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Cathedral Cathedral


is an Italian city on the east coast of Sicily facing the Ionian Sea. It is the capital of the Metropolitan City of Catania, one of the ten biggest cities in Italy, and the seventh largest metropolitan area in Italy. The population of the city proper is 315,601 while the population of the conurbation is estimated to be 767,003. The metropolitan city has 1,115,310 inhabitants. Catania is well known for its historical earthquakes, having been destroyed by a catastrophic earthquake in 1169, another one in 1693, and several volcanic eruptions from the neighbouring Mount Etna, the most violent of which was in 1669.Catania has had a long and eventful history, having been founded in the 8th century BC. In 1434, the first university in Sicily was founded in the city. In the 14th century and into the Renaissance period, Catania was one of Italy's most important cultural, artistic and political centres. The city has a rich culture and history, hosting many museums, restaurants, churches, parks and theatres. Catania is well known for its street food.

Catania is located on the east coast of the island of Sicily, at the foot of Mount Etna. As observed by Strabo, the location of Catania at the foot of Mount Etna has been both a curse and a blessing.
Greek-Roman Theatre of Catania
Greek-Roman Theatre of Catania

On the one hand, violent outbursts of the volcano throughout history have destroyed large parts of the city, wilst on the other hand the volcanic ashes yield fertile soil, especially suited for the growth of vines. (Strab. vi. p. 269) Two subterranean rivers run under the city; the Amenano, which surfaces at one single point south of Piazza Duomo, and the Longane (or Lognina).


Greek Sicily

Catania was founded as a Greek colony named Κατάνη (Katánē—see also the list of traditional-Greek place names), of Chalcidic origin, under the guidance of a leader named Euarchos (Euarchus). The exact date of its foundation is not recorded, but it appears from Thucydides that it came into existence slightly later than Leontini (modern Lentini), which he claims was five years after Syracuse, or 730 BC. he only event of its early history that is known about is the legislation of Charondas, The exacte date of which is uncertain. His legislation was extended to the other Chalcidic cities, not only of Sicily, but of Magna Graecia also, as well as to his own country. It is evident that Catania had close relations with these other cities during this time. Catania appears to have retained its independence up to the reign of the despot Hieron of Syracuse, whereupon in 476 BC he expelled all the original inhabitants of Catania and replaced them with those he ruled over at Leontini - said to have numbered no less than 10,000, consisting partly of Syracusans and Peloponnesians. At the same time he changed the city's name to Αἴτνη (Aítnē, Aetna or Ætna, after the nearby Mount Etna, and proclaimed himself the Oekist or founder of the new city. For this he was celebrated by Pindar, and after his death he received heroic honors from the citizens of his new colony.A few years after the death of Hieron and the expulsion of Thrasybulus, the Syracusans combined with Ducetius, king of the Sicels, to expel the newly settled inhabitants of Catania, who went on to settle in the fortress of Inessa (to which they gave the name Aetna). The old Chalcidic citizens were reinstated to the city in 461 BC. The period that followed appears to have been one of great prosperity for Catania, as well as for the Sicilian cities in general. However, no details from this period of its history are known, until the great Athenian expedition to Sicily (part of the larger Peloponnesian War), when the Athenians invaded the city. The Catanaeans at first refused to allow the Athenians into their city, but after the latter had forced an entrance, they found themselves compelled to honour the alliance of their invaders. Catania became the headquarters of the Athenian armament throughout the first year of the expedition, and the base of their subsequent operations against Syracuse. No information exists on the fate of Catania after the Athenian expedition. It is next mentioned in 403 BC when it fell into the power of Dionysius I of Syracuse, who plundered the city and sold its citizens as slaves, after which he established a body of Campanian mercenaries. These, however, quit in 396 BC and retired to Aetna, on the approach of the great Carthaginian armament under Himilco and Mago. The great naval battle in which the latter defeated Leptines, who was quickly fought off from Catania, and the city is consequently believed to have[weasel words] fallen into the hands of the Carthaginians.  Calippus, the assassin of Dion of Syracuse, held possession of Catania for a time (Plut. Dion. 58); and when Timoleon landed in Sicily Catania was subject to a despot named Mamercus, who at first joined the Corinthian leader, but afterwards abandoned this allegiance for that of the Carthaginians. As a consequence he was attacked and expelled by Timoleon. Catania was now restored to liberty, and appears to have continued to retain its independence; during the wars of Agathocles with the Carthaginians, it sided at one time with the former, at others with the latter; and when Pyrrhus landed in Sicily, Catania was the first to open its gates to him, and received him with the great splendour. Catania was the birthplace of the philosopher and legislator Charondas and was also the place of residence of the poet Stesichorus, who was buried in a magnificent sepulchre outside one of the gates, which derived from thence the name of Porta Stesichoreia. (Suda, under Στησίχορος.) Xenophanes, the philosopher of Elea, also spent the latter years of his life in the city  so that it was evidently, at an early period, a place of cultivation and refinement. The first introduction of dancing to accompany the flute was also ascribed to Andron, a citizen of Catania. In ancient times Catania was associated with the legend of Amphinomus and Anapias, who, on occasion of a great eruption of Etna, abandoned all their property and carried off their aged parents on their shoulders, the stream of lava itself was said to have parted, and flowed aside so as not to harm them. Statues were erected to their honor, and the place of their burial was known as the Campus Piorum; the Catanaeans even introduced the figures of the youths on their coins, and the legend became a favorite subject of allusion and declamation among the Latin poets, of whom the younger Lucilius and Claudian have dwelt upon it at considerable length. The occurrence is referred by Hyginus to the first eruption of Etna that took place after the settlement of Catania.

Roman rule

West entrance of the Roman Theatre of Catania
By Archeo GFDL ( 

In the First Punic War, Catania was one of the first among the cities of Sicily, which made their submission to the Roman Republic, after the first successes of their arms in 263 BC. The expression of Pliny (vii. 60) who represents it as having been taken by Valerius Messalla, is certainly a mistake. It appears to have continued afterwards steadily to maintain its friendly relations with Rome, and though it did not enjoy the advantages of a confederate city (foederata civitas), like its neighbors Tauromenium (modern Taormina) and Messana (modern Messina), it rose to a position of great prosperity under the Roman rule. Cicero repeatedly mentions it as, in his time, a wealthy and flourishing city; it retained its ancient municipal institutions, its chief magistrate bearing the title of Proagorus; and appears to have been one of the principal ports of Sicily for the export of corn. It subsequently suffered severely from the ravages of Sextus Pompeius, and was in consequence one of the cities to which a colony was sent by Augustus; a measure that appears to have in a great degree restored its prosperity, so that in Strabo's time it was one of the few cities in the island that was in a flourishing condition. It retained its colonial rank, as well as its prosperity, throughout the period of the Roman Empire; so that in the 4th century Ausonius in his Ordo Nobilium Urbium, notices Catania and Syracuse alone among the cities of Sicily. One of the most serious eruptions of Mount Etna happened in 121 BC, when great part of Catania was overwhelmed by streams of lava, and the hot ashes fell in such quantities in the city itself, as to break in the roofs of the houses. Catania was in consequence exempted, for 10 years, from its usual contributions to the Roman state. The greater part of the broad tract of plain to the southwest of Catania (now called the Piana di Catania, a district of great fertility), appears to have belonged, in ancient times, to Leontini or Centuripa (modern Centuripe), but that portion of it between Catana itself and the mouth of the Symaethus, was annexed to the territory of the latter city, and must have furnished abundant supplies of grain. The port of Catania also, which was in great part filled up by the eruption of 1669, appears to have been in ancient times much frequented, and was the chief place of export for the corn of the rich neighboring plains. The little river Amenanus, or Amenas, which flowed through the city, was a very small stream and could never have been navigable. 

Middle Ages

Catania was sacked by the Vandals of Gaiseric in 440–441. After a period under the Ostrogoths, it was reconquered in 535 by the Eastern Roman Empire, under which (aside from a short period in 550–555) it remained until the 9th century. It was the seat of the Byzantine governor of the island. Catania was under the Islamic emirate of Sicily until 1072, when it fell to the Normans of Roger I of Sicily. Subsequently the city was ruled by a bishop-count. In 1194–1197 the city was sacked by German soldiers during after the conquest of the island by emperorHenry VI. In 1232 it rebelled to the former's son, Frederick II, who later built a massive castle, Castello Ursino and also made Catania a royal city, ending the dominance of the bishops. Catania was one of the main centers of the Sicilian Vespers revolt (1282) against the House of Anjou, and was the seat of the incoronation of the new Aragonese king of Sicily, Peter I. In the 14th century it gained importance as it was chosen by the Aragonese as a Parliament and Royal seat. Here, in 1347, it was signed the treaty of peace that ended the long War of the Vesper between Aragonese and Angevines. Catania lost its capital role when, in the early 15th century, Sicily was turned into a member of the Crown of Aragon, and kept its autonomy and original privileges specially during the period from 1282 to 1410. In 1434 King Alfonso V founded here the Siciliae Studium Generale, the oldest university in the island.

Etna eruption 1669
Etna eruption 1669

Early Modern times

Catania Ursino Castle
By Uploader original Triquetra CC-BY-SA-3.0 from Wikimedia 

 With the unification of Castile and Aragon (early 16th century), Sicily became part of the Spanish Empire. It rebelled against the foreign government in 1516 and 1647. In 1669 the city's surroundings suffered great material damage from an eruption of Mount Etna. The city itself was largely saved by its walls that diverted most of the lava into the port. Afterwards in 1693 the city was then completely destroyed by a heavy earthquake and its aftershocks. The city was then rebuilt in the Baroque architecture that nowadays characterizes it. 


Unified Italy

Catania Cathedral Sant'Agata
Catania Cathedral Sant'Agata

 Catania was one of the vanguards of the movement for the Sicilian autonomy in the early 19th century. In 1860 Giuseppe Garibaldi's expedition of the Thousand conquered Sicily for Piedmont from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Since the following year Catania was part of the newly unified Italy, whose history it shares since then. During the Second World War Catania was repeatedly bombed by the Allies, starting from 5 June 1940, and some 100,000 of its inhabitants were moved to the neighboring villages. It was evacuated by the Germans on 5 August 1943 and liberated by the British 8th Army. After the conflict, and the constitution of the Italian Republic (1946), the history of Catania was, like the history of other cities of southern Italy, an attempt to catch up with the economic and social development of the richer northern regions in the country and to solve the problems that for historic reasons plague the Mezzogiorno, namely a heavy gap in industrial development and infrastructures, and the threat of the mafia. This notwithstanding, during the 1960s (and partly during the 1990s) Catania enjoyed a development and an economic, social and cultural effervescence. In the first decade of the 21st century, Catania economic and social development somewhat faltered and the city is again facing economic and social stagnation. This was aggravated by the economical crisis left by the Forza Italia administration of mayor Scapagnini in 2008.

Main sights

Catania Elephant fountain
By Urbano CC-BY-SA-3.0 wikimedia

The symbol of the city is u Liotru, or the Fontana dell'Elefante, assembled in 1736 by Giovanni Battista Vaccarini. It portrays an ancient lavic stone elephant and is topped by an Egyptian obelisk from Syene. Legend has it that Vaccarini's original elephant was neuter, which the men of Catania took as an insult to their virility. To appease them, Vaccarini appropriately appended elephantine testicles to the original statue. The Sicilian name u Liotru is a phonetic change of Heliodorus, a nobleman who, after trying without success to become bishop of the city, became a sorcerer and was therefore condemned to the stake. Legend has it that Heliodorus himself was the sculptor of the lava elephant and that he used to magically ride it in his fantastic travels from Catania to Constantinople. Another legend has it that Heliodorus was able to transform himself into an elephant. The presence of an elephant in the millenary history of Catania is surely connected to both zooarcheology and popular creeds. In fact, the prehistoric fauna of Sicily from the Upper Paleolithic, included dwarf elephants. Paleontologist Othenio Abel suggested that the presence of dwarf elephants in Sicily may be the origin of the legend of the Cyclops. Ancient Greeks, after finding the skulls of dwarf elephants, about twice the size of a human skull, with a large central nasal cavity (mistaken for a large single eye-socket) supposed that they were skulls of giants with a single eye. The Catanian Museum of Mineralogy, Paleonthology and Vulcanology holds the integral unburied skeleton of an Elephas falconeri in an excellent state of conservation. The first inhabitants of Etna molded such lavic artifact to idolize the mythical proboscidian. 

To visit

Catania Achillean Baths
Catania Achillean Baths
  • Greek-Roman Theatre of Catania (2nd century)
  • Odeon (3rd century). It could house up to 1500 spectators
  • Amphitheatre
  • Greek Acropolis of Montevergine
  • Roman Aqueduct
  • Roman Forum
  • Roman broken arcades
  • Christian basilicas, hypogea, burial monuments and Catacombs
  • Roman Colonnade
  • Achillean Baths
  • Terme dell’Indirizzo
  • Terme di Santa Maria Odigitria
  • Terme della Rotonda
  • Baths of the Four Quoins
  • Terme di Palazzo Asmundo
  • Terme del Palazzo dell’Università
  • Terme di Casa Gagliano
  • Terme della Chiesa di Sant'Antonio Abate
  • The Cathedral (1070–1093, rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake) Saint Agatha Abbey (1620)
    Catania Fontana di Sant'Agata
    By Maticam78 [Attribuzione or Dominio pubblico ], Wikimedia
  • Saint Placidus (1769)
  • Church of San Giuseppe al Duomo
  • Church of Santissimo Sacramento al Duomo
  • Church of San Martino dei Bianchi
  • Church of Sant'Agata la Vetere (254)
  • Saint Agatha by the Furnace or Saint Blaise (1098, rebuilt in 1700)
  • Church of the Saint Jail or Saint Agatha at the Jail (Santo Carcere or Sant'Agata al Carcere) (1760). This temple includes the ancient jail where Saint Agatha was allegedly imprisoned during her martyrdom.
  • Saint Francis of Assisi at the Immaculate (1329). It still houses the mortal remains of Queen Eleanor of Sicily, who decided and promoted the construction of the principal Franciscan building of Catania on the same place of the once Roman Temple of Minerva Saint Benedict of Nursia (1704–1713)
  • Badìa Grande e Badìa Piccola del Chiostro delle Monache Benedettine
  • Benedictine Nuns' Arch (Arco delle Monache Benedettine)
  • Basilica della Collegiata, a notable example of Sicilian Baroque, whose façade was designed by Stefano Ittar
    catania church San Benedetto
    Inside the church San Benedetto
  • Saint Mary of Ogninella
  • Saint Michael the Lesser Saint Michael Archangel or Minorites'
  • Church Saint Julian
  • Saint Julian's Monastery
  • Santa Teresa di Avila
  • Saint Francis Borgia or Jesuits' Church
  • Convent of the Jesuits
  • Saint Mary of Jesus (1465, restored in 1706)
  • Saint Dominic or Saint Mary the Great (1224)
  • Dominicans Friary (1224)
  • Saint Mary of Purity or Saint Mary of Visitation (1775)
  • Madonna of Graces' Chapel
  • Saint Ursula
  • Saint Agatha on the Lavic Runnels
  • Saint Euplius Old Church
  • Ruins Church of San Gaetano alle Grotte (260)
  • Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciated Mary of Carmel (1729)
  • Saint Agatha by the Borough (1669, destroyed in 1693 and rebuilt in 1709). The "Borough" (il Borgo) is an inner district of Catania.
  • Saint Nicholas by the Borough
  • Church of the Santissimo Sacramento al Borgo
  • Church of Santa Maria della Provvidenza al Borgo
  • Chapel of the Blind's Housing (Ospizio dei Ciechi)
  • Saint Camillus of the Crucifers Benedictine Monastery of San Nicolò l'Arena (1558)
  • Basilica of San Nicola l'Arena (1687)
  • Church of Santa Maria dell'Indirizzo (1730)catania barocco
  • Saint Clare (1563)
  • Convent of the Poor Clares (1563)
  • Saint Sebastian Martyr (1313)
  • Saint Anne
  • Sanctuary of Santa Maria dell'Aiuto
  • Madonna of Loreto
  • Church of San Giuseppe al Transito
  • Church of Immacolata Concezione dei Minoritelli
  • Church of Sant'Agata al Conservatorio delle Verginelle
  • Church of Santa Maria dell'Itria or Odigitria).
  • Saint Philip Neri
  • Saint Martha
  • Church of the Holy Child Our Lady of Providence
  • Church of San Berillo in Santa Maria degli Ammalati Our Lady of the Poor
  • Church of San Vincenzo de' Paoli
  • Saint John the Baptist, in the suburb of San Giovanni di Galermo
  • Saint Anthony Abbot
  • Little Saviour's Byzantine
  • Chapel Saint Augustine
  • Church of the Most Holy Trinity
  • Church of the Little Virgins
  • Our Lady of the Rotunda
  • Church of the Santissimo Sacramento Ritrovato (1796).
  • Sanctuary of Our Lady of Ognina (1308).Ognina is the maritime quarter and the main fishing pole of Catania. Many bareboats and umpteen smacks gather and crowd here all year round. In its close vicinities there is a cylindric tower, known as Saint Mary's Tower (Torre Santa Maria), which was restructured in the 16th century to prevent the frequent plunders of the Saracen pirates. The church is the result of the gradual modification of the Greek Temple Athena Longatis or Parthenos Longatis that existed on the steep reef. This cult was imported from a Boeotian region of Greece called Longas  from where the first Hellenic settlers of this borough probably came. After the earthquake of 1693 it was sobriously rebuilt on the same place but with a different orientation.
    Catania palazzo universita
    By Urban via Wikimedia Commons
  • Our Lady of Montserrat (1755)
  • Church of Santa Maria della Salute
  • Saint Mary of La Salette
  • Church of Santa Maria della Mercede
  • Church of Santa Caterina al Rinazzo
  • Our Lady of Concordia
  • Church of Santa Maria della Guardia
  • Our Lady of Consolation
  • Church of Santissimo Crocifisso Maiorana
  • Crucifix of Miracles
  • Crucifix of Good Death
  • Our Lady of La Mecca
  • Saint Cajetan at the Marina
  • Most Holy Redeemer
  • Saint Francis of Paola
  • Church of the Divina Maternità
  • Chapel of Mary Auxiliatrix
  • Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
  • Church of the Sacro Cuore al Fortino (1898)
  • Saints George and Denis
  • Church of the Sacred Heart of the Capuchins
  • Saint Christopher
  • Saints Cosmas and Damian
  • Church of Santa Maria del Soccorso or Santa Maria della Palma
    Catania Palazzo Biscari
    By G.dallorto (Own work) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Saint Vitus
  • Church of the Santi Angeli Custodi
  • Church of the Santissimo Salvatore
  • Castello Ursino, built by emperor Frederick II in the 13th century.
  • Palazzo degli Elefanti, designed by Giovan Battista Vaccarini. It houses the Town Hall.
  • Palazzo Biscari
  • Palazzo Tezzano
  • Palazzo Manganelli 
  • Elephant fountain
  • Villa Cerami
  • Palazzo Bruca
  • National Boarding Mario Cutelli
  • Palazzo Gravina Cruyllas
  • Via Crociferi
  • Uzeda Gate
  • The Medieval Gothic-Catalan Arch of Saint John of Friars (San Giovanni de' Fleres)
    Catania Villa Bellini
    Villa Bellini
  • Gate (Porta Ferdinandea or Porta Garibaldi), a triumphal arch erected in 1768 to celebrate the marriage of Ferdinand I of Two Sicilies and Marie Caroline of Austria
  • Porta del Fortino ("Redoubt Gate")
  • The House of the Mutilated of War (Casa del Mutilato) built in Fascist-style architecture Catania
  • War Cemetery, a Commonwealth Graveyard located in the southern country hamlet of Bicocca
  • Giardino Bellini Catania
  • Botanical Garden
  • Pacini Garden
  • Gioeni Park
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