An Ionian seaside town, Avola is a mix of old and new. The town focuses heavily on the sea, with its history as a tuna fishing port. Today, the remains of the Vecchia Tonnara at the wharf are a stone backdrop to the sandy beaches. Avola dates back to a pre-Greek people called the Sicani.…
Once landed, boyy it shocked.
Catania airport seemed grey and trashy. Everywhere I looked around was garbage left from people. I took a taxi – that was a rip off too – and got myself to my AirBnb. It was the worse AirBnb experience ever. The street was called Via Plebiscito. Later I found out it is not recommended for the tourists as the locals that are living there are pretty wild, there is constant noise from the streets (car honking, people yelling, old vehicles crunching and vespas buzzing) and no isolation whatsoever. The very first words of the owner were: in Sicilia è così – while she was taking her rent that was triple the standard price.
Fair enough. I slept the night and decided to change the place. First impression was bad.
If you pass the garbage and byildings that are falling appart and crazy people on ther scooters in the flip flops without helmet = you can start collecting your first positive impression.
I strolled down, ignoring the rats and bulky garbage that’s been sitting in the streets from the last week and started to look for the sights. Randomly I have discovered the market (loud, noisy, not much clean either). In the following weeks, I came back to this place as I am naturally attracted by vivid places. But just the fact that you eat fresh food while the garbage sits around you and some dog is circulating around and witnessing the highest standard of hygiene tells the story itself. Not my kind of place to hang out.
This place in the afternoon turns into an open terrace with numerous bars around that set their tables for a good apperitivo. Just after you do your passegiata and make your dinner. Make sure you ignore the garbage left from the market happening that morning.
If you ask me, that aperitivo moments are simply the best. Right after your siesta – around 17:00 – all the shops and boutiques open together with bars and restaurants. When you sit for a quick refreshments, you get small but delicious bites at your table too. My favourite is aperol with some crisps. 🙂
When it comes to dinign here in Sicily, I advise to go for local, simple, not complicated dishes. Sicilians are peasants are growing their own food is the best what they know. And make good bread, pasta and fish.
If you ask how come the vegetable is good? Let me tell you the secret: horse feces.
The island is one agricultural land blessed of fertility due to vulcanic dirt and geographical position. Sicilians are poor people and the automatisation has not come here yet so instead of using the tractors and other agricultural machoines, they use horses and horse-drawn carts. Having horses makes the production of the horse feces which are then again used for fertilisation. The smell of these sometimes when I am driving to work is a blast. 😛
Additionally, the horse meat is a thing here too. If you drive through Catania, you will notice rosty grill bars with horse meat baked directly in the streets. Hygienic as always here in Sicily.
Catania is the second largest municipality in Sicily, after Palermo. It is located on Sicily’s east coast, at the base of the active volcano, Mount Etna, and it faces the Ionian Sea.
Catania was founded in the 8th century BC by Chalcidian Greeks. The city has weathered multiple geologic catastrophes: it was almost completely destroyed by a catastrophic earthquake in 1169. A major eruption and lava flow from nearby Mount Etna nearly swamped the city in 1669 and it suffered severe devastation from the 1693 Sicily earthquake.
During the 14th century, and into the Renaissance period, Catania was one of Italy’s most important cultural, artistic and political centres. It was the site of Sicily’s first university, founded in 1434. It has been the native or adopted home of some of Italy’s most famous artists and writers, including the composers Vincenzo Bellini and Giovanni Pacini, and the writers like Giovanni Verga…
Palazzo Pardo is an 18th century building with baroque features. The residence of princes Pardo’s became the hotel in late 18th century. It is said that Garibaldi stayed here and greeted the people of Catania from his balcony with the legendary phrase: Rome or death!
The central “old town” of Catania features exuberant late-baroque architecture, prompted after the 1693 earthquake. It is when the construction of nowadays Piazza Duomo – the main square was shaped and got its Elephant Fountain or the Fontana dell’Elefante. This little elphant called u Liotru is a symbol of Catania. It is said that the name Liotru (this is a Sicilian dialect!) derives from the name Eliodoro, a joker magician who tormented the people of Catania with his magic and who apparently used the animal as a horse to move from one part of the city to another and surprise the citizens with his magic jokes. Legend has it that it was even the magician who created the elephant forging it from the lava of Etna.
As you can see, just the opposite is the Cathedral of Santa Agata – the saint Patron of Catania. Agatha of Sicily was born in Catania in rich and noble family, as part of the Roman Province of Sicily. When she was 15 she made a vow of virginity and rejected the amorous advances of the Roman prefect Quintianus, who thought he could force her to turn away from her vow and marry him. His persistent proposals were consistently spurned by Agatha. So he faced with torture and possible death. Amongst the tortures she underwent was the excision of her breasts with pincers. After further dramatic confrontations with Quintianus, Agatha was then sentenced to be burnt at the stake; however, an earthquake prevented this from happening, and she was instead sent to prison, where St. Peter the Apostle appeared to her and healed her wounds. She is nowadays venerated as saint patron of females deseases such as breast cancer.
According to Maltese tradition, during the persecution of Roman Emperor Decius (AD 249–251), Agatha, together with some of her friends, fled from Sicily and took refuge in Malta. Some historians believe that her stay on the island was rather short, and she spent her days in a rock-hewn crypt at Rabat, praying and teaching Christianity to children. After some time, Agatha returned to Sicily, where she faced martyrdom.
The cathedral posseses her martyrs and the locals take the out once a year for festivities and to be protected from the human disastres such as plague, COVID-19, earthquakes etc.
The cathedral has been destroyed and rebuilt several times because of earthquakes and eruptions of the nearby Mount Etna. It has three levels with Corinthian columns in granite, perhaps taken from the Roman Theatre of the city. All the orders are decorated with marble statues of Saint Agatha over the gate. The main door, in wood, has 32 sculpted plaques with episodes of the life and martyrdom of Saint Agatha, papal coats of arms and symbols of Christianity.
The Amphitheatre of Catania is a Roman amphitheatre in Catania, Sicily, southern Italy, built in the Roman Imperial period, probably in the 2nd century 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.
Tired Wanna come back to food part? Pistacchio is a big thing here. Pistacchio pizza, pistacchio pesto, sauce on your pasta, pastries, liquors… have a look 🙂
One of the places, quite unique is the restaurant A Putia Dell’Ostello. Classic & creative dishes served in a vibrant restaurant that has a dining room in a lava cave. In the cave is a bit muddy to dine but is worth it. Especially when you can see the fountain of water coming out of the cave.
To the very end, I leave you some captions of the Sicilian barroque facades of Catania. Again, if you want to see the beauty here, you should never look down where are the trash and awkward people and their habits – look beyond, above.
One of the churches that I managed to visit around was the Church of Santa Rita. It is located in Via Vittorio Emanuele.
The building, which thanks to its position is easily accessible, is an exquisite example of Catania Baroque, signed by the artist Girolamo Palazzotto. The exterior of the factory is characterized by two rows of semi-columns, which are in harmony with the style of the 1700s visible in the facade of the convent of Sant’Agostino right next to the church. Despite the modern vestiges, both the Sanctuary and the convent probably had an older origin, even as a Roman basilica, as evidenced by the 32 columns found during the erection of the building in 1615.
Sicilian puppets (Pupi siciliani) are armed puppets that date back to the popular epic theater of the nineteenth century, which developed and spread in Naples, Rome and then in Sicily, where it reached its maximum splendor.
They take part in the “Opera dei pupi” that’s a type of puppets’ theater, whose characters are Charlemagne and his knights. Each pupo typically represented a specific paladin, characterized by the armor and the cloak.
The heroic deeds of Sicilian puppet characters, who fight for religion, glory, fidelity and love, are taken from the material contained in the novels and poems of the Carolingian cycle and in the Orlando Furioso. It is believed that the Carolingian epos arrived in Sicily with the Normans in the twelfth century.
In line with this, there are many restaurants in Sicily that are rich with decorations. One of them is Trattoria La Canonica. Once you come here to eat you will be entertained by the ornaments on the wall. I have found the image of the old King Vittorio Emanuele ll.
It is the place where I have discovered vino alla mandorla. This wine made of almonds comes from an ancient Sicilian recipe and from the vinification process of pate harvest grapes from the areas of Marsala. This almond wine is characterized by the scent and flavor of almond, served cold it is excellent as an Aperitif, but above all it is served at the end of a meal to accompany dried fruit or almond paste.
From the recent visit to the market: loud, unclean, not sanitised and shocking. These are the words that come to my mind when I remember the experience. Judge by yourself:
As Catania is not my favourite place in Sicily, even more in the world – it is dirty, raw, unpleasant, traffic is just wrong here and because of all these irritations, I haven’t explore the city deeply enough. Hence, to be continued… Promis, juré.