The surroundings of Catania include Misterbianco and Trecastagni.
Catania's bathing beach starts about 3km/2mi to the south.
Aci Castello, Italy
CommunicationsSS 114 Taormina-Catania, A 18 (Junction: Catania Nord); railroad station.LocationSituated on the eastern slope of Mount Etna, the little fishing town of Aci Castello is one of the most popular holidays resorts in the region. It is dominated by a Norman castle which was built in 1076 but has been restored on several occasions. The castle is perched on a basalt rock overlooking the harbor.
The municipality also includes Aci Trezza, a beautiful, much sought-after seaside resort (pop. 2,500; 2km/1mi to the north), which has a view of the island of Lachea and the sinister rocky Cyclops Islands (Isole dei Ciclopi, boat connection). This was where in 1947 Luchino Visconti filmed "La Terra trema", based on "I Malavoglia", the famous novel by Giovanni Verga (published in 1881).
Isole dei Ciclopi
These islands are linked with the mythological tradition of the giant one-eyed Cyclops, which has also led the stretch of coast to the north of Catania, from Aci Castello to Acireale, to be called the "Riviera dei Ciclopi". One of the Cyclops, Polyphemus, the son of the sea-god Poseidon, took Odysseus and his companions prisoner. After Polyphemus had devoured six of his prisoners, Odysseus managed to blind him and then make his escape. Polyphemus hurled rocks after him, which fell into the sea without hitting Odysseus - the "Cyclops Rocks" (Isole dei Ciclopi). Aci Castello, Acireale and Aci Trezza also owe their names to mythical origins. In the fables of Theocritus and Ovid it is recorded that Acis (in Italian Aci), the lover of the nereid, Galatea, was turned into the river Acis (today the Fiume di Jaci) by the jealous Cyclops, Polyphemus. The story inspired George Frederick Händel to write his opera "Acis and Galatea" (1719/1720). On the island of Aci - which according to tradition was Polyphemus's most powerful throw - the University of Catania today has its marine biology station.
The little town of Misterbianco (7km/4mi west of Catania) is named after the white monastery (Monastero bianco) of the Benedictines, which was submerged by an eruption of Mount Etna in 1669.
Motta Sant'Anastasia, Italy
5km/3mi to the west of Catania lies the picturesque village of Motta Sant'Anastasia with its Norman castle.
Trecastagni (14km/9mi to the north of Catania, 4,000 inhabitants) has a charming position on the southern slope of Mount Etna at an altitude of 586m/1,923ft. From the belvedere there is a wide-ranging view across to Mount Etna and the sea. The Chiesa Madre with its Gagini sculpture is also worth seeing.
LocationThe town lies 19km/12mi northwest of Catania on the southwestern slope of Mount Etna in the middle of orange groves where a species of blood-orange named after Paternò is grown. In the west the River Simeto winds its way through its valley.HistoryIn ancient times one of three towns called Hybla stood here, the other two being near Megara Hyblaea on the east coast and in the Ragusa region.In 415 B.C., during their Second Sicilian Expedition, the Athenians attacked it but in vain, and in 414 B.C. they laid waste to the area. In Roman times the town of Hyblenses was a civitas decumana, and Hyblaia, the goddess of the town, became Venus Victrix Hyblensis. Siculan, Greek and Roman remains have been found near the town.
Paternò was founded anew by the Normans in the Middle Ages. On the rock overlooking the town Roger I had a massive castle built in 1073 which he made over to his daughter Flandrina and her husband Henry of Lombardy; through their line it passed in 1193 to Bartolomeo de Luca, Count of Paternò. It was altered and restored in 1300 and again in 1900.On the ground floor will be found a chapel with remains of frescoes, on the first floor a hall with four linked arches, and a further large hall on the second floor, from which there is access to a terrace extending all round the castle.
Chiesa Madre (Santa Maria dell'Alto)
Near the castle in Paternò stands the church of Chiesa Madre (or Santa Maria dell'Alto), built in 1342 on the site of an earlier building. A further church, Santa Maria della Valle, built in 1072, has a magnificent Gothic doorway.
LocationVizzini is one of the places in the Monti Iblei which were re-built after the 1669 earthquake, so the townscape is characterized by Baroque churches and palazzi.Vizzini has become immortalized in literature and the world of opera, as a result of its links with the Sicilian writer Giovanni Verga (1840-1922), whose novels about the region dealt mainly with farmers and fishermen. The novel called "Mastro Don Gesualdo" is set in Vizzini and the surrounding countryside, and so is the tale "Cavalleria Rusticana" (Alfio, for example, comes from Licodia, a few miles southwest of Vizzini). Verga also produced the stage version of this tale, which Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945) set to music in his successful opera of the same name.
San Giovanni Battista
A beautiful example of the Baroque influence on the architecture of Vizzini is the church of San Giovanni Battista with its tall, three-storyed front adorned with columns and its high drum-dome. The interior of this large, triple-aisled and columned basilica has some fine stucco decoration all in white.
Among the palaces mention should be made of Palazzo Cafini. Its three-storyed facade is richly and impressively decorated; the central section with the door and large balcony extends up in convex fashion to the upper floor, and slender side-columns form a framework to the floors and serve to link them together.
LocationGrammichele, together with Avola, Noto and Pachino, are the towns in southeastern Sicily which, after the great earthquake of 1693, were rebuilt to a definite plan. The initiative to do this came from Carlo Maria Carafa, Principe di Butera e di Roccella; the plans were the work of Michele da Ferla. As in Avola, the plan is based on a hexagon, though here followed to extremes: even the central square with the town hall and church has a hexagonal shape, and from each side of the square an axial road, one of six in all, leads off. They go to the edge of the town where each meets a conventional four-sided square, which itself is formed by a street intersection.
The Church of San Michele in Grammichele, dating from 1724-57, has a fine sweeping Baroque facade.
The 48km/30mi long River Alcántara (Alcántara is Arabic for "bridge") is famous for its gorges and waterfalls. It rises at a height of 1,250m/4,100ft in the Monti Nébrodi in Northeast Sicily and, after initially flowing in a southeasterly direction, turns east at Randazzo towards the northern edge of Mount Etna and flows into the sea to the south of Taormina. The river valley is fertile and densely populated. Boulders composed of lava and tuff create interesting formations, thereby ensuring that the course of the river is full of variety.
CommunicationsSS 121 Catania-Palermo, turning off at Stazione del Belpasso; railway station on the Etna Circular Railway, Circumetnea (5km/3mi). This country town on the southern slope of Mount Etna owes its chequerboard layout to the reconstruction which took place in 1695 after the town's destruction in the earthquake of 1669. It has a pleasant climate and is used as a starting-point for trips to Mount Etna.
Zafferana Etnea, Italy
LocationThe pretty little town of Zafferana lies 24km/15mi north of Catania on the eastern flank of Mount Etna. Its attractive situation in the midst of gardens make it a popular summer resort, offering a view over the sea on the one hand and also being a good setting-out point for walks and drives around Etna.
Rifugio Sapienza lies 19km/12mi to the west of Zafferana at a height of 1,881m/6,173ft near two extinct sub-craters at the lower station of the cable-railroad (not in use at present) to the top of Mount Etna. Four-wheel drive cross-country minibuses will take visitors up.
Map of Catania Attractions