Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – Italy chapter on Sicily has to say about Catania:
“Catania is a true city of the volcano. Much of it is constructed from the lava that poured down the mountain and engulfed the city in the 1669 eruption in which nearly 12,000 people lost their lives. It is also lava-black in colour, as if a fine dusting of soot permanently covers its elegant buildings, most of which are the work of baroque master Giovanni Vaccarini. He almost single-handedly rebuilt the civic centre into an elegant modern city of spacious boulevards and set-piece piazzas.
Catania is Sicily’s second commercial city – a thriving, entrepreneurial centre with a large university and a tough, resilient local population that adheres strongly to the motto of carpe diem (seize the day). Catania’s central square, Piazza del Duomo, is a Unesco World Heritage site. It’s a set piece of sinuous buildings and a grand cathedral, all built in Catania’s own style of baroque, with its contrasting lava and limestone.
In the centre of the piazza is Catania’s most memorable monument, and a symbol of the city, the smiling Fontana dell’Elefante (built in 1736). The statue is crowned by a naive black-lava elephant, dating from the Roman period, surmounted by an improbable Egyptian obelisk. Legend has it that it belonged to the 8th-century magician Eliodorus, who reputedly made his living by turning men into animals. The obelisk is believed to possess magical powers that help to calm the restless activity of Mt Etna.
The best show in town, however, is the bustling La Pescheria (fish market) and adjoining food market, where carcasses of meat, silvery fish, skinned sheep’s heads, strings of sausages, huge wheels of cheese and piles of luscious vegetables are all rolled together in a few noisy, jam-packed alleyways.
The Fontana dell’Amenano marks the entrance to the market and is Tito Angelini’s commemoration of the Amenano River, which once ran over ground and on whose banks the Greeks first founded the city of Katáne.”
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD