F&W Photo Tour: Catania, Italy
I used to call Mount Etna “her majesty.” This is the tallest active volcano in Europe, and it is the real landscape protagonist on the eastern side of Sicily. You can see its footprints on the streets paved with volcanic stones, when walking by the rocky shore or when looking at the building facades that are as black as the lava. Even some red wines produced in this area are volcanic.
Catania’s cathedral is dedicated to Saint Agatha, the patron saint of the city. The Duomo was originally constructed between 1078 and1093, and has been destroyed and rebuilt several times because of earthquakes and eruptions of Mount Etna. The most catastrophic event was an earthquake in 1693. After this event the cathedral was rebuilt in the Baroque style.
Acqua a Lenzuolo
In Catania, the Amenano river flows underground. There are only two points in which you can see it coming out on the surface. One spot is the cathedral square’s Amenano fountain, which is also known as acqua a lenzuolo, because its water flows out in a sheet as smooth as bed linens.
Every morning at sunrise, fishermen bring fresh fish to the Pescheria, the city’s old fish market. If you are renting an apartment, come early in the morning to be sure to get the best fish for your dinner.
Faraglioni di Acitrezza
In The Odyssey, Homer tells of the encounter between Ulysses and Polyphemus. During his journey, Ulysses hits the giant with a wooden stake and when Polyphemus asks him for his name, the Greek hero replies, “I’m Nobody.” So, the blind and angry Polyphemus throws these rocks—the Faraglioni—into the sea against Nobody.
In addition, according to mythology, Polyphemus was in love with the nymph Galatea, but she loved the shepherd Aci. In the throes of jealousy, Polyphemus threw a stone at Aci, whose blood turned into a river. The river Aci passes through the villages along the coast, giving the name to many of the towns, such as Acicastello, Acitrezza and Acireale.
Faraglioni di Acitrezza
The Faraglioni area is a natural reserve where you can arrive via boat from the harbor or by paddleboat. The best place to rent your paddleboat is at end of Lungomare Galatea, in Acitrezza.
A view of the castle of Acicastello from Lido dei Ciclopi beach in Acitrezza. The Norman castle is totally made with volcanic stone.
This is the Sicilian brioche, the one called il tuppo because it resembles a chignon hairstyle. It’s perfect combined with the Sicilian granita. Try almond and coffee granita with brioche at breakfast or lunch.
Brioche + Gelato
...Or you can have a brioche and gelato snack in the afternoon. Try the gianduia flavor at Savia, in Via Etnea.
Lido Marina di Cottone
The best way to explore the area near Catania is renting a car. You can find beautiful beaches like this one in Marina di Cottone. Take Highway A18 Catania—Messina to the Fiumefreddo exit, and follow the directions to Marina di Cottone. At the end of the path, turn right and park.
This is the Mediterranean sea, there’s no huge waves and—hopefully—no sharks close to the shore. This is why the lifeguard looks like he’s off-duty, even if he’s on!
Most of the coastal villages are fishing villages.
In every single café, you will find walls of delicious snacks. My favorite ones are cipollina and bomba. It’s a special kind of panzerotto filled with ham and mozzarella and it is named “bomb!”
Caltagirone is a small town in the province of Catania famous for the production of hand-decorated pottery. It’s only a one-hour drive from Catania. Caltagirone is protected by the UNESCO World Heritage program; the main landmark of the city is the monumental 142-step staircase, on which each step is decorated with different hand-decorated ceramics. This is the best place to find a unique souvenir.
Mount Etna is an active volcano. The eruptions can be seen from towns by the coast, from Acireale to Taormina. If you want to go for an excursion, drive up to Rifugio Sapienza, close to Zafferana Etnea and follow the directions for Monte Pomiciaro/Monte Zoccolaro. There you can see one of nature’s most beautiful spectacles!