City and port of eastern Sicily, facing the Ionian Sea. It’s
situated on the Meridianal stratum of Etna, at the mouth of
the Catanian plains on the homonymous golf.
Native land of Vincenzo Bellini, Giovanni Pacini, Giovanni
Verga, Mario Rapisardi and Angelo Musco.
A Greater Greece colony, founded in the 8th Century by the
Calcidesi, it was then conquered by the Romans in 263BC. During
the centuries that followed, it also saw numerous changes
of domination: occupied by the Ostrogoth’s, the Byzantium’s,
the Arabs, the Normans the Svevi, the Angioini, the Aragonesi,
the Spanish and the Bourbons: mostly following throughout
this the historical destiny of the entire region of Sicily.
Hit more than once by the eruptions of Etna (254, 1669, 1819),
the city was destroyed by earthquakes in 1169 and 1693; after
this last one, it was completed rebuilt, mainly with blocks
of lava which give it its monumental, architectural look and
inimitable colour. The City was burnt and pillaged in April
1849 by the Bourbons, then annexed to the Italian reign after
the Plebiscites in 1860.
Some architectural remains can still be seen from the scanty
ruins of the Greek City already in existence at the end of
the 8th century, instead, during the Roman era, there are
some notable testimonies which remain, for example the Theatre,
rebuilt on the Greek one, possibly dating back to the 5th
Century BC; the remains of the Amphitheatre, probably dating
back to the 2nd Century AD, the Thermal Baths of dell’Indirizzo
and the Rotonda (modern day church of Santa Maria). The vast
Roman and Byzantium necropolis in the Stesicoro square is
also of great interest. An abundance of Greek money has been
found, due to the great engravers, Eveneto and Eraclide who
allowed them to be obtained. In the Communal Museum of Catania
(hosted in the medieval Castle of Ursino) many very interesting
works of sculpture and ceramics from the Greek and Roman eras,
have been preserved.
Amongst the medieval buildings, we cannot forget the Basilichetts
(5th-6th Centuries), San Salvatore (8th-9th Centuries), the
Cathedral (11th-12th Centuries, rebuilt in the 18th Century),
the Ursino Castle (today, seat of the Communal Museum) its
erection was ordered by Federico II (1239-1250) but subsequently
modified in the 16th Century.
The City, after the earthquake in 1693, was rebuilt during
the course of the 18th Century, following the designs of Lanza,
Camastra and mostly of Vaccarini, designer of the Town Hall
(1741), the Sangiuliano Palace, the beautiful Elephant Fountain
(1736, based on the one by Bernini in Rome) and the Churches
of Saint Giuliano, Saint Chiara and Saint Agata.
Other notable monuments are the Church and the Convent of
Saint Nicolò (dating back to the 16th Century, but
rebuilt in the 18th Century) and the Biscari Palace.
Notwithstanding the terrible damage caused during the Second
World War, the City has managed to preserve its late-Baroque
look, both in the façades and the good urbanistic parts,
together, therefore resulting as one of the main artistic
magnets in the region.