7 attractions in Catania (Sicily)

 

 Visit the city of Catania

Sicily’s second largest city after Palermo, Catania is known for its Baroque buildings. Founded by Ionian Greeks in 729 BC, Catania prospered as an agricultural center and remained so after it became a Roman colony. Eclipsed by Syracuse and Palermo in the Byzantine and Arab periods, it regained its importance as a trading and seafaring power under Norman rule. Spanish rulers fostered the town’s prosperity, founding a university there in 1434, but natural catastrophes befell the town: the plague in 1576, lava flows in 1669 that destroyed the western part of the town, and the great earthquake of 1693, which left the rest in ruin. The 18th-century reconstruction, much of it designed by Giovanni Battista Vaccarini, left Catania its rich legacy of Baroque buildings, which are its major attractions for tourists.

1.Piazza Duomo

Piazza Duomo

2.Basilica Cattedrale Sant’Agata

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3.Fontana dell Elephante

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4.Fontana dell Amenano

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5.Giardini Bellini (Villa Bellini)

6.Monastero dei Benedictini

10 minutes walk from the Cathedral square you find the Monastery of San Nicolò l’Arena, a late baroque monument and one of the biggest Benedictine monastery in Europe. The construction of the building started in 1500 and has continued until today. It is an example of architectonical integration of different styles through different epochs:  you can find a roman house, the cloisters and a roof garden. The monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It hosts the Department of Humanities of the University of Catania.

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7.Museo Storico dello Sbarco in Sicilia 1943.

The “Allied Landings in Sicily Museum” (Museo Storico dello Sbarco in Sicilia 1943) is housed in one of the buildings forming the “Ciminiere” cultural centre. The museum narrates the events that took place in Sicily from 10 July to 8 September 1943. This period is still recent history, only seventy years have passed and many senior citizens can still recount the experience. Everything that we have forgotten is now conserved in this museum which aims to protect our most precious asset: peace.

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Via Appia Antica

Via Appia Antica (Old Appian Way) was once one of the world’s most important roads and the most famous of all the roads that radiated from Rome towards the far ends of the Roman Empire.

The Via Appia, originally built in 312 BC, was the brainchild of Appius Claudius Caecus, the then-censor of Rome, who was known for organizing bold public works that helped make life easier for the people of Rome.

Appian Way

Appius Claudius’ most famous project was this road, which would eventually run all the way from Rome to the port city of Brindisi.

The road began as a level dirt surface upon which mortar and small stones were laid. On top of that, gravel was placed, topped with interlocking stones that would provide a flat surface for those traveling the road. Historians say the stones fit together so well that it was nearly impossible to stick a knife between them. Ditches were dug on either side of the road and were protected by retaining walls.

A 560 km long road

Via Appia began at the Circus Maximus, passing along the Baths of Caracalla, and later, the Aurelian Wall. Near Rome the road was lined with tombs.

When the road left the city, it traveled through wealthy suburbs on its way straight through the Appian Mountains and over the former Pontine Marshes to Terracina, a coastal town 56 km south of Rome. From there the Appian Way followed the western coast, eventually ending at Capua, making the original road about 210 km long.

This road achieved its goals by helping the Roman army move military supplies where they were needed in a quick manner, resulting in several victories for the army.
Sometime around 295 BC, the road was extended to Benevenutum and then, within the next five years, to Venusia and Tarentum. Eventually, the Appian Way made it all the way to the port city of Brindisi on Italy’s southeast coast, 560 km from Rome (about 350 miles)

Walking along the Via Appia

Today the Via Appia starts at the Aurelian wall, at the Porta San Sebastiano. The first part of the road is not exactly pedestrian friendly. It leads along the Quo Vadis church, the catacombs of San Callisto and the catacombs of San Sebastiano to the imposing tomb of Cecilia Metella. From here the road is paved with the authentic Roman stones. You can walk for many kilometers passing the remains of numerous historic tombs.

Villa Adriana (Tivoli)

Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli is one of the Italian UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Built by the request of the Emperor Hadrian, the Villa is a monumental living complex that even today continues to display the lavishness and enormous power of Ancient Rome.

In Tivoli, Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana) was designed to be a home for the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 117 A.D. Construction began on top of the foundation of a pre-existing villa that belonged to his wife Vibia Sabina. The Villa, located 28 km (17.4 mi) from the Capital on the Monti Tiburtini, could be reached via the ancient Roman roads Tiburtina and Prenestina, or else by the River Aniene.
The area was chosen for its abundant waters and availability of four aqueducts that passed through to Rome: Anio Vetus, Anio Nobus, Aqua Marcia and Aqua Claudia.
One can still find here the sulphur water springs (the Acque Albule) that the Emperor enjoyed – today’s Tivoli Baths!

Given archaeological evidence and certain written sources, we know that the Roman villa and the domus were partitioned into different settings with precise functions and according to a scheme that is often repeated; for example, the floor-plan of Hadrian’s Villa is comparable to those of the Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii and the Villa of Poppaea in Oplontis (near Torre Annunziata). Despite the fact that the Villa utilizes traditional architectonic language and iconography, it was in any case projected in a rather different, original style.

Inside the Villa complex, one can see the Poecile, a huge garden surrounded by an arcade with a swimming pool. This area was built so that one could take walks whether it was winter or summer. Then there is the Canopus, a long water basin embellished with columns and statues that culminate in a temple topped by an umbrella dome, and the remains of two bath areas: the Grandi Terme and the Piccole Terme (the large and small baths or thermae). The former contained a frigidarium or large pool of cold water (open-air) and a round room with a coffered dome; these coffers were rather particular in that they opened into five large windows. Covered in valuable and decorative stucco, these structures were purposed for the Imperial Family and their guests.

The Grandi Terme, reserved for the personnel of the Villa, consisted of a heating system located under the floor, and a circular room outfitted as a sudatio or sauna. Noteworthy is the large vaulted-arch ceiling in the central room, still in perfect condition (structurally)  today, despite the collapse of one of the four supporting piers. Some of the – relatively – best preserved areas of the villa are the accademia, the stadio or arena, the Imperial Palace, the Philosophers’ Room, the Greek Theatre, and the Piazza d’oro, a majestic square the purpose of which was to be a “representation;” it was large enough to allow a vast peristyle decorated in refined stucco. Finally, the splendid Teatro Marittimo (Maritime Theatre) is an island of sorts elaborated with an iconic colonnade and circumscribed by a canal. This is where the Emperor isolated himself when he wanted to think amidst silence and tranquility.

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