The Elephant of Catania

The Elephant is the city’s symbol of Catania and its statue, made in lava stone, is in the Duomo’s Square, the main square of the city. The sculpture was probably made in Byzantine time and was included, with an obelisk, in the monumental fountain built by Vaccarini, after the destruction of the city because of an earthquake in 1693. The citizens call it “Liotru”, from the name of the wizard Eliodoro. In according to the legend, Eliodoro was an aristocrat who tried to become a bishop, but he couldn’t. So he became a wizard, thanks to a jewish necromancer, and he built himself an elephant that rode to perform his magic. Also the legend was created in byzantine time, infact we know that Eliodoro was burned alive by the bishop Leone II the “Miracle Worker”.

 

Porta Ferdinandea or Porta Garibaldi

The Porta Ferdinandea is a triumphal arch, built by Stefano Ittar and Francesco Battaglia, to commemorate the wedding between Ferdinand IV, the king of the “Two Sicilies”, and Maria Carolina of Habsburg-Lorena, in 1768. The gate, visible from Piazza Duomo, is located at the end of Via Garibaldi, within a district called, by the cityzens, “U Futtinu” (BlockHouse), in memory of an ancient blockhouse built after the Etna’s eruption in 1669. The gate was a beautiful masterwork of XVIII c., with its alternation of white and black lava stone, a big clock and an eagle. In 1862 its name changed in “Porta Garibaldi”, in Honour of Giuseppe Garibaldi, who stopped the bourbon domination  during the Unification of Italy. On the monumental gate, there is a latin inscription, emblematic for a city like Catania: “Melior de cinere surgo”- “I rise from my ashes more and more flourishing”.

 

The Amenano fountain

The Amenano is the river that flows under the city of Catania. One of the point where it’s possible too see it, it’s the so-called “Amenano Fountain”, built in 1867 by Tito Angelini, a sculptor from Naples, and made in Carrara marble. The central sculpture represents the personification of the river, a young man holding a cornucopia, from which comes the water falling on the river below. On the sides there are two other sculptures that represent two newts. The cityzens called it “Acqua a linzolu” because of the particular effect of the water that falls down like a waterfall. The monumental fountain is located in Piazza Duomo and behind it there is the fish market. According to the scholar of the eighteenth century, Carlo Gemmellaro, the path of the river Amenano, followed the direction of the Viale Mario Rapisardi to the square S. Maria di Gesù. It feds the known Lago di Nicito, buried during the eruption of Mount Etna 1669, which today gives its name to the current route. From there, the river continued towards the western part of the city, along the present street of Via Botte dell’Acqua, until the Benedictine Monastery. Here, the river was divided into three arms: one, flowed towards the Fish Market and Villa Pacini, the other to the Roman Theatre, Piazza San Francesco d'Assisi and Piazza Duomo, the third, in the monastery of St. Giuliano and Achilliane Baths, and then come out to the harbor.

 

The "Archi della Marina"

The so-called “Archi della Marina” indicate a long overpass of the XIX c., buil to create a rail link with Syracuse, today still working.
It was officially inaugurated on 1st July 1869 and it represents an important part for the history of Catania, because related to the development of the rails in that period. For the citizens it’s a city’s symbol,  a kind of border between the city centre and the seaside. In fact, over the arches, there is the city port and more ahead the beaches and the entrances to the Syracuse and Palermo’s highways. It’s not just an imaginary border, in fact the arches are parallel to the ancient walls of the city, the Carlo V’s walls.
The arches are 56 and they were built in lava stone and limestone, with the alternation of black and white, a common expedient for the Catania’ buildings. A small section goes into the Pacini Park, that was built around 20 years before the construction of the railways. 
An other important element, connected to the arches, is at this time refered to the memories of our grandparents. They always tell us how the arches were crossed by the water. In fact until the 30s the arches were in the middle of the port’s water, like a symbolic entrance to the city for the small fishing boats

 

The Ostello's cave

In the underground Catania, under the famous “Agorà Hostel”, a meeting place of many young people and especially of erasmus students and tourists, there is a magic place, protected by the city’s chaos. The so-called “Grotta dell’Ostello” is a natural lava cave crossed by the river Amemano, that flows under Catania. The Cave was formed by the volcanic eruption of the 1669, that created this enchanted place, one of the few points where it’s possible to admire the river. The atmosphere seems to be that of christmas crib! Today thanks to the Hostel is possible to visit it and even to have a dinner there, with the light of the candles, until midnight.

 

The Ursino castle

The Ursino castle was built by Frederick II of Swabia between 1239 and 1250. It was part of a more complex coastal defense system in eastern Sicily, a project of which were also part of the Maniace Castle in Syracuse and the castle in Augusta. Furthermore it had to be the symbol of the authority and Swabian imperial power on Catania, which was often hostile and rebellious. The design and construction management were entrusted to the military architect Riccardo da Lentini. The Castle was built by the sea and according to some scholars, the name "Ursino" derives from Castrum Sinus that means "Castle of the Gulf". Inside the castle there were some of the most important moments of the Sicilian Vespers, the famous revolt of the Sicilians against the French rulers, the Angevins. In the following years the Ursino castle was the royal residence of the various rulers of many dynasties that have ruled the city of Catania. From the sixteenth century, with the introduction of gunpowder, the military role of the castle weakened and one part became temporarily the residence of the Vicerè, while a part of it was used as a prison. During the famous eruption of 1669 the lava came around the castle and, without destroying its structures, filled in the moat, covered the ramparts and shifted to some even hundreds of meters of the coastline, which is why today the castle is not on the sea . Following the 1693 earthquake caused a series of structural damages. However, was used like a prison until 1838, when the Bourbon government, recognizing its role as a fortress and decided to restore it and add more structures.

 

Via dei Crociferi

The Via dei Crociferi in Catania is a monumental road built in the eighteenth century, that starts from St. Francis of Assisi and is accessed through the arch of St. Benedict.

The road, surrounded by churches, monasteries and few civilian homes, is an example of Baroque architecture, and it’s part of the UNESCO heritage. In the short space of about 200 meters there are four churches. The first is the church of St. Benedict attached to the convent of Benedictine nuns. It is accessed by a staircase and is surrounded by a wrought iron gate. Then we reach the St. Francis Borgia Church which is accessed via two staircases. The two churches are separated by a small street leading to the Palace Asmundo Francica-Nava. Afterwards we find the Jesuit college, the old building of the Art Institute, containing a beautiful cloister with porticos on columns and arches.

In front of it, is located the church of San Giuliano considered one of the finest examples of Baroque in Catania. The building, attributed to the architect Giovanni Battista Vaccarini, has a convex prospectus and its clean, elegant lines. And continuing past the Via Antonino di San Giuliano, you can admire the convent Crociferi and then the church of St. Camillus. Down the street is located Villa Cerami, which is home to the Faculty of Law, University of Catania.

 

The Carnival of Acireale

The Carnival of Acireale is considered the most beautiful Carnival in Sicily, and the third of Italy. It has ancient origins, in fact, the tradition wants  that the demonstration was born spontaneously among the people, who, without rigid rules, could freely joke around in the streets, dressed in masks.
The favourite victims of the satire were usually the most important people of that era. One of the first mask was the so-called Abbatazzu, who carried around big books mocking the clergy class of the time, especially the Bishop of Catania.
The earthquake of Val di Noto in the late seventeenth century, that disconcerted Eastern Sicily, also decreed a period of mourning and for several years the traditional carnival held not.
One of the main features, is represented by artistic allegorical- grotesque Carri in papier-mâché, whose first parade dates back to 1880.
The carnival takes place today, completely for free, in the Baroque atmosphere of the old town, which has its center in the magnificent Duomo Square. The huge Carri, true masterpieces, parade through the crowds in masks, characterized by the movements of some parts, driven by internal mechanisms, and dealing with satire and social custom arguments. The ever-present music, is the background to the beautiful parades of costumes, the colors and the lights of the city.