th century), Palazzo Biscari, a fine example of Baroque, the Fontana dell'Elefante (1736) and many other 17th century churches and other buildings.
With regards to the economy, the extremely active traditional commercial sector based on the high productivity of agriculture on the surrounding Catania plain, is now supported by an industrial sector characterized by the presence of small to medium-sized units manufacturing chemicals, engineering products, food, electrotechnicals, electronical products, pharmaceuticals, textiles and construction materials. Port activities are now declining and little more than a service to industry, though tourism linked to the scenic attractions of the area (Etna, Riviera dei Ciclopi) is flourishing.
Events: Fiera Agrumaria (February), Festa di Sant'Agata (5th February), Festa di Sant'Alfio (10th May).
Famous People: Giovanni Verga (writer, 1840-1922), Vincenzo Bellini (musician, 1801-1835), Giovanni Pacini (musician, 1796-1867), Mario Rapisardi (poet, 1844-1912).
Cultural Institutions: State Archives, Civic Library, University Library, Accademia di Belle Arti, University, Museo Belliniano, Museo Civico di Castel Ursino (archeological Greek, Hellenic, Roman collections; art gallery, numismatics, majolicas), Musei di Geologia, Mineralogia, Petrografia, Vulcanologia, Osservatorio Astrofisico.
In the Province: Acireale (spa and beach resort), Caltagirone (handmade ceramics), Patern (agricultural centre), Aci Trezza (Fish festival, 24th June), Aci Castello, Misterbianco (agricultural and industrial centre), Pedara (holidays).