May 21, 2017
As we arrived in Catania this morning, we had a beautiful view of Mt. Etna which is 25 miles from the terminal. Etna remains Europe’s most active volcano yet there is always a blanket of snow there. The last eruption was in March 2017 when a member of a BBC crew was almost killed. The city was engulfed by lava in 1669 so a lot of the buildings and streets are made of volcanic stone.
We got a local map from an Italian guide and set off on a walk to see the sights. We were in Taormina Sicily on the last trip but never to Catania so we were eager to see the town. Since it is Sunday we were told lots of shops would be closed but we found almost all of them open!
Catania has been beautifully restored and it was a pleasure to see. It is Sicily’s second biggest city. We wandered the cobblestone streets on the way to our first destination, the Opera House – Teatro Massimo “Bellini” which opened in 1890.
So many beautiful facades, fountains and statues to look at! The elephant is the symbol of the city and the elephant fountain was built in 1736.
We walked over to the Piazza Duomo and the magnificent cathedral of St Agate. It was built during the Normans Age and destroyed by an earthquake in 1693 and subsequently rebuilt. I lit a candle for my mom – she would have loved it here.
On our way up Via Etna (yes, lots of things are named after the volcano, even this main street), we visited the Anfiteatro Romano, the ruins of the Roman Amphitheater.
And here is what it used to look like:
We went for a long walk in the beautiful gardens of Villa Bellini. Since it was Sunday we saw lots of families with children riding bikes, rollerblading, etc. This must be a dog loving town – lots of big dogs. Lovely place.
Then we stopped at a cafe that was recommended for their Arancini di Riso, Sicilian Rice Balls. Delicious – and what was also a treat – lemon iced tea granita. I will have to make that at the shore this summer!
Still more to explore after lunch- next we visited the Teatro Romano /Odeon. This theater dates back to the 2nd century BC. I will post a few pictures but they won’t compare to the ones on the internet, so here is that link: Teatro Romano
What an amazing place – the Odeon next door hosted concerts and dancing performances and some of it is still in use today. It is really a hidden gem – you can walk on walkways all through the theater and outside and there are signs to help you with the history.
The pool was used for water performances – the sign said the performers were naked and it was very popular!
Our last stop before heading back to the ship was the Castello Ursino. This castle, built between 1239 and 1250, was originally on a bluff overlooking the sea for maximum security and defense but was “wrapped” by lava from various Mt. Etna eruptions and now there is a distance of 1.2 miles to the sea.
The castle is now a museum and is a venue for art exhibitions. Our trackers said that we walked 24 floors – I think most of it was in the theater and this castle as the exhibits are on all of the floors of the castle. The restoration started in 1932 and was completed in 1934, with additional restorations in 1988. A terrific visit! It is also a venue for weddings as we found out. This couple graciously let us take their photos,
Norm thought this shot from the castle museum looks like me on the couch in our stateroom. No comment.
Norm stopped at a wine store and we couldn’t believe that this wine looked like 2 liter coke! It is supposed to be wonderful – Nero D’Avala wine from the vineyards on Mt Etna. Each bottle cost 5 euros… We will see later!
Market shots on the way back to the ship.
And we met Tricia and Steve as we passed a cafe just inside the port. They had a wine tour – and will be going with us tomorrow on our wine tour in Gaeta. Looking forward to that. We walked 7.5 miles today, guess we can indulge in more wine!