Nicknamed the European Silicon Valley, Catania is a thriving business centre, but theres much more to it than that. Sicilys second largest city has a university, a busy downtown and an active nightlife, and its baroque city centre is a World Heritage Site.
Destroyed by lava, rebuilt by lava
Catania, which sits in the shadow of Mount Etna, has a past as eventful as its present. It has been one of Italys most important artistic centres for hundreds of years and lava from the volcano was used in many of the new buildings after an earthquake in 1693. This unusual architectural style helps to give the city its distinctive black and white look.
Top 5 museums and churches
- Catania Cathedral - This impressive baroque building incorporates some columns from the ruined Roman amphitheatre. Composer Vincenzo Bellini, a native of Catania, is buried here, and there is a fresco depicting the 1669 Etna eruption
- Museo Belliniano - The composers birthplace is now a museum dedicated to him, with objects, portraits, autographed scores and musical instruments
- Museo Emilio Greco - The Catanian artist and sculptors entire graphic works are exhibited here
- Casa Museo di Giovanni Verga - This eighteenth-century palace was the writers home during the last 20 years of his life. It now houses many of his possessions, as well as an extremely valuable library of almost 3,000 books
- Chiesa di San Nicolò all'Arena - Work on Sicilys largest church was interrupted by the 1693 earthquake, and it was never completed. The massive Benedictine monastery behind it, which is now part of the university, is Europes second largest and has one of the most valuable libraries on the island
Top 5 outdoor activities
- Trek to the top of Mount Etna with one of the organised tours
- Take a stroll along Via Etnea, the main shopping street, or try Corso Italia for designer boutiques
- Visit the universitys botanic gardens (the Orto Botanico dellUniversita di Catania), which cultivate both exotic plants from around the world and regional Sicilian species
- Visit the lively food markets near Piazza Duomo - the fish market was described by chef Rick Stein as the best in the world
- Take a day trip to Taormina, a popular tourist haunt for its small, charming piazzas, beaches and views of Mount Etna