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Caught between the smoldering bulk of Europe’s tallest active volcano and the waters of the Ionian Sea, Catania has learned to live with nature’s vicissitudes. In 1669 lava flowed through its streets and in 1693 an earthquake toppled most of the city’s buildings. The rumbling mountain above still rains ash on its streets. The earthquake is responsible for Catania's largesse of Baroque architecture, and the volcano for the dark gray stone that was used in its rebuilding. Colonized by Greeks in the 7th century BC, it was conquered by the Romans in the 3rd century AD and thrived until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1169. Two Roman ...

Caught between the smoldering bulk of Europe’s tallest active volcano and the waters of the Ionian Sea, Catania has learned to live with nature’s vicissitudes. In 1669 lava flowed through its streets and in 1693 an earthquake toppled most of the city’s buildings. The rumbling mountain above still rains ash on its streets. The earthquake is responsible for Catania's largesse of Baroque architecture, and the volcano for the dark gray stone that was used in its rebuilding. Colonized by Greeks in the 7th century BC, it was conquered by the Romans in the 3rd century AD and thrived until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1169. Two Roman amphitheaters, one built on a previous Greek theater, survive today, one of which is open to the public. Next to it is the round Odeon, and the nearby church of Santa Maria della Rotonda is built on the remains of Roman baths. To learn more about Catania’s often violent history, visit the Museo Civico in the 13th-century Castello Ursino. To view the best of the Baroque architecture (although it is all over the city), walk along Via dei Crociferi, past the Churches of San Benedetto, the Jesuits and San Giuliano, and along Via Etnea, lined by shops and cafes. It leads into Piazza Duomo, where the city’s iconic fountain has an elephant carved from lava. It gives its name to the city hall — Palazzo degli Elefanti.

Stillman Rogers
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Stillman Rogers has written more than two dozen guidebooks, including Adventure Guide to Canada's Atlantic Provinces, Guide to Eastern Canada, and Adventure Guide to the Chesapeake.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Catania is an Italian city on the east coast of Sicily facing the Ionian Sea, between Messina and Syracuse.
  • Language: Italian
  • Currency: Euro
  • Research: Catania | Wikitravel | Sicily
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    February 3-5 for the colorful religious festival honoring the city’s patron, Saint Agatha; summer for beaches; spring through fall for Mt. Etna, since it is windy and snow-covered in winter.