â€œThe City of the Elephant,â€ as it is usually called, is the second largest city of Sicily. Catania faces the Ionian Sea and it lies at the foot of Mount Etna, the volcano that rises high above Catania imposing its dominant height. It is a city founded on lava, during the centuries the city was destroyed seven times the eruptions of Etna (the largest documented eruption took place in 1669) , but the city has also been destroyed by earthquakes, of which the two biggest ones took place in 1169 and 1693. Each time the city was entirely
The city’s logo is an elephant of lava, that stands by the monumental fountain ofÂ Piazza Duomo. There are many legends regarding elephants, and the resistance of the town-inhabitants riding on elephants to cope with invaders is as a symbol of a military victory reported by Catania against the Libyans. Another legend tells that thisstatue of the elephant is magical and that it was built during Â the Byzantine rule in order to keep Catania from being harmed byEtna. In any case, the people of Catania are very fond of this cute elephant made of lava stone, to the point that they threaten to do Â a popular uprising when in 1862 it was proposed that the liotruÂ (Sicilian for this statue) was to be moved from Piazza Duomo to the less central Piazza Palestro.
Catania is one of the few cities in Italy to offer an immense diversity of landscapes all concentrated in a single place. The city rises on the east coast, at the foot of Mount Etna(the highest volcano in Europe), halfway between the cities of Messina and Syracuse. This beautiful location at the foot of Etna is close to major commercial centres, it has functional seaport, and an excellent airport that serve the entire tourism of the Ionian coast of Sicily, especially Taormina and Giardini Naxos, and these factors favour Catania over otherSicilian cities. The city now even has a long sandy beach strip bathed by the sea called la Plaja, where summer-equipped beaches attract thousands of holidaymakers coming down from other towns on the slopes of Etna as well as from neighbouring towns on the coast to enjoy the beautiful days of blazing sun. All of this makes Catania one of the most populous metropolis in Italy.
Its historic centre is the via Etnea (the Etna-avenue), that was declared a World Heritage Site in 2002. This long avenue is the pulsing heart of the city. Catania extends from south to north starting at thePiazza del Duomo and ending after about 3 km, at the Round Gioeni. The cities perfectly straight roads, straight as a sword, has the perspective of the majestic shape of Etna.
Catania has an intense night life, that consists mostly of walking through certain areas of the city centre and moving from one club or bar to another, which is typical of many large cities in southernÂ Europe. Besides being used to the long weekend (starting Thursday), the people of Catania love late night-life and starting at 9 pm the inhabitants go to: pubs, restaurants, trattorias (called putie), disco pubs , discotheques and wine bars. The area next to the Massimo Bellini Theatre and the baroqueÂ via Etnea are the centre of what is commonly called the movida of Catania. Year after year the city discovers new areas of the historic centre that get repopulated and get new importance. The line on which you find all the pubs of the Old Town is almost a border, whose extreme edge is the old ring road Â today called via Plebiscito, populated by vendors of grilled meat and stigghiole (Sicilian gastronomic speciality consisting of lamb-guts rolled around leek and grilled on a skewer) beyond this old ring road lies the slum-quarters of San Cristoforo and Angeli Custodi.
The austere and residential Corso Italia empties completely during the night, because here you rarely find nightclubs. Yet in this area you can find some things of interest: there are in fact many Â bars that stay open all night, for example along the viale LibertÃ Â and Piazza Trento.
Another area attraction is the reef (called the waterfront, lungomare) at night, which goes from Piazza Europa to the square of the seaside village of Ognina. There are many bars, restaurants, cafes and Panini-vendorswith their classic carriages, vans with vendors that sell sandwiches and drinks. The carriages are crowded at night, even in the square in front of the big train station. The discos are mainly on the waterfront of laPlaja, south of the city. A positive disposition of the inhabitants of Catania is the pride of being Sicilian.
â€¦ And you will get lost and understand that perhaps a vacation to learn all about Sicily will not ever be enough.