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Travel: Catania-The Grey City, Sicily Nov. 9-10/2022

Updated: Nov 13

Part 1 of a trip to Sicily (from Nov-10 - 16th)



On the same week of the Israeli 5th round of elections (within the past 2 years) which took place and resulted in the decisive ruling for Right party block, yet, in a devastation for half of the nation, our youngest daughter Inbal's 40th birthday was celebrated.

For her and her kids' generation the horizon turned more anxious, ambiguous and foggy,


To lighten the somber mood up, and get into a celebratory atmosphere, I decided

to bring live music into the (only) family party, we threw for Inbal



I heard Irina, for the first time, playing her violin on the side walk of TLV Dizingoff Center street corner, which I was passing by,earlier in the week, I was absolutely mesmerized by her virtuoso playing.

Being in her 50th+ I discovered, Irina who originally is from the Ukrainian, is of a Russian decent, but has been residing in Turkey for the past 20 years and loves visiting Israel.



That was Irina's 4th visit as a tourist, and for fun and making some pocket money, she entertains the Israeli by passers, with her delightful music playing.

She has been playing the violin since the age of 7, competing with her older sister who is also an musician but preferred the piano. Irena has played with various assembles: classical, jazz and popular music, as well as for the theater and opera at her Ukraine home town Luhnsk (so much impacted by the recent Putin's war invasion)


When I inquired if she agrees to play at a Birthday party, she gladly agreed to do so at Inbal’s BT celebration, which turned to be especially joyous event, as non of us could resist getting up on our feet, and danced to the fabulous music she played for us.




If you plan a party within these next few weeks, you may want to have her play for you as well, before she returns back to Turkey, or invite her back..

Imfo : igulmen83@gmail.com +90 546 8556177




Flying from Israel to Sicily


The direct flight with the low-cost Wizz-air which departed at 10:30 pm on time landed on time in Catania, into a pitch black-midnight.



Whizzing out of the airport was amazingly fast, However no taxi nor buses bothered to service the landing passengers, at these wee hours of the night .




Luckily a phone number David had for a Catania Taxi company, responded to our rings, and dispatched a cab, which we agreed to share with another stranded couple, we encountered on the flight, and who also needed the short 20 minutes ride, into the town’s old center,


Catania Taxi: +39 0953 30966




Catania's main Duomo square at old town, was empty and quite at 2:00am

when we arrived there







For this half of the night sleep time left we sufficed with a transitory budget hotel, which was situated, right at the old town center Duomo square.


Hotel Central Europa

On via Vittorio Emanuele Piazza Duomo

+39095311309

(it is not recommended for longer stays)


The exhaustion erased any imperfections of this basic accommodation, The location's central advantage it held , allows an early morning touring of the old town’s center by foot, and before other tourists arrived.




This is not the first time visited in Sicily. We toured the entire island for a longer period of time in 2013, (I was not yet posting my dairies then)

But at that time, we just passed through Catania, to where we flew in, without bothering to frequent the towm's old center,.


Catania

This ancient Ionian Sea Port city on Sicily's east coast, is the island's 2nd largest (after Palermo) with a population of about 300,000. Modern Catania is the industrial, logistical, and commercial center of Sicily. and outside of its old center is very unattractive town, and not that great tourist attraction,


The city sits under the shadow of the looming active volcano Mount Etna, over it

The capricious mountain has to a large extent, shaped both the history and the actual existence of this ancient city.

Catania was founded in the 8th BC by Greeks from Chalcis. It subsequently became a Roman city and amazingly, considering the dramatic series of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, that have so afflicted the area, three ancient theaters have survived from that period.

During the 14th c, and into the Renaissance period, Catania was one of Italy's most important cultural, artistic and political centers, as well as was the site of Sicily's first university, founded in 1434


Volcanic eruptions on several occasions, destroyed the city, the most devastating of which happened in the 17th c. In 1669 Catania was covered in lava, and then just 24 years later in 1693, an earthquake shook the town down to its foundations, to which the response was a rebuilt of the entire old town, in a Baroque style with large, wide-open squares and avenues. using the Catania lava grey building material , which is unique in the world for this. The city is called "The grey City"


Old Town Center - UNESCO world Heritage Site

The central delightful square, with all its surrounding buildings, which we toured the following morning, after a short night sleep, were designed by the architect

Giovanni Battista Vaccarini ( 1702 1768) born in Palermo, and notable for his work in the Sicilian Baroque style.


Next morning


To fully wake us up we had coffee and great pastries at this lovely cafe, off the square. on the main Etnea st.


"Prestipino Cafe"

Via Etnea, 38 · 095 310429



The Elephant In the Square

Piazza del Duomo - the main square, features as its center piece a whimsical Fontana dell'Elefante statue (1736) an elephant fountain carrying an obelisk.

Made of lava stone and dating from the Roman period, The comical statue adorable elephant, known locally as Liotru and the symbol of the city.





Catania Cathedral - dedicated to St. Agata, the city’s patron saint, stands on the site of an 11th C church, that was almost entirely destroyed in the 1693 eruption.

Roman columns taken from the amphitheater. as recycled building material like some Roman baths remains underneath, are reminders of these ancient times.









Grand Baroque buildings on the Square


Palazzo degli Elefanti, Palazzo dei Chierci

Municipio, (town hall) built 1741. Built in 1693




On Atena main Shopping St.



University Square


Close to and between the Cathedral and Bellini squares, in the center, is the University Square. also composed of late Baroque palaces of the University of Catania :

University Palace, Gioeni Asmundo Palace and the San Giuliano Palace


By the University Admin. Buildings on the main shopping Atena St.


A plaque on the left with visitors names to the building, mention: few royal dignitaries




17th-century arch of Porta Uzeda towards the port,

The name Porta Uzeda comes from Juan Francisco Pacheco Téllez-Girón, duke of Uzeda, a vicerè of Sicily between 1687 and 1696. The Vicerè was the king regent during the spanish government which started in 1412 and ended in 1830.

The gate was opened in the 15th C walls of Charles V, entitling the duke of Uzeda, as a token of appreciation for his commitment to the reconstruction of the city destroyed by the earthquake of 1693.





Beautiful Amerano Fountain

To the right side of the gate, on the south side of Piazza Duomo, there is a beautiful Carrara marble, statue, in the midst of a fountain. which was sculptured by Napoleon master - Tito Angelini in 1867, The fountain consists of a large shell inside it stands the statue of the river Amenano, represented as a young man. holding a cornucopia from which water flows into a convex basin. On each side of the statue, there is the sculpture of a triton.


Fontana dell'Amennano



And there is the La Pescheria weekday Fish Market off the square surrounded by swarming by , tourists m seafood restaurants and many dead Fish..



Fish Market








All about Bellini


The opera composer Vincenzo Salvatore Carmelo Francesco Bellini (1801- 1835) is a signature personality of this town, he was born in. and was known for his long-flowing melodic lines for which he was named "the Swan of Ctania"

There is a statue of the composer on Bellini Square, a house and theater with his name on it, and even a dish..







Bellini Statue on Bellini Square Bellini Theater Bellini's Birth Place house


The signature dish of Catania, Pasta alla Norma, is also dedicated to Bellini and consists of fried chunks of aubergine, a rich tomato sauce and salty ricotta cheese..... Buon appetito!




Another large Street Market

Close to Bellini square, around Piazza Carlo Alberto there is another vegetable & clothes & shoes. large Street market can be found which occupies several streets




Palazzo Biscari - symbol of Catania’s Baroque architecture., rebuilt by Ignazio Paternò Castello III, the fifth prince of Biscari, a great scholar, archaeologist and lover of the arts, who made it his home, and also established the first major Museum open to the public, containing his great archaeological collectio



A Castle Fortress

Piazza Federico di Svevia and the old fortress of Castello Ursino. an imposing structure built in the 13th as a royal castle of the Kingdom of Sicily, on a rocky cliff overlooking the sea. by Frederick II of Hohenstaufen It was. intended as a defensive bulwark, mainly from sea attacks.


The name “Ursino” probably comes from ‘sinus’, or ‘gulf’ because the castle was located on a rugged headland overlooking the sea of Catania.

It is mostly known for its role in the Sicilian Vespers, when it became the seat of the Sicilian Parliament.

The castle, which we saw only from the outside, is in good condition and it is open to the public as a civic museum. containing archaeological, medieval, Renaissance and modern sections.



Palazzo San Demetrio On Etna St . Santa Maria delle' Elemonsina

Collegiate Church



Ancient Theaters


Roman amphitheatre of Catania


Built in the Roman Imperial period, probably in the 2nd AD, on the northern edge of the ancient city at the base of the Montevergine hill. Only a small section of the structure is now visible, most is below ground level,

This largest amphitheater in Sicily, with a warren of passages which runs underneath, said to accommodate around 15,000 spectators. and can be found in Catani's Piazza Stesicoro at the crossroads of Via Etnea and Corso Sicilia, This area is now the historic center of the city, but was then on the outskirts of the ancient town and also was occupied by the necropolis of Catania

It is not usually open to the public, though can be viewed from outside.




Teatro Romano -Roman Theater


The Teatro Romano, is located between Piazza San Francesco, via Vittorio Emanuele, via Timeo and via Teatro Greco in the center of old town.



Odeon - Small Theater


It was built in 2nd AD. of lava stone on the site of a Greek theater. and only fully excavated in the 19th Cr .part of the Parco archeologico greco-romano di Catania it consists of ruins of 2 open air semicircular larger theater and a smaller semicircular theater, -an Odeon.

used for more intimate occasions, such as musical performances.


Terme della Rotanda

Built between the 1st and 2nd c AD, the Baths of the Rotonda are the remains of one of several Roman public baths in the city, located not far from the Roman theatre and the odeon.


In the Byzantine era, the church of Santa Maria della Rotonda with its characteristic dome was built upon the remains of the Roman baths. Its walls are still covered in medieval and baroque frescoes.


Term Achilliane

Another underground thermal structures, dating back to the4-5th AD are located next to the Cathedral, of which only a small portion remains visible under the Piazza del Duomo.



Scenes of Town



By By Catania


To be continued....


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