52 Reasons to Love Sicily
#13. Sicily’s second city Catania recalls Roma, while holding fast to its local character. Its historic downtown boasts broad avenues that are lined with baroque palazzi and that lead to sweeping views of the volcano, Etna. The center not only supports its beautiful cathedral dedicated to Sant’Agata and Liotru, the lava elephant at the center of the Piazza del Duomo’s fountain (pictured), but it also has one of Sicily’s most dynamic open-air markets, curious ruins of a 2nd Century CE Roman amphitheater, and the virtuosity of Teatro Massimo Bellini, named for the city’s favorite son, opera composer Vincenzo Bellini.
There are dozens of outstanding restaurants (Catania is known for its culture of eating horse meat and famous for its recipe Pasta alla Norma.), an imposing castle (Ursino, now a museum hosting world-class exhibitions and a collection of ancient art), and a thriving live music scene. For me, touring the city’s World War II 1943 Landing Museum is one of the most provoking and emotional experiences in Sicily.
But after these highlights, what is it about Catania that remains with me (besides the insane driving style!)? The community of people I witnessed during the feast of Sant’Agata — “i cittadini” (the citizens, the devotees) working together to celebrate their city, their saint, and their brotherhood (which includes women too). Catania technically may be a second city to Palermo, but don’t mention that to a Catanese. Turn a corner here, and you’ll discover something fortuitous.