Friday, May 1, 2015

Sicily Travel Guide: Catania

Catania lies on the Ionian Sea, under the shadow of Mount Etna, or “A Muntagna” as the locals refer to it. In 1669 Catania was covered in lava and then, just 24 years later in 1693 an earthquake shook the town down to its foundations.The reaction to this latter catastrophe was amazing: the entire old part of town was rebuilt in Baroque style, with large, wide open squares and avenues. The most remarkable aspect, however, was the building material used: lava.

The main square, Piazza Duomo, and all its surroudning buildings was designed by one man, Giovanni Battista Vaccarini from Palermo.

At the centre of the Piazza Duomo stands the appealing Elephant fountain, created in 1736. As well as being made in imitation of Bernini's Minerva Elephant in Rome, it is reminiscent of Catania's long and varied past.

The Villa Bellini is the largest park in the centre of Catania. The park was completed in 1883 and is located north of the city. It is inspiring because of its varied design and the many statues of famous people of Catania. Another attraction is the Botanical Clock - a date display of flowers, which is updated and replanted daily.

The fortress of Castello Ursino was built by Frederick II of Hohenstaufen in the 13th century on a rocky cliff overlooking the sea. However, the massive lava spill of the 1669 eruption pushed the sea back, creating in one fail swoop a new coastline and stripping Castello Ursino of its strategic position.

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