The town of Catania has a vibrant music scene, often in glamorous settings such as Mercati General which features warehouses and pressing rooms in a restored 19th-century winery.
There are many smart cafés and bars in baroque squares, so when eating out is a must. Try the local speciality Pasta alla Norma, made from macaroni-like penne, tomato sauce, sliced aubergines and topped with salty ricotta.
Sicily is an island that represents three continents in its history, cuisine, language and even the citizens themselves. Their characters are as varied as their ancestry.
Throughout the years the island is a host to numerous cultural, artistic and religious events. Just like the Greeks, Easter and Christmas are celebrated with much gusto. Every town or village has a patron saint and commemorates their name day with fireworks, eating and drinking. The culture here is one that must be experienced as it is so unique and memorable.
Opera and classical music are also popular in Sicily, with Palermo boasting the biggest opera house in Italy, Teatro Massimo. The superb Taormina Greek Theatre, offers as backdrop of Mount Etna, and has an impressive summer schedule every year, which includes concerts and operas featuring international artists. Popular artists, such as James Blunt, have appeared here in recent years.
For those who adore art, there are many excellent art galleries around the island. The most noteworthy found in Palermo, the Galleria Regionale della Sicilia, the Galleria d'Arte Moderna and the new Museo Regionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea della Sicilia.
Things To Do
In Catania you'll find history preserved around every corner, from Baroque churches to crumbling Roman ruins. Although perhaps the real highlight is the world-famous food, including a dish made to honour Catania's most famous son, Vincenzo Bellini. Our top tips for exploring the Sicilian city that lurks in the shadow of an active volcano are:-
Plan your day in Piazza Duomo; This attractive square is the heart of the city, with views down its main axes to Etna in the north, the Baroque quarter in the west, the sea and port to the south and the railway station and seafront to the east. The Fontana dell’Elefante, with its somewhat saggy baggy elephant carved in black lava and surmounted by an Egyptian obelisk, has been adopted as the city’s symbol. Lined with fine Baroque buildings designed by Vaccarini in the early 1700s, it’s a lovely space to enjoy a coffee, a spremuta (juice), a Sicilian pastry or an ice cream as you plan your day.
Celebrate Vincenzo Bellini, a favourite son of Catania: The famous 19th century composer was born in Catania in 1801 and is celebrated lavishly throughout the city. See his tomb in the cathedral and his statue in Piazza Stesicoro, both of which quote his greatest operatic hits. The house where he was born has a small museum of mementos including scores, a death mask and models of scenes from his operas. And where better to enjoy the spectacle of one of his operas than in Teatro Bellini, a renowned opera house? Finally, to revive you after your pilgrimage, you’ll want to eat a plate of Pasta alla Norma, which was fashioned by Catanian chefs in honour of Bellini’s most famous creation and features a heady mix of tomato, aubergine and sheep’s milk ricotta.
Fish out the Pescheria: This wonderful market is located at the western edge of Piazza Duomo, just behind the Fontana dell’Amenano. The sound, colour and scents are intoxicating, and this is a true working market full of traders, chefs and housewives, not simply a tourist display. You’ll find live lobsters and seafood, swordfish standing guard over a rainbow array of sardines and anchovies, glowing oranges and cedro, outsize lemons peeled and sliced for you on the spot with the sweet pith contrasting with the sharp flesh. There are sheep’s heads complete with horns, and cheeses in all shapes and sizes. Enjoy today’s catch in one of the trattorias round the edge of the market.
Go up Etna: It’s hard to take in the sheer bulk and height of Mount Etna until the cloud and mists roll away and its snowy cone and black slopes burst onto the horizon, filling out the top of Catania’s main street, Via Etnea. Although it’s a tourist magnet, there’s a real fascination in this all too active volcano and the lush landscape it has spawned. There are lots of opportunities to explore, from a gentle trip round its flanks by train to a full scale and relatively serious walking expedition. One of the quirkier options is to ski on its slopes, cross-country or downhill. It’s just too dangerous to go to the summit cone, but you can feel the force in the heat through the soles of your shoes and the plumes of smoke that burst from the fumaroles.