The largest region of Italy, Sicily lies at the heart of the Mediterranean Sea. Catania, on the eastern coast of the island, overlooks the Ionian Sea and sits on the slopes of Mount Etna, the biggest active volcano in Europe. Catania has been destroyed many times over during its 2700-year history.
Catania is the second largest city on Sicily. It was ruled by a succession of foreign powers starting with the Romans then the Byzantines, Saracens and Normans. The city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the eight Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto. The towns were all rebuilt after 1693, either on top of or adjacent to towns that existed at the time of the earthquake that year. This group of towns in south-eastern Sicily represents the culmination of Baroque art and architecture in Europe. Catania was rebuilt on a comprehensive, geometric unitary plan amid the rubble of the destroyed city.
Evidence of each of the city’s conquerors still exists today. Explore Piazza Stesicoro where you’ll find a Roman amphitheater, then continue to Piazza Università and Piazza Vincenzo Bellini. The latter is the location of the opera house named for the composed Vicenzo Bellini, a Catania native. Bellini’s opera, Norma, lends its name to the Catanese dish Pasta alla Norma made with tomato, eggplant, and ricotta salata.