Catania Travel Guide

Main sights

u Liotru

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 presence of an elephant in the millenary history of Catania is surely connected to both zooarcheology and popular creeds. In fact, the prehistoric fauna of Sicily from the Upper Paleolithic, included dwarf elephants. Paleontologist Othenio Abel suggested that the presence of dwarf elephants in Sicily may be the origin of the legend of the Cyclops. Ancient Greeks, after finding the skulls of dwarf elephants, about twice the size of a human skull, with a large central nasal cavity (mistaken for a large single eye-socket) supposed that they were skulls of giants with a single eye.

The Catanian Museum of Mineralogy, Paleonthology and Vulcanology holds the integral unburied skeleton of an Elephas falconeri in an excellent state of conservation. The first inhabitants of Etna molded such lavic artifact to idolize the mythical proboscidian.

Classical buildings

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).

Ancient edifices include:

Greek-Roman Theatre of Catania (2nd century)
Odeon (3rd century). It could house up to 1500 spectators
Roman broken arcades
Christian basilicas, hypogea, burial monuments and Catacombs
Roman Colonnade
Roman thermal structures
Terme dell’Indirizzo
Terme di Santa Maria Odigitria
Terme della Rotonda
Terme di Palazzo Asmundo
Terme del Palazzo dell’Università
Terme di Casa Gagliano
Terme della Chiesa di Sant'Antonio Abate
Baroque and historical churches

The Baroque city centre of Catania is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Cathedral (1070–1093, rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake)
Church of San Giuseppe al Duomo
Church of Santissimo Sacramento al Duomo
Church of San Martino dei Bianchi
Church of Sant'Agata la Vetere (254)
Saint Agatha by the Furnace or Saint Blaise (1098, rebuilt in 1700)
Church of the Santo Carcere or Sant'Agata al Carcere (1760). This temple includes the ancient jail where Saint Agatha was allegedly imprisoned during her martyrdom.
Saint Francis of Assisi at the Immaculate (1329). It still houses the mortal remains of Queen Eleanor of Sicily, who decided and promoted the construction of the principal Franciscan building of Catania on the same place of the once Roman Temple of Minerva
Badìa Grande e Badìa Piccola del Chiostro delle Monache Benedettine
Benedictine Nuns' Arch (Arco delle Monache Benedettine)
Basilica della Collegiata, a notable example of Sicilian Baroque, whose façade was designed by Stefano Ittar
Saint Mary of Ogninella
Saint Michael the Lesser
Saint Julian's Monastery
Convent of the Jesuits
Saint Mary of Jesus (1465, restored in 1706)
Saint Dominic or Saint Mary the Great (1224)
Dominicans Friary (1224)
Saint Mary of Purity or Saint Mary of Visitation (1775)
Madonna of Graces' Chapel
Saint Agatha on the Lavic Runnels
Saint Euplius Old Church Ruins
Church of San Gaetano alle Grotte (260)
Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciated Mary of Carmel (1729)
Saint Agatha by the Borough (1669, destroyed in 1693 and rebuilt in 1709). The "Borough" (il Borgo) is an inner district of Catania.
Saint Nicholas by the Borough
Church of the Santissimo Sacramento al Borgo
Church of Santa Maria della Provvidenza al Borgo
Chapel of Ospizio dei Ciechi
Benedictine Monastery of San Nicola l'Arena (1558)
Basilica of San Nicola l'Arena (1687)
Church of Santa Maria dell'Indirizzo (1730)
Convent of the Poor Clares (1563)
Sanctuary of Santa Maria dell'Aiuto
Church of San Giuseppe al Transito
Church of Immacolata Concezione dei Minoritelli
Church of Sant'Agata al Conservatorio delle Verginelle
Church of Santa Maria dell'Itria or Odigitria).
Church of the Holy Child
Our Lady of Providence
Church of San Berillo in Santa Maria degli Ammalati
Our Lady of the Poor
Church of San Vincenzo de' Paoli
Saint John the Baptist, in the suburb of San Giovanni di Galermo
Little Saviour's Byzantine Chapel
Church of the Most Holy Trinity
Church of the Little Virgins
Our Lady of the Rotunda
Church of the Santissimo Sacramento Ritrovato (1796).
Sanctuary of Our Lady of Ognina (1308). which was restructured in the 16th century to prevent the frequent plunders of the Saracen pirates. The church is the result of the gradual modification of the Greek Temple Athena Longatis or Parthenos Longatis that existed on the steep reef. This cult was imported from a Boeotian region of Greece called Longas from where the first Hellenic settlers of this borough probably came. After the earthquake of 1693 it was sobriously rebuilt on the same place but with a different orientation.
Church of Santa Maria della Salute
Church of Santa Maria della Mercede
Church of Santa Caterina al Rinazzo
Our Lady of Concordia
Churh of Santa Maria della Guardia
Our Lady of Consolation
Church of Santissimo Crocifisso Maiorana
Crucifix of Miracles
Crucifix of Good Death
Our Lady of La Mecca
Saint Cajetan at the Marina
Most Holy Redeemer
Church of the Divina Maternità
Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Church of the Sacro Cuore al Fortino (1898)
Saints George and Denis
Church of the Sacred Heart of the Capuchins
Church of Santa Maria del Soccorso or Santa Maria della Palma
Church of the Santi Angeli Custodi
Church of the Santissimo Salvatore
Castello Ursino, built by emperor Frederick II in the 13th century.
Palazzo degli Elefanti, designed by Giovan Battista Vaccarini. It now houses the Town Hall.
Uzeda Gate
The Medieval Gothic-Catalan Arch of Saint John of Friars
Ferdinandean Gate or Garibaldi Gate (Porta Ferdinandea or Porta Garibaldi), a triumphal arch erected in 1768 to celebrate the marriage of Ferdinand I of Two Sicilies and Marie Caroline of Austria
Porta del Fortino ("Redoubt Gate")
The House of the Mutilated of War (Casa del Mutilato) built in Fascist-style architecture
Catania War Cemetery, a Commonwealth Graveyard located in the southern country hamlet of Bicocca
Bellini Garden
Pacini Garden
Gioeni Park

source: Wikipedia

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