Our city tour starts right when our friendly driver picks you up at your place of stay to take you, in the most hassle-free way, straight to the beating heart of Catania: “a Piscaria", a place where people improvise and tell about tales of the sea and its dangers.
Catania's market has long been a popular tourist destination and it's becoming even more so now simply because it's the best place where curious tourists can really get a feeling of Sicilian life. We will stand and watch the spectacle before walking through the boisterous, colorful, smelly market while fishmongers yell out and locals window-shop.
Later we will start walking through Piazza Duomo, a triumph of Baroque style, a square boasting several buildings of great interest such as Palazzo dei Chierici, built at the beginning of the 18th century and Palazzo degli Elefanti, now the Town Hall. At the center of the square lies the symbol of the city: a small elephant made of basalt, which in turn supports an obelisk. The tour continues to via dei Crociferi, a surprisingly short street lined with an incredible number of buildings definitely worth a visit.
Moving on to via Etnea, Catania's most vibrant street, we'll reach Piazza Stesicoro. Here, a walk through the ghostly underground tunnels of this well-preserved ancient structure will transport you back to the days of the Roman Empire.
After a break for lunch (own expense), we will conclude the city sightseeing at the Benedictine Monastery of San Nicolò L'Arena, one of the largest and most beautiful monasteries in Europe.
Located on the east coast of the island of Sicily, Catania was founded in the 8th century BC by Chalcidians. The city is noted for its history, culture, gastronomy and for the ever presence of Europe's highest and most active volcanoes: Mount Etna. During Roman rule, Catania was a wealthy and flourishing city and one of the principal ports of Sicily for the export of wheat. It was sacked by the Vandals in the Middle Ages and it was under the Islamic emirate of Sicily until 1072, when it fell to the Normans of Roger I. In the 14th century, Catania was one of Italy's most important cultural, artistic and political centres. During this period, it gained importance as it was chosen by the Aragonese as a Parliament and Royal seat and kept its autonomy and original privileges until 1410. In 1669 the city's surroundings suffered great material damage from an eruption of Mount Etna. The city itself was largely saved by its walls that diverted most of the lava into the port. Afterwards in 1693 the city was then completely destroyed by a heavy earthquake and its aftershocks. The city was then rebuilt in the Baroque architecture that nowadays characterizes it. The city enjoyed a development and an economic, social and cultural effervescence during the 1960's. It has been a native or adoptive homeland of some of Italy's most famous artists and writers as composers Vincenzo Bellini and Giovanni Pacini, and writers Giovanni Verga, Luigi Capuana.