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A walk in the historic center of Catania: what is worth a visit
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A walk in the historic center of Catania: what is worth a visit

18/09/2019

If you want to make an exhaustive list of things to see in Catania, you could be doing wrong to the artistic-cultural greatness of this city, because you risk excluding places that deserve the attention of any traveler. For this reason, we want, more than anything else, to trace a path that touches some landmarks of the historic center of the city, starting from its heart: Piazza del Duomo.

Piazza del Duomo, the heart of Catania
It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful Italian squares. In the center stands the fountain of the Elephant, the symbol of the city, an eighteenth-century work by the architect Giovan Battista Vaccarini. The lava stone elephant, surmounted by an obelisk decorated in Egyptian style, dates back to Roman times. Around this statue revolve curious legends related to Heliodorus, a noble of the city who lived in the eighth century AD accused of being a "necromancer and blacksmith of idols" and, for this very reason, sentenced to death by Bishop Leo II the Wonderworker. The term Liotru, with which the people of Catania refer to the fountain, would be a distortion of the name Eliodoro which, according to the popular rumors of the time, flew in flight astride the elephant!

The trunk of the pachyderm indicates the spectacular Cathedral of Sant'Agata , built in 1094, during the Norman domination, on the Roman structure of the Achillian Baths (2nd century AD). Over the centuries the building has undergone numerous renovations but has retained traces of every phase of its history. Its majestic Baroque facade, also designed by Vaccarini, immediately catches the attention of visitors. The interior with three naves is also admirable, herein the tomb of the great Catania composer Vincenzo Bellini lies. After visiting the cathedral, from Piazza del Duomo you can follow the famous Via Etnea.

Via Etnea, the main artery of Catania's social life
Elegant and full of life, via Etnea is the most famous street in Catania. Travelers are always fascinated by this avenue - partly reserved for pedestrians only - along which there are historic buildings and wonderful churches, but also shops and clubs of all kinds. The lava stone pavement brings out even more the beauty of the Baroque buildings. After a shopping trip, those wishing to take a break from the liveliness of Via Etnea can take refuge in Villa Bellini for a pleasant walk in this well-kept city garden; nature lovers will also be pleased to visit the nearby Botanical Garden, founded in 1858 by the Benedictine monk Francesco Tornabene (from October to March, open from Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 5:00 pm; Saturday until 1:00 pm. April to September, open from Monday to Friday from 9:0 am to 7:00 pm; Saturday until 1:00 pm).

Passing from natural to archaeological treasures, still on Via Etnea you will find the Roman amphitheater of the 2nd century AD, in Piazza Stesicoro. But the main protagonist of ancient Catania, as we know, is the Roman Theater.

The Roman Theater, the treasure of ancient Catania
The Roman Theater of Catania can be reached by taking Via Vittorio Emanuele II from Piazza del Duomo. Five minutes on foot and the visitor will be in front of the entrance. The structure, which seems to have been built on a pre-existing Greek theater, could accommodate 7,000 people. Today the cavea with the steps for the spectators, the orchestra and the stage remain visible.
The theater is open every day, from Monday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm; Sundays from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. The full ticket costs € 6.00, the reduced ticket costs € 3.00. Entrance is free on the first Sunday of the month and closes at 5 pm.

Our walk in the historic center of Catania concldes here but the treasures with which the city of Etna conquers all travelers do not.

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