After an uneventful trip 40nm up the east coast of Sicily we arrived in Catania. There was very little wind for the majority of the journey so we ended up having to motor almost the entire way.
Catania is the second largest city in Sicily. It is situated at the foot of Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe.
We have previously had a short stop over in Catania when flying from the airport here, but only had time for a quick visit to the city in the evening which had left us with a desire to return.
We moored in the large busy commercial harbour with views of Mount Etna puffing out smoke close by.
Once Ziggy was safely tied up, we went for a short walk to the centre just as the sun was going down.
The city looks stunning all lit up against the dark sky, lots of people were out, bars and restaurants were filling up and the market stalls in the side streets all came to life. We decided to stay another day as we’ve yet to explore in daylight.
The following morning we set off again on a walk around the harbour towards the old city centre. Much of the architecture has been rebuilt several times due to earthquakes and eruptions. The most destructive being the earthquake in 1693 when reconstruction was of a predominantly baroque style. Many important buildings here are decorated with volcanic lava stone giving them a unique dark colour.
Piazza del Duomo is at the heart of the city and the main meeting place for the locals. The elaborate Cathedral of Sant’Agata stands in the piazza with the Palace of the Seminary of the Clerics next door and the Elephants Palace (Palazzo degli Elefanti) nearby, now the local municipal building.
In the centre of the piazza is the Fontana dell’Elefante with a statue of an elephant which points its trunk to the Cathedral of the Saint as to pay homage to its Patron. U’liotru (the elephant) is the symbol of the city.
In the corner of the square, the waters of the Amenano river rise to the surface in the Fontana dell’ Amenano.
Just off the square tucked away behind the fountain, is a busy food and fish market. Here the streets are shaded with colourful umbrellas hanging on rope between the old buildings, swaying by the wind. The Umbrella Sky Project started in Portugal in 2011 and has since been adopted in many countries around the world providing shade and making people smile. It is thought to signify cultural inclusivity through the universal power of colour!
After lunch at one of the small cafes under the colourful sunshades, we continued on to Giardino Bellini. Named after the composer Vincenzo Bellini, this is a huge park from the 19th century.
The local people spend their free time here. With over 70 thousand square meters there is something for everyone; playgrounds and sports areas, 100’s of varieties of trees and flowers, statues and fountains.
As we entered into the park we climbed the steps surrounded with flowers and hedges, there is a clock in the centre with a dial made of evergreen plants and an inscription above indicating the day, month and year. A bust of the composer looks over the clock.
At the top of the hill is a wrought iron kiosk (pavilion) known as the ‘Cloister of concerts’ as until 1958, classical music concerts were held here.
We walked around the park, making the most of the shade from the trees which were all giving off different scents.
Catania was the birthplace of Bellini and where he grew up. As we walked back into the old town there is a statue of the composer and several monuments in the city have been named after him including an opera house, Teatro Massimo Bellini.
At the end of the day we returned back to the harbour where ZigZag had been sitting under the cloud of smoke from Etna. This had left a light covering of black ash on her decks….makes a change from the orange sand!!