Sicily’s second largest city – after Palermo – Catania is a unique urban creation which seems to be born of fire and lava. Facing the Ionian Sea with its transparent, perfectly blue waters, this Sicilian city lies, therefore, between the bright maritime light and the imposing, ever-present company of Mount Etna to be discovered with a Range Rover Vogue.
Catania’s soul is a perfect mixture of these two elements, its volcanic soil and the sea. Numerous volcanic eruptions destroyed, in fact, the city. In the 17th century Catania was, for example, covered by Mount Etna’s devastating lava and blazing ashes and, later on, a terrible earthquake destroyed again the urban centre.
CONSTANT DESTRUCTION AND AN UNDYING LOVE FOR LIFE
This constant alternation of destruction and prosperity, and of both the generosity and the ferocity of its natural surroundings, durably shaped Catania’s inhabitants perception of life. They always reacted with utmost strength. After the appalling earthquake of 1693, the city was, in fact, rebuilt in a flamboyant Baroque style, a sort of ode to life…in spite of all the misfortunes it had just brought.
A CITY REPEATEDLY OCCUPIED
Catania was originally built as a Greek colony, possibly around 730 BC, according to the most famous Greek historian of that time, Thucydides. Pivotal ancient maritime hub of the Magna Grecia, later on, after the first Punic War, Catania became part of the Roman Republic and rose immediately to a position of great wealth and strategic importance thanks to the Roman rule.
Sacked by the Vandals of Gaiseric in 440-441, then conquered by the Ostrogoths, the Islamic emirate of Sicily, the Normans, by emperor Henry VI’s soldiers, by the Spanish Empire’s armed forces… Catania and its inhabitants learned to take advantage of their very rulers and flourish in spite of the horrendous battles fought by them.
This Sicilian city is, therefore, the embodiment of an endless celebration of beauty and life. Its historic centre is fairly small but full of amazing architectural and cultural treasures. An example among many, is the St. Agata Cathedral. Founded on the site of an 11th century church, destroyed in the 17th century by one of Mount Etna’s eruptions, it features at the same time an impressive Baroque structure enriched by ancient Roman columns, which belonged to the nearby Roman amphitheatre.