Catania is an Italian city on the east coast of Sicily facing the Ionian Sea, between Messina and Syracuse. It is the capital of the Province of Catania, and is the second-largest city in Sicily, the tenth in Italy, and the hundredth-largest city in the European Union.

Catania is known for its seismic history, having been destroyed by a catastrophic earthquake in 1169, another in 1693, and several volcanic eruptions from the neighboring Mount Etna volcano, the most violent of which was in 1669.

Catania has had a long and eventful history, having been founded in the 8th century BC. In 1434, it witnessed the opening of the first university in Sicily. Then in the 14th century and into the Renaissance period, Catania was one of Italy's most important and flourishing cultural, artistic, and political centers.

Catania is located on the east coast of the main island of Sicily, at the foot of the Mount Etna.

As observed by Strabo the location of Catania at the foot of Mount Etna was both a source of benefits and of evils. On the one hand, the violent outbursts of the volcano from time to time desolated great parts of the city's territory. On the other, the volcanic ashes produced fertile soil, especially suitable for the growth of vines.

Under the city runs a subterranean river, the Amenano, surfacing at just one point, south of Piazza Duomo, and the river Longane (or Lognina).

The symbol of the city is u Liotru, or the Fontana dell'Elefante, assembled in 1736 by Giovanni Battista Vaccarini. It portrays an ancient lavic stone elephant and is topped by an Egyptian obelisk from Syene. Legend has it that Vaccarini's original elephant was neuter, which the men of Catania took as an insult to their virility. To appease them, Vaccarini appropriately appended elephantine testicles to the original statue.

The Sicilian name u Liotru is a phonetic change of Heliodorus, a nobleman who, after trying without success to become bishop of the city, became a sorcerer and was therefore condemned to the stake. Legend has it that Heliodorus himself was the sculptor of the lava elephant and that he used to magically ride it in his fantastic travels from Catania to Constantinople. Another legend has it that Heliodorus was able to transform himself into an elephant.

The city has been buried by lava a total of seventeen times in recorded history, and in layers under the present day city are the Roman city that preceded it, and the Greek city before that. Many of the ancient monuments of the Roman city have been destroyed by the numerous seisms. Currently, different ancient remains can be seen and visited in the city-centre, as part of an archaeological park (Parco Archeologico Greco-Romano di Catania).

You can find more informations about Catania on Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catania;

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)